When you think about a neighborhood park, you might picture a little green space with picnic tables and maybe some playground equipment. But what about state-of-the art aquatics centers? Nationally-known entertainment venues? Community centers filled with citizens attending educational classes or competing in sports leagues? In Sioux Falls, parks are more than just a place to come and take a break from it all; in Sioux Falls, our more than 3000+ acres of parks are chock full of opportunities to live, learn, play and grow.

The City of Sioux Falls has invested substantially in its parks system, which has earned national accreditation placing it in the top 1 percent of all parks services in the U.S. Plus, those investments continue, with new parks added as the city continues to develop and grow, along with additional development in existing parks to help serve the needs of Sioux Falls residents and visitors. From soccer fields, baseball diamonds and basketball courts to skate parks, dog parks and nature preserves, the Sioux Falls Parks System has amenities to satisfy almost any outdoor enthusiast.

Falls Park, which includes the city's beautiful namesake waterfall, was recently named as one of the top 25 parks in America, and it serves as the "hub" of the parks system.

Falls Park is home to a thriving farmers' market on Saturday mornings, several events and festivals throughout the year, and will be home to the Levitt Pavilion, a state-of-the-art performance venue that will host concerts and community events beginning in 2019.

Falls Park is also the starting point for the city's nearly 30 miles of paved bike and recreational trails. Named as one of the top five best urban bike paths by Fodors Travel Guides, the Sioux Falls Bike Trail loops around the entire city, connecting many of the city's more than 80 parks in a beautiful riverside path. The bike trail is mostly flat, which enables riders of all abilities to enjoy, and also makes it a great recreational resource for walkers, runners and rollerbladers.

The city's bike trails are maintained year-round, which makes winter recreation possible throughout the city's parks system. In addition, Great Bear Recreation Park includes several other winter sports opportunities from skiing and tubing to cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing.

Swimmers love Sioux Falls' seven aquatics facilities, including three outdoor family aquatic centers, two traditional pools, a spray park and a stand-alone wading pool. The brand new Midco Aquatic Center offers year-round indoor swimming, with kid-friendly family amenities and a 50-meter pool for serious lap swimmers.

In addition to outdoor recreation opportunities, Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation also provides programming at five community centers located throughout the city. Community Centers offer indoor gym spaces for fitness classes and recreational athletics and classroom facilities for community education classes. Want to learn a new skill? Find a kickball league to join? Looking for a way for your toddler to burn off some steam? Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation have got you covered.

What it means to me

Outside in the Fresh Air

by Chrissy Meyer

I love being active outdoors — not just because it's the right thing to do to take care of my heart, but also because getting in a great walk, run or bike ride just makes me feel better. Put me in a gym on a treadmill or a machine, and I'm miserable. I want to be outside in the fresh air.

That's why I love Sioux Falls' bike trail so much. When we bought our house in western Sioux Falls, I had one major requirement: It had to be close to the bike trail. As an avid walker and biker, having easy access to the nearly 30 miles of paved trails that encircle the city was important to me. There's nothing better than heading out on a brisk walk after work to take away the day's frustrations. With the trail winding through some of the city's most scenic parks and the river greenway, the sights and sounds of one of the best parks systems in the entire country come alive. Plus, there's a sense of community on the trail. When you're walking or biking people say, "hello" — they're friendly! You just don't see that in many larger communities.

One of our favorite things to do on summer Sunday mornings is to head out on the trail and walk to our favorite brunch spot to grab a seat on the patio. We can sit in the sun, read the paper, enjoy the river and watch the people go by. Then a leisurely walk back home — it's become one of our favorite traditions. But I also love that the City invests in keeping the trails cleared in the winter, as well. Being able to enjoy my favorite walking paths and the fresh air year-round — without having to force myself into a gym in the winter — is truly a treasure.