10 Things That Surprised Us in Sioux Falls, South Dakota
One of the more surprising things we did to get ready for our journey was to go spend 3 nights in Sioux Falls, The really practical reason was that we needed to change our state residency and South Dakota made it insanely easy to do so,
The first surprising thing is just how easy it is to become a South Dakotan, The reason for doing it is if you are going to be traveling full time you probably don’t want to pay state income tax in a state you aren’t living in. South Dakota has no state tax and allows you to become a state resident by showing a one night hotel, motel or camping receipt with your name on it, show a contract for one year postal service with a South Dakota address, surrender your current drivers license, take the drivers eye exam and voila! You are a resident of South Dakota, you walk out holding your Drivers License. You also need various forms of ID. And your social security card or a w-2 from somewhere and any time. You can even register to vote right there at the Drivers License Office. The people at the licensing office spotted us coming from a mile away, asked if we were permanent travelers and walked us right through the process.
Equally easy is to register to vote. I don’t know what the reasoning was, but someone told us not to register at the Drivers License Office, although that would have been the easiest. But we did just go down to the county office, show our state drivers licenses and fill out a simple form. We changed the voting profile of the state a bit. And yes, it is Minnehaha County!
A convenient surprise was the ease of setting up mail service. Since we won’t have a permanent address we needed somewhere for our mail to go, There are these neat services that provide you with an actual street address. They receive your mail, scan the envelope and upload it to your account so you can choose whether you want them to shred it, open it and scan contents or just forward it to you at an address you provide to them, We were thrilled with the service at Your Best Address .
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all came when we got to the driveway of our hotel and were greeted at the street by this billboard.
I mean, what the heck? Being from California we aren’t used to seeing blatant ads for gun silencers. I admit, it was shocking in its novelty. I’m not in the market for one so I guess the sign really wasn’t meant for me. Strangely enough on the other side of this ad was this one:
Bahahahaha! What a contrast. The other billboards that stood out I didn’t get a picture of but they were doom and gloom biblical looking scenarios that one might expect from the Christian right. But they weren’t advertising for churches, Christ or God, they were sponsored by atheists and were pointing out that God isn’t going to save your delusional soul so give it up. WOW! We got all that information just on the ride to pick up our rental car!
Also surprising to our California sensibilities was the price of everything. $50 a night hotel, $30 a day car rental, $6 for a matinee movie. The first night we went out for a bite and sat at the bar at The Sandbar Bar and Grill it was Tuesday and all their tea drinks, like Long Island Iced Teas, were $3 all night. Dinner and many drinks came out to less than $60 and we sat at the bar chatting with locals and playing trivia for hours. Another night while exploring the vibrant downtown scene we found a happy hour at a very nice establishment where a double Ketel One vodka drink set us back a whopping $5.50. Very affordable.
A less pleasant surprise was the amount of salt that they seem to use on the food. We both like salt, I’m even encouraged by a cardiologist to eat salt, but this was on a scale of “oops, the lid was off the when I fixed your plate”. We actually couldn’t eat some of it. Must be keeping their doctors busy!
Casinos everywhere! In a convenience store, gas station, restaurant, strip mall…they were everywhere. We went into the one in The Sandbar Bar and Grill and it was like a game room for kids except the machines were all gambling, It wasn’t as loud and crazy like Las Vegas but it was dark and windowless. $20 on a Blackjack machine and we could almost see the algorithm encouraging you with a win and then slamming you with 2 to 3 losses, $20 went away pretty quickly, Several people we spoke with over the couple days seemed to really dislike having the casinos so accessible, They felt that it really contributed to addictive gambling which they saw as a real problem in the area,
Sioux Falls has a lovely downtown (speed limit mysteriously set at 15 mph) which is host to a sculptural walk, It’s the largest and most recognized annual exhibit of public art sculptures in the country. It meanders down their main street and has lovely descriptions of the art and artist by the sculpture.
The best part for me was seeing families strolling the walk and really young children engaging with it, questioning what it meant, admiring it, touching it. It is a community very engaged with the tradition and it made it really fun as a tourist to wander the route and discover the beauties.
Sioux Falls Park was a revelation as well. I had seen pictures and noticed they didn’t have a tall waterfall, rather a series of drops making a large part of the river there active. I didn’t think that was going to be too impressive. Boy was i wrong! The river meanders beautifully through the park, spilling down a lovely series of waterfalls. The park has been pleasingly designed with curving walkways and decks that allow you to be right next to the falls, curbing the feeling of needing to go off trail and actually get in the water, The grounds were immaculate and people were definitely out enjoying the breezy sunny day.
Finally, the extent to which everyone was friendly was astonishing. We were in a strip mall, so separated from street by sidewalk, some foliage and some parking lot, and a fellow on a Harley Davidson rolled by on the street. He had all the classic leathers, facial hair, posture and motorcycle beefiness that made him seem like a regular biker. Probably was. He catches Dan’s eye from that great distance, Dan is wearing his everyday 60 year old white guy on the street clothes, and gives him a nod and a nice wave. Wait, what? Not that bikers are rude or don’t acknowledge people, but this guy had to look around for someone to nod and wave at! Everyone was like that, it was delightful! We went through Denver on our flight back home. A, s soon as we got off the plane we knew we weren’t in South Dakota anymore, No one yielding to you in foot traffic, jostling, glaring. Our flight was delayed over and over due to the weather, which was clearly visible outside the big windows, and we had to keep switching gates for about 4 hours before we got going again. I’ve never seen such a bunch of cranky people! It was a stark contrast for sure.
We enjoyed our time in South Dakota, and will have to go back in 5 years to renew our licenses, so we can maybe check out another cool town,