Sioux Falls, South Dakota is the state’s largest city and is part of one of the country’s fastest growing metropolitan areas. Augustana College and twelve other institutions of higher education call this eastern South Dakota city home. Sioux Falls has not had passenger train service since the mid-1960s and the only low fare airline to the city flies directly only to the Southwest and Florida.
For residents of the Sioux Falls area, utilizing a combination of Amtrak trains and buses is the cheapest way to travel to other parts of the county. Here are five tips/hints for effectively traveling to/from Sioux Falls by land:
One: Ignore Amtrak’s recommendation to connect with the train at Fargo. On Amtrak’s schedule for the Empire Builder that runs between Chicago and Seattle/Portland, there is an indication that connecting service is available between Fargo, ND and Sioux Falls. Jefferson Lines provides this service. Unfortunately, Jefferson Lines’ schedule at Fargo does not work well with Amtrak’s timetable.
The only direct bus to Sioux Falls leaves Fargo in the mid-afternoon. Also, the one direct bus from Sioux Falls arrives in Fargo around the same time. But the Empire Builder arrives in Fargo for both directions in the middle of the night. Thus, there will be a half-day wait (that includes some early morning hours) in Fargo before a connection can be made.
Two: If you are coming from the Northwest on the Empire Builder, the best place to connect to a Jefferson Lines bus is Minneapolis/St. Paul. The eastbound train arrives in St. Paul around 7:00 am. After a short cab ride to the Minneapolis Greyhound Bus Terminal, the bus leaves around noon for the 6 ½ hour trip to Sioux Falls. In order to connect with the westbound train, travelers should board the 4:00 pm bus to Minneapolis that arrives around 9:00 pm. That will give you plenty of time to transfer to the St. Paul Amtrak station to catch the 11:15 pm.
Three: If you are coming from the east, the California Zephyr from Chicago is the Amtrak service you should utilize. The train arrives in Omaha around 10:30 pm. After a brief hotel stay in Omaha, you can board a 5:45 am bus for the 3 ½ hour trip to Sioux Falls. For eastbound passengers, the bus leaves the Sioux Falls depot around 8:30 pm and arrives in Omaha after midnight. The train for Chicago leaves Omaha a little after 6:00 am.
Four: If you are coming from the west, the eastbound California Zephyr provides the most convenient connection to Sioux Falls. The train arrives in Omaha around 6:00 am. At noon, the Jefferson Lines bus leaves for Sioux Falls. For westbound passengers, the bus leaves Sioux Falls at 3:45 pm and arrives in Omaha at 7:15 pm, which is plenty of time to catch the 10:30 pm California Zephyr.
Five: Both the Empire Builder and California Zephyr are all-reserved trains. Whether you are experiencing Amtrak’s coach service or the Superliner sleeping accommodations, you must make advanced reservations. By buying your tickets in advance for both Amtrak and Jefferson Lines services, you may be able to receive discounted advance purchase fares or special fares for students and seniors.