South Dakota's capital city is a charming place, characterized by beautiful civic buildings, a prosperous downtown, and attractive 19th-century suburbs. But it's the outdoor attractions nearby that elevate Pierre above its Midwestern rivals.
Downtown Pierre isn't large, but there's plenty to see (and eat). You can easily spend a day window shopping along Pierre Street, and ducking into stores like the Alley Exchange or Serendipity's Attic.
Easily the city's most impressive structure, the State Capitol has beautiful Italian flooring designs and marble staircases, making tours a real treat.
Pierre has some great museums, including the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center, a fascinating museum documenting the history of South Dakota's Native American peoples, its pioneers, farmers, and miners.
South Dakota is a wonderful place to lose yourself in nature, with highlights like the LaFramboise Island Nature Area open for exploration.
There may not be NFL games in Pierre, but you can catch some Minor League Baseball action at Hyde Baseball Stadium, or play a round of golf at the excellent Hillsview Golf Course.
If you want to get the low down on politics and government in the Mount Rushmore State, there's no better place to head than Pierre's attractive State Capitol. Located next to a custom-built lake on East Capitol Avenue, the Capitol was finished in 1910 and was designed in an elegant Neo-Classical style. It's also a symbol of civic pride. The story goes that the building was funded by locals to make sure that competitors couldn't usurp Pierre as the state's capital city, and the tactic worked. 21 years after the state was formed, their city wrested control, and it hasn't looked back.
Continue along East Capitol for a while, and you'll get to Farm Island, and be glad you did. Set alongside the Missouri, this nature reserve is laced with trails, and a great water sports hub. But it's also a fascinating historical attraction thanks to its links to the Lewis and Clark expedition. Back in 1804, the explorers made their first contact with the Sioux people on Farm Island (it didn't go well). Nowadays, you can find out more at the Lewis & Clark Family Center.
Opened by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, the Oahe Dam across the Missouri River encloses the fourth largest man-made reservoir in the United States, rises to a height of 75 meters, and is 139 meters wide. That's quite a monument to mid 20th century American know-how. You can tour the dam with expert guidance to find out how it all works and check out the visitor center, or take advantage of the amazing walleye fishing opportunities on the reservoir beyond. It's one of America's great fishing destinations.
While Pierre is the state capital, Fort Pierre across the river is older, and possibly more interesting. If you're wondering why the town has a French name, it's because the area was claimed for France by two explorers in the 1740s (way before Lewis and Clark). These days, the French influence is minimal, but Fort Pierre oozes history. At the Verendrye Museum you can see the plaque left by the French when they claimed the area, or learn about fur trading at Fort Pierre Chouteau.
If Pierre had a city sport, it would be rodeo. If you have any interest in rodeo events, you may already know about Casey Tibbs, who dominated the World All-Round Cowboy Championship in the 1950s and became a leading Hollywood stunt man. The South Dakota Rodeo Center tells his story, and that of many other performers, in its Hall of Champions, with engaging video exhibits and artifacts worn by the legends themselves.
Summer is the most attractive season to visit Pierre, so try to book a vacation between June and early September.
Pierre Regional Airport (PIR) has regular connections to Denver and Minneapolis. The only transportation option from the airport are taxis, which will cost around $40.
I-90 runs just south of Pierre, providing direct connections to major cities like Chicago, Seattle, Kansas City, and Denver. Just leave I-90 on Route 83 at Vivian, South Dakota.
Greyhound runs long distance buses into Pierre, with a stop on E Dakota Avenue, pretty much in the center of town.
Leading hotels in the city include the reliable and comfortable Days Inn, the upscale Pierre ClubHouse Hotel and Suites, and the city center Quality Inn.
Pierre Street - the nucleus of the city's 19th-century downtown area, Pierre Street is a thriving commercial district with plenty of eateries and stores to visit.
Steamboat Park - running along the banks of the Missouri, Steamboat Park is Pierre's urban oasis, and even has a disc golf course to play.
LaFramboise Island - now a stunning nature reserve, LaFramboise was home to a trading post set up by the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
River Cities Public Transit runs buses across Pierre, and single tickets cost $1.55.
Expect taxis in Pierre to charge around $5 for the meter drop, followed by $3 per mile, although Uber offers a cheaper option.
Rental options include Avis, Hertz, and Thrifty, and rates can drop to $15 per day.
Pierre Street in the city's downtown is a lovely area to window shop, and includes the Alley Exchange, a busy collection of craft and food stalls run by local businesses.
Major supermarkets in Pierre include Lynn's and Walmart, where you can expect to pay around $2.90 for 12 eggs.
Good, traditionally cooked, prairie-fed meat is always available from Pierre's best restaurants. Standouts include the 50s-style Big Tom's Diner, the Cattleman's Club Steakhouse, and La Minestra, a high-quality Italian alternative. Meals should come to around $15-20 per head.