You can find heaps of fun things to do in Mitchell SD. This classic prairie town is packed with family attractions, historic sites, and year-round fun.
Here’s our list of the best things to do in Mitchell and Eastern South Dakota:
Best Things To Do in Mitchell
#1. The World’s Only Corn Palace
I’ll confess: I’ve always wanted to visit the World’s Only Corn Palace.
Ever since I saw its picture on a U-Haul truck I felt a need to make a pilgrimage to this High Plains icon.
So I didn’t think twice when my friends and I had a chance to visit. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but that was part of the allure.
@dinkumtribe The One and only Corn Palace in South Dakota was impressive! The murals that cover the outside are changed annually, and created entirely with corn products. @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel #corny #uniqueart #touristattraction #southdakotacheck #southdakotatiktok #travelwithkids ♬ It's Corn – Tariq & The Gregory Brothers & Recess Therapy
What’s In a Name?
“World’s Only Corn Palace” sounds like a shameless tourist trap, but the actual story behind this place is quite interesting. This world wonder was originally built to convince people to move to South Dakota.
Mitchell’s famous landmark was a brilliant response to a popular misconception. During the 19th century, the Great Plains were regarded as an enormous American desert, a place where crops would never grow.
The phony desert was a very real threat to Mitchell and South Dakota because it kept away potential settlers. So town leaders met the problem head-on by constructing an enormous corn palace built out of local, Dakota-grown corn.
Mitchell’s first corn palace was built in 1892. The famous Corn Palace has changed and adapted over the years, but it endures today as the Corn capital of the world.
The Corniest Place on Earth
Honestly, I loved this place. Maybe it’s because I’m a middle-aged Dad, but I suspect my nine-year-old U-Haul reading self would have dug it too.
For one, the World’s Only Corn Palace is a historic building with a great story. It tells the history of South Dakota like no other place I know.
It’s also incredibly weird, in a quintessentially American way. Many cultures have made things out of corn and corn husks, but who says “Let’s use corn to make murals the size of living room walls?” Only in America.
But most of all this place is heartwarming and fun. They don’t take themselves too seriously, but they are proud of who they are.
I find it incredibly cool that the people of Mitchell preserved this historic building and converted it into their town event center. That’s community at its best.
Know Before You Go
- Admission is Free
- The gift shop sells all kinds of hilarious, corn-inspired merchandise.
- Check out that movie that tells the history of Mitchell and the palace.
- The Corn Palace Festival is the time to see the palace in its all its agri-grandeur.
#2. Take a Corny Selfie
Corny selfies are one of the best things to do in Mitchell SD. The best place for selfies can be found just across the street from the Corn Palace.
Snap a pic next to an enormous cob of smiling corn, then turn around to get a selfie in front of the World’s Only Corn Palace. There’s no lack of photo ops in the palace itself, including themed cutouts, tractors, and more.
#3. Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village
Mitchell holds the only archaeological site in South Dakota that’s open to the public. The Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village preserves the remains of a settlement that flourished on Lake Mitchell 1,100 years ago.
Year-round excavation takes place within the Archaeodome, a fully-enclosed dig site. You can watch archaeology in action from the viewing decks that surround the excavation.
Parents especially love the tours led by local archaeologists. It’s not uncommon for a guide to put the kids to work cleaning real artifacts!
#4. Carnegie Resource Center
Mitchell’s least-known treasure can be found in the town’s historic Carnegie Library. “Sun and Rain Clouds Over the Hills” is a beautiful painting that crowns the interior of Mitchell’s Carnegie Resource Center.
This masterpiece was the work of Oscar Howe, the famous Yanktonai Sioux artist. Howe’s mural is only one of many treasures to be found in the Carnegie’s art galleries.
#5. McGovern Legacy Museum
People remember George McGovern as a World War II hero, United States Senator, and Democratic Presidential Candidate. But did you know that McGovern got his start in Mitchell?
The McGovern Legacy Museum remembers the life and example of George and his wife Eleanor. Colorful exhibits feature events and artifacts from their life of service to the American People.
#6. Mitchell Aquatic Center
Hitchcock Park holds a local secret. The Mitchell Aquatic Center doesn’t sound like much but it’s a lot more than your average pool.
This public swimming center comes with enormous waterslides, an aquatic obstacle course, and more!
#7. Hitchcock Park
Hitchcock Park offers much more than a miniature waterpark. This is the place for local events, summer concerts, and more.
Mitchell’s biggest park offers plenty of room for outdoor sports. A playground, tennis courts, and beautiful flower gardens make Hitchcock Park a great place for year-round recreation.
#8. Area Community Theater
Few places are as fun as a local theater. Mitchell’s own Area Community Theater features musicals, comedies, guest performers, and more.
#9. Dakota Discovery Museum
Trace the history of the Dakotas from ancient times to today at the Dakota Discovery Museum. This museum’s exhibits are rich in indigenous and pioneer artifacts.
The museum grounds also feature several historic buildings including a Victorian house, railway depot, pioneer church, and one-room school house. The Dakota Discovery Museum is a traditional museum with minimal interaction or resources for children.
#10. Telstar Mustang-Shelby-Cobra Collection
The Telstar Mustang-Shelby-Cobra Collection is a perfect place for the car enthusiast in your family. The museum is both the collection and sales room of Telstar Mustang-Shelby-Cobra Restoration.
The Telstar Collection has had mixed reviews over the years, mostly from people expecting a typical car museum. You’ll want to remember that this is a business operation, so the exhibits roll in and roll out according to supply and demand.
#11. Starlight Drive-in Movie Theater
Experience a classic drive-in movie beside Lake Mitchell. This highly-rated drive-in also offers miniature golf!
#12. Mitchell Ice Rink
Enjoy year-round fun at the Mitchell Activity Center. Their ice rink can be found next to Mitchell Middle School.
#13. Wild Oak Golf Course
The Wild Oak Golf Course is a well-rated, local favorite. The 18-hole course meanders along scenic Firesteel Creek.
The annual Corn Palace Invitational is held at Wild Oak every summer. Wild Oak Golf Course also includes a clubhouse, a driving range, and a swimming pool.
#14. Dry Run Creek Trail & Disc Golf Course
Enjoy the outdoors at one of Mitchell’s best parks. The Dry Run Creek Trail follows Dry Run Creek as it crosses the city of Mitchell. The paved trail passes the playgrounds, tennis courts, and lush parklands of Dry Run Creek Park. This park is especially loved for its 18-tee disc golf course.
#15. Go Birdwatching
South Dakota is a superb place for birdwatching. A wide range of species cross the state throughout their seasonal migrations.
The prairies and lakes of the Dakotas allow you to view an abundance of wildlife with almost no obstructions. Over a dozen waterfowl production areas surround Mitchell alone.
#16. Shop for Treasures
I first fell in love with antique shops when I was a teenager. My parents and I would pick up an old gadget and try our best to guess its use.
The random assemblage of oddities was intriguing and offered a new way to explore the past. Second Impression Palace Antique Mall is a well-rated, two-story antique bazaar located on North Main Street.
#17. Walk Through History
#18. That Place for Teens
Escape rooms are a great activity for the winter months. That Place for Teens runs highly-rated escape rooms. They also offer foosball, billiards, and board games.
#19. Watch a Flick
Enjoy a flick at Mitchell’s Luxury 5 Cinema. This highly-rated theater is known for its clean bathrooms and quality experience.
Everybody should visit a Cabela’s at least once in their life. There’s nothing quite like this enormous superstore.
A gargantuan loghouse temple complete with a shooting range, aquarium, and life-size taxidermied zoo? If PT Barnum went into outdoor sports, it would be something like this place.
#21. Lake Mitchell Hiking and Biking Trails
Lake Mitchell is one of the most beautiful, and most controversial Mitchell attractions. The lake’s trails are a great place to hike and bike, but the lake itself is a civic headache that won’t go away. We recommend enjoying the view but staying out of the water.
Mitchell SD Festivals & Events
#22. The Corn Palace Festival
Mitchell’s biggest party is held every August at the Worlds Only Corn Palace. The city’s downtown transforms into a five-day fair, complete with rides, entertainers, specialty shops, and great food.
The Worlds Only Corn Palace sits at the center of the action, redecorated with a fresh theme and entirely new scenes. Mitchell’s 141-year-old festival has featured a host of great entertainers including Blood, Sweat, & Tears, the Righteous Brothers, and Bob Hope.
#23. The Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo
Mitchell’s rodeo is packed with family-friendly events including a chili cookout, parade, and a family fun day. You can join the fun at the new rodeo grounds just west of the airport.
#24. Corn Palace Invitational
Wild Oak Golf Course hosts a two-day tournament every summer. Their invitational also includes a chipping contest and a long drive contest.
Experience an authentic, High Plains fair at Dakotafest. This annual agriculture fair has everything a Dakota farmer would want including farm equipment, specialty products, and the latest research. Dakotafest can be found in late August, just outside Mitchell.
#26. First Fridays
Small towns know how to celebrate. Mitchell pulls out the stops on the first Friday night of every month with live music, vendors, and family-friendly activities. Local food truck and restaurants serve up their best food and drinks at this free outdoor event.
First Fridays are in full swing from May to September. The fun then goes indoors over the colder months. Enjoy a First Fridays Coffee for family games, warm drinks, and evening cheer.
#27. Meet the Locals
Mitchell Main Street and Beyond is the force behind many of the city’s events, and their robust calendar is packed with local shindigs. Community breakfasts, hobby clubs, and local performances are some of the most fulfilling things to do in Mitchell SD.
Two popular Mitchell attractions are no longer open: the Castle Bible Land Museum and The Guns of History Gun Gallery.
Things to Do Near Mitchell SD
Mitchell is an ideal stop on any I-90 road trip. This remarkable town is both a natural stop between Rapid City and Sioux Falls and a gateway to the treasures of Eastern South Dakota.
A host of interesting places are only an hour away from Mitchell. Here are eight great stops that you can find near Mitchell and the Interstate 90.
@dinkumtribe Dignity of Earth and Sky is a soaring sculpture of a native woman standing high on a bluff above the Missouri River. The starquilt is made of 128 diamonds in the colors of the water and sky that surround her. Dignity is 50' tall, weighs 12 tons, and is made of hundreds of pieces of stainless steel. Dignity honors the Native Nations of the Great Plains. "My intent is for the sculpture to stand as an enduring symbol of our shared belief that all here are sacred and in a sacred place." – Dale Claude Lamphere @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel #nativeamerican #nativeamericanheritagemonth #indigenoustiktok #southdakotacheck #beautifulart #giantsculpture ♬ Golden Hour: Piano Version – Andy Morris
#29. Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center, Chamberlain
#30. Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, Missouri River
#31. Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Sites, De Smet
#32. South Dakota State Fair & Speedway, Huron
#33. Prairie Village, Madison
#34. Missouri National Recreational River, Yankton
#35. Falls Park, Sioux Falls
Got Questions About Things to Do in Mitchell SD?
Do you need help choosing the best things to do in Mitchell SD? We love to help families make the most of their time together. Shoot us an email or leave us a comment below and we’ll see what we can do for you. Thanks for reading!
©️ Copyright Brian A. Warren 2023.