Planning to go looking for Lewis and Clark? Following the trail of the intrepid explores is a popular way to explore the American West and get in touch with history. If you set out to retrace their journey, I’d like to suggest Yankton, South Dakota as one good stopping point on the way. The area has a great deal of history and natural beauty to enjoy. Visiting family brings us to Yankton every year, so I’ve had a chance to round up some information that might help you plan a visit. If you’ve been to Yankton, please leave your tips in the comments!
History: Yankton boasts a rich history. The Lewis & Clark expedition passed through what is now present day Yankton, and held council with the Yankton Sioux at Calumet Bluff on August 28, 1804. Yankton was the first capital of the Dakota Territories, serving in that role up until 1881. More on Yankton’s history can be found here.
Downtown Yankton: After trying some other places to say, we now look forward to staying in the historic Downtown Yankton area every year. They have done a nice job of maintaining the historic buildings, creating a feel of a solid, Midwestern downtown of times past. I find myself awaiting a new sheriff to ride into town at any moment. While retaining the strong ties to the past, the downtown is also enhanced by a creative public sculpture display…more on that below. Before I go further, let me point out that “downtown” in this community of nearly 15,000 people, consists of a few blocks. No worries of traffic snarls here–and if you happen to get a parking ticket, you’re only out $10! One more insider tip–if you happen to have a young train maven as we do, on Monday evenings the local train club would be happy to have you visit!
Public Art: Virtually every street corner in the downtown section has a cool statue, sponsored by a local business as part of Yankton’s downtown revitalization efforts. These aren’t simply statues of important local figures, but creative expressions that have some tie to the region (e.g. a jumping fish and an eagle coming in for landing). If one could some how do a per capita formula for public art, this small town would certainly have Boston beat!
Riverside Park & Bridge I enjoy getting out for a morning walk at Riverside Park before the summer sun becomes unbearable. Until this year, I’d stroll for a mile or so along the nice trail along the Missouri River. But there was a new attraction this year: the old double deck Meridian Bridge crossing the river over to Nebraska has been refurbished and opened for pedestrians. I enjoyed crossing the old bridge to catch the sweeping views of the river and the interesting new bridge.
Lewis & Clark Recreation Area: The Lewis & Clark Lake, formed by the Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River, in the centerpiece of this recreation area. This is a popular spot for boating, swimming and fishing. We enjoy walking in the area, and in the winter months it’s a great place to spot eagles. The visitors center is definitely worth checking out to learn more about the exploration of the area, the steamboat era and the flooding issues that led to the building of the dam.
River Rose Hotel: We’ve been very pleased to find the relatively new River Rose Hotel right in downtown Yankton. The hotel rooms we’ve stayed in are essentially apartments complete with a kitchen and living area. They were getting to open some new, more traditional hotel room shortly after our recent visit. Our room this year used to be a bank, so has nice high ceilings and the old bank vault as an interesting decoration. As is the case most places we’ve stayed with a kitchen, I’ve needed to supplement the limited kitchen tools they provide in order to do any cooking.
Food & Beverage: We prefer to stay in a place where I can cook for both food allergy and cost considerations. The local HyVee grocery store is well-stocked with good fresh meat and vegetables, and does have a health section where we’ve been able to find some of the items we get from Whole Foods when at home. Another bonus of that store is the Starbuck’s located there! I’m sure families who prefer to eat out could find some places to meet their basic needs; but we haven’t found any that I’d recommend (granted, this foodie can be a bit picky…if you’re new to this blog, I also write Cooking Chat). That said, we did find a bar we enjoyed ducking into…Ben’s Brewing Company has a nice atmosphere, and good selection of beers on tap that can be had for about half the price of what we’re used to in the Boston area!
I’ve simply shared some tips generated from our family visits to Yankton. For a more comprehensive overview of Yankton’s offerings for visitors, this website is a good resource.