South Dakota : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country South Dakota - state review
Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is the largest city in the state and is named after the downtown waterfalls that are 14,000 years old.
This is considered the “big city” to most people in South Dakota, but it’s also close to the country’s oldest known human-inhabited wilderness area.
We should clarify here because, for those not too familiar with the Midwest, you might run into name confusion.
- This is an article about Sioux Falls, South Dakota
- This is not about Sioux City, Iowa, but we also have an article on that one. (90 miles apart)
- This is not about Cedar Falls, Iowa, but we also have an article on that one. (300 miles apart)
Whatever you do, don’t say Sioux City when you mean Sioux Falls.
There’s a healthy rivalry between the two. Just ask someone – they’ll tell you, you betcha.
You might wonder, “Does it really get THAT cold in Sioux Falls in the winter?”
Yes, it does.
It’s also incredibly windy, making the cold weather literally sting your skin.
However, these thick-skinned outdoor lovers don’t let that keep them from winter sports.
There’s a good chance if you’re looking for a trip to Sioux Falls, it’s for fishing or hunting.
This is a great place to do both, with a welcoming committee at the airport for the start of each hunting season.
In many ways, Sioux Falls is nothing you’d expect, yet everything you’d hope for in a getaway.
Warnings & Dangers in Sioux Falls
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here with crime trends actually going down at a time when some other cities are seeing historical highs. While there are still above-average rates in some key areas, it's definitely not among the more dangerous cities in America. Sioux Falls is also one of the top cities for young professionals.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Sioux Area Metro is the public transportation system here with a fixed-route bus service. You're more likely to use the downtown trolley that has stops at the main attractions and entertainment districts. Taxis and rideshares are available, but you can also get your own rental car if you want.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
This is a low risk, with 16 pickpockets or snatched purses reported in 2021. While the theft rate is twice the national average, 40% of those are due to car break-ins. We have special advice for those renting a car here, but that's coming a little later in this article.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
You need to treat this with a medium risk throughout the year, but there are emergency management plans for every risk. Severe weather can bring tornadoes with heightened concern in the spring. In September 2019, the city was hit by three back-to-back tornadoes. Winter can bring blizzards and ice storms, with incredibly cold temperatures. Wildfires are also a risk, especially in this wind-prone area. Oh! Flooding too. Yeah, there's a lot that can go wrong here, but nothing that is too surprising for this part of the country.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
The robbery rate is actually slightly lower than the national average, a statistic so odd I double-checked it to be sure. On top of that, just 23% of those were robberies against individuals in public places. Don't let your guard down, but it's a nice sigh of relief not to have to be on high alert.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
While terror attacks can happen anywhere at any time, it's really not something to worry about in Sioux Falls. A place like Mount Rushmore on the other side of the state is more of a notable attraction to be a potential target.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
One scam you'll need a heads up about is when someone approaches you, claiming to be down on their luck. They'll try to sell you pieces of expensive jewelry at a deep discount because they need to "feed their family" or some other sob story. In the end, the jewelry is fake. Don't even listen to the pitch from the scammer because this con has already turned into a fight that required police attention.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Statistically, women are slightly more likely than men to be a victim of a violent crime, but with more than half of violent crimes happening at home, it's likely a domestic issue. You should use standard safety precautions as you would in any city and be sure to prepare for the winters here. Don't worry about fashion over function.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The city lacks the traditional Water Quality Report on its website but confirms that the water is safe to drink and passes all standards. The water is hard, so you might notice some deposits left behind of minerals in ice trays or cups. The Water Division has an FAQ section on the city's website where you can find as much safety information as possible - well, everything but the Consumer Confidence Water Quality Report.
Safest Places to Visit in Sioux Falls
ExperienceSiouxFalls.com is the official tourism website for this area.
This would be a good time to make sure you pronounce the city correctly – It’s “Sue Falls.”
This area is also known as Siouxland (“Sue land”).
You can download a visitor’s guide from that website or call the center at (605) 367-7430.
I mean, we have to start at Falls Park, right?
This is where the impressive cascade of falls comes from the Big Sioux River.
With a total drop of 100 feet, that process happens in tiers.
The stair-step look of the falls is downright majestic at times.
During the holidays, the park is lit up in Christmas colors.
The visitor’s center is located inside a five-story observation tower in Falls Park.
You can also stop here for a seasonal farmer’s market.
Don’t miss the Stockyards Ag Experience at the park to learn about the agricultural history and modern importance of this area.
The best part?
All of that is free!
Just south of Falls Park, check out the Arc of Dreams.
I promise your Instagram story needs this!
It’s a steel arch spanning the river, but there’s a gap at the top.
This symbolizes the leap of faith we must take to chase our dreams.
The Great Plains Zoo & Museum of Natural History are both in the same location, with extensive varieties of live and preserved animals between the two.
Check the calendar during your visit because there are really cool events throughout the year, like zoo campfire stories, farm feedings, and special holiday-themed nights.
For summer visitors, you shouldn’t miss the Greatest Show on H2O at Catfish Bay water ski park.
You can see acrobatic and freestyle water skiers perform daredevil feats.
Winter won’t be outdone at Catfish Bay because that’s when Ice Fish Fest happens with awards for the anglers who catch the biggest fish.
The newest park in Sioux Falls is also one of the oldest known places where humans lived in the United States (long before it was anything more than the North American continent)!
You can visit Good Earth at Blood Run throughout the year but stop at the visitor’s center to learn about the history of the land dating back to 1300 AD.
Places to Avoid in Sioux Falls
You can travel freely throughout the city without worrying about entering a dangerous neighborhood.
There are a handful of sketchy streets here and there, but even people from small or medium-sized cities won’t feel intimidated.
Of course, you need to avoid letting your guard down too much because there’s always a risk of some kind.
Avoid leaving your car unlocked or your keys in your car.
This is one of the stupidest things I have ever written, but every city has the same issue – car theft fueled by people who leave their keys, guns, and technology in the car with the doors unlocked or the windows rolled down.
There are an average of three car thefts here a day, and the rising numbers are all due to people not taking basic safety steps with their own property.
There’s an attraction called Buffalo Ridge, 1880 Cowboy Town.
This is not the same thing as the 1880 Town on the west side of the state.
I’m not telling you to avoid Buffalo Ridge – I’m just saying it’s kind of creepy, and after reviewing it, I can say with utmost certainty I wouldn’t go there.
There are no people there, just worn-down life-sized robots depicting an old Western town.
It looks like a place Rob Zombie would shoot a movie if you are familiar with his work.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Sioux Falls
- KELOLAND is the top television station in Sioux Falls, and you should download its weather app to get emergency notifications. Whether it’s an approaching blizzard or a severe storm headed your way, it’s critical to have that life-saving information directly on your mobile device.
- You can read the police department’s annual report on the website to see what crimes and safety steps were taken in the previous year and what’s planned for the future. It’s a great look at overall crime in the region.
- Winter’s wicked weather can do a number on the roads, so spring and summer bring a lot of road construction. You can see the latest projects on the city’s website, which is helpful, so you can navigate your GPS around construction.
- Download the City of Sioux Falls mobile app to have a direct line of contact with the city. There’s a function to report issues like potholes or downed tree limbs. You can also find links to social media, upcoming events, and contact information for the different departments.
- Anglers and hunters should review the South Dakota Game Fish & Parks Department website to see all the rules and regulations for getting a non-resident license. I would summarize it here, but there are a lot of different restrictions. You can also find information through the Go Outdoors South Dakota app.
- Don’t get too close to the falls in Falls Park. There are plenty of safe places to get near the falls without actually touching the water. The current is too strong for swimming, and it’s too dangerous to navigate the rocks. Nine people have drowned in the falls since 1982. Many more rescues have happened for people who didn’t pay attention to the rules. White foam forms in the spring, and it might be tempting to touch, but just don’t – it could be toxic and cover dangerous currents or sharp rocks.
- The downtown trolley costs $2 to ride, but it is only open seasonally. You just get on the trolley at one stop and get off at whatever stop you want.
- Dtsf.com is the downtown Sioux Falls website where you can learn about the neighborhood’s shopping, dining, and hotels. This is also close to Falls Park. You can sign up for the Downtown Insider newsletter at that website to get a better look at events happening during your visit.
- When it snows in Sioux Falls, a tiered system of snow emergency rules goes into effect for parking. You’ll likely have to move your car many times to accommodate the changing rules, so get ahead of the storm. Park in a lot or garage. Your car will be safer than sitting on a road where cars could slide, a snow plow won’t hit it, and you won’t get towed.
- Use SD511 to get a statewide interactive map of traffic and road troubles. Even as I write this, a massive winter storm is heading toward the state. The map shows me live data on road conditions, accidents, construction zones, and extensive live camera selection. Do not try to drive in dangerous weather conditions.
So... How Safe Is Sioux Falls Really?
Sioux Falls bucked the national trend of increased violent crime.
In fact, the most dangerous crime categories were down in 2021.
Drug crimes did go up, and car thefts were spiking.
Police Chief Jon Thum stated in the 2021 Annual Police Report, “The continued growth of Sioux Falls and the metro area presents both challenges and opportunities for our department, but despite the growth in population and calls for service, our property and violent crime rates per 1,000 residents remained relatively stable.”
Street racing is also a problem here, with more than 100 tickets being handed out in one weekend of traffic enforcement.
The area near 57th and Ellis is known for street racing, and residents complained about the noise and dangers on the road.
Veteran’s Parkway also sees street racing.
I checked, and those locations are fairly rural, with no hotels nearby.
Only 15% of the violent crimes in 2021 were against strangers, and more than half of all violent crime is among people who know each other in private residences.
40% of all thefts were car break-ins, but it’s easy to avoid being a victim of that crime if you just use common safety steps.
The weather here is another risk that you shouldn’t take lightly.
Winter wind chills can easily get below 0°(F), and spring can bring disastrous and powerful tornadoes.
The winds here are very consistent, which could also increase the wildfire risk.
How Does Sioux Falls Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need a U.S. Visa and a Passport to get through Customs at the airport. The U.S. State Department has a Visa Wizard module on its website where you can see what Visa is right for you. There are several steps in that process, so plan at least three months ahead of time.
- Currency - You will need some cash here, so exchange currency before you go or at the airport. The buses require cash unless you want to go to a local store and purchase a ticket. Don't carry a lot of cash with you. Only bring what you need and use a credit card for most purchases.
- Weather - Winter will require several warm and water-resistant layers. Bring snow boots and thick socks, and don't forget gloves, scarves, hats, and ear muffs. Spring and fall can be chilly, so plan for different layers of clothing because it can be warm one day and freezing the next. Summers will be humid and pleasant, but there can be extreme heat too. Don't forget the bug spray.
- Airports - The only airport you'll use unless you want to drive a long distance is the Sioux Falls Regional Airport. It's on the city's north side and very easy to access. The Minneapolis-St. Paul airport is four hours east, but you should check road conditions if traveling in the winter.
- Travel Insurance - Severe and winter weather can wreak havoc on travel across the Plains and Midwest, so it's smart to get travel insurance.
Sioux Falls Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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