Have you ever had a misconception about a city, state, or even geographic area that was shattered the minute you arrived?
Because lets be honest, I know that when it comes to certain geographic areas, I have fallen prey to stereotypes and generalizations. The good news about being passionate about traveling and exploring is that I have the chance to debunk the misconceptions that have taken root in my brain.
My most recent debunking took place in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the scene of the 2012 Travel Media Showcase that I attended as a travel writer earlier this month.
Truthfully, I confess to thinking….Sioux Falls? South Dakota? Really?
The answer is…yes…really.
Sioux Falls is not as small of a town as you might think.
Home to over 160,000 people, and named in the top 100 Best Small Town Places to Live in 2011, it is home to many credit card companies, two hospitals, a stunning and state of the art center of the performing and visual arts, acres and acres of gardens, and even a trail that spans over 20 miles around the city for fitness enthusiasts.
But also? So much more.
My first adventure in Sioux Falls was a walk.
I like to head out on foot whenever I get to a new place. It is a way to get the lay of the land, to see local things, and to get out and be active after sitting in the airplane for who knows how long. Excited to try out the fitness trail that was near our hotel to head towards the downtown, I headed out bound and determined to be active and see the sites. And see them I did–or almost. I never actually got to the downtown because although I had both a gps on my phone AND a map, somehow I missed the downtown by just a few blocks. What I saw instead was a large number of people on the trail in the middle of the day, running, walking, and riding their bicycles. I also saw at least three different parks with large play areas for children and families. Yes, it was mainly flat. But somehow it had a very zen like quality that helped explain the large population that chooses to live in Sioux Falls. I did stumble upon Black Sheep Coffee, a fabulous little coffee shop for a VERY authentic espresso and scrumptious grilled cheese. (Yes, I admit it, I was shocked to fine great espresso in Sioux Falls.)
From an engaging and interactive zoo, to an outdoor campus that teachers outdoors skills to children of all ages, to a hospital built for children in the shape and theme of a castle, I quickly realized that Sioux Falls is more than just a small Midwestern town with nothing to do. What became obvious to me is that Sioux Falls is a town where people choose to live because it is focused family, cultural arts, outdoor and active lifestyles, and a sense of pride that long time residents pass down to newer residents.
Was it so different than I expected it? Yes. I am almost embarrassed to admit it. My misconception about Sioux Falls being a small Midwestern town with little culture and little to offer? Was wrong.
I mean really…a good cup of espresso is no joke.
I attended the Travel Media Showcase thanks to the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau. My lodging and showcase fees were covered and I received a travel stipend. No other compensation was received.