Whether summer, fall, winter or spring brings you to Brookings, there is plenty to do year-round.
With so many options to explore, visitors to Brookings can experience outdoor adventures any time of year. From kayaking to hunting and everything in between, Brookings has something for every type of outdoor enthusiast to enjoy.
The city is home to many parks and locales that offer ample opportunities to enjoy the area’s natural beauty. Prairies and glacial lakes provide a scenic backdrop for hiking, watching wildlife and other activities.
One of our best-kept secrets is Dakota Nature Park. Located near the south edge of town, it’s a former landfill and gravel pit that was transformed into ponds, wetlands and prairies.
Trails weave in and out of the natural landscapes at the park, with bridges connecting the paved trails together, creating plenty of space for walking, biking and running. The park shelters an abundance of wildlife, too, which makes it one of the best spots to go bird-watching in the area.
“The nature park is great to visit year-round,” said Stacy Claussen, recreation manager for the City of Brookings. “During the summer, we offer a variety of different programs for youth and adults, along with renting kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, bikes and canoes.”
If you’re interested in looking for a short summer road trip, look no further than Oakwood Lakes State Park. This group of glacial lakes is about 20 miles from Brookings and features picturesque views of the South Dakota wilderness.
Open year-round, the park has cabins and campsites with and without electricity to rent. With activities available like boating, swimming, basketball and disc golf, it is a great place for families wanting a getaway.
More summer activities:
- Swim at Hillcrest Aquatics Center
- Play disc golf at Larson Park
- Attend the Brookings Summer Arts Festival
When temperatures start to drop and colors begin to change, Brookings’ city parks are the place to take in the crisp air.
In the middle of Brookings sits Hillcrest Park, a large open space with plenty of tall trees for shade. The park has tennis courts, horseshoe pits, picnic shelters and a playground, offering variety for those searching for a good place to spend a fall afternoon.
Exploring parks is certainly a great way to enjoy the changing of the seasons in Brookings, but there is also another way: hunting.
According to Pheasants Forever, South Dakota is known for its pheasant hunting with the largest ring-necked pheasant population in the world.
Hunting the state bird is a part of South Dakota’s culture, and the public lands surrounding Brookings deliver great opportunities for those wanting to hit the field and take part in the tradition.
More fall activities:
- Play golf at Edgebrook Golf Course
- Go camping at Sexauer Park
- Cheer the Jackrabbit football team at SDSU’s Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium
While South Dakota is known for its long winters, there is plenty to do in Brookings once the snow starts to fall.
Frost Fest is a series of events that happens every February. Local organizations and businesses put on family-friendly activities, like an ice fishing derby and plein air painting in the park, as a way to get people to enjoy outdoor activities in the middle of winter.
If the temperatures are a little too frigid for enjoying the outdoors, Brookings offers a lot of ways to recreate indoors.
Situated next to Dakota Nature Park is the Brookings County Outdoor Adventure Center, which houses both archery and firearms ranges.
The facility offers equipment and gun rentals, an automatic retrieval system and youth classes on topics ranging from basic archery to survival in the South Dakota wilderness.
Dustin Huber, the center’s director, said he wants the facility to provide new experiences for people.
“It lets people step outside of their comfort zone,” he said. “Not a lot of towns have a gun range or archery range where they can come in and learn something new.”
Day passes can be purchased for unlimited time at the ranges, with no scheduled appointment needed, making it the perfect place to brush up on your marksmanship before you hit the field.
More winter activities:
- See the Brookings Festival of Lights Parade
- Shop in historic Downtown Brookings
- Go sled riding at Larson Park
When the temperatures rise and the snow starts to melt, everything in Brookings seems to come back to life, and there is no better place to witness this than McCrory Gardens.
McCrory Gardens is owned and operated by South Dakota State University and features vast amounts of seasonal flowers, trees and grasses to stroll through and appreciate. Benches and open areas encourage you to stop and take it all in.
Another way to enjoy the fresh air is to lace up your shoes and go for a run around town. The Prairie Striders Running Club hosts multiple races in Brookings each year, including the Arbor Day 5K, giving you a great chance to take part in a community event. For distance fans, there’s the Brookings Marathon in May. Running strong since 1970, the event includes half-marathon and 5K events plus a marathon relay.
More spring activities:
- Visit local nurseries to shop for your garden at home
- Take the family to the Children’s Museum of South Dakota
- Dine outdoors at Brookings’ downtown restaurants
Whether you’re here during the warm summer, the frosty winter or anytime in between, Brookings has plenty of outdoor activities available so you can explore the natural beauty and vast wilderness of South Dakota.
-By Spencer Thompson, SDSU