South Dakota is corn country, and there’s no better example than the massive Corn Palace of Mitchell, SD- a building covered with, you guessed it, corn…
The Corn Palace attracts over half a million people a year to see its massive corn murals which are updated each year with a new theme (and new corn), and for the people in and around Mitchell, SD, it’s the center of their community.
We’d been wanting to visit this place ever since we learned of its existence, and thanks to 2016 MINI Takes the States, we finally got the chance as we rolled into Mitchell, SD in a sweet silver MINI Cooper S Convertible. Not bad, right?
Touring the Corn Palace
First thought? Holy crap. That’s a lot of corn. Also, they weren’t lying about this place being a huge tourist attraction. The whole town seemed to be full of travelers making their pilgrimage to the one and only palace of corn.
Inside, we’re reminded of the Palace’s practical purpose as an arena and event space for the city and surround communities. The corniness, however, didn’t stop just because we went inside… Once in the main hall, you’re again struck by multiple corn murals.
Since it was summer and no events were planned, the basketball court was in its temporary “gift shop” state, a perfect place for any sort of corn-themed gift you could possible imagine.
In a side gym, we also found a fun little corn museum designed to teach kids about the importance of our favorite yellow crop while letting them cut loose a little with some interactive exhibits.
Pro Tip: Instead of blindly wandering around the place like dummies as we did, we highly suggest taking one of their free guided tours so you can truly take it all in.
When should you visit?
Obviously, the best time to visit is whenever the heck you’re driving through South Dakota (I-90 can get quite boring. This will help you keep your sanity.)
If you want to have a truly remarkable visit to the Corn Palace, visit in late August during their annual Corn Palace Festival. From the Corn Palace:
“The Corn Palace Festival is a celebration of the annual redecoration of the World’s Only Corn Palace. The festival carries on the traditions of bringing in the best names in entertainment to headline the event. Carnival rides, food and specialty vendors, along with the locals bringing in their best produce to be judged make this an event you will want to attend.”
For current dates, visit their website.
So how the heck did there come to be a giant arena covered in corn?
Rewind to over 100 years ago. In 1892, Mitchell’s then-3,000 residents needed a place to gather and throw a little party after their corn harvests. Thus, the Corn Palace was born as was the accompanying Corn Palace Festival. Why all the corn? Well, what better way to advertise South Dakota’s rich agricultural fertility?
The town quickly outgrew the original Palace, however, and a new one was built in 1905. Then, once again, the Corn Palace needed new, bigger digs. The current venue was unveiled in 1921 and has been attracting tourists and serving the community ever since.
Our final thoughts:
If you’re ever driving across South Dakota, the Corn Palace is a must-see.
While we know most of you road trippers will just make a quick stop as we did, we highly suggest taking a look at their schedule of events. From concerts to sporting events, the Palace packs their schedule full, and you may just happen to be passing through during something special.
The Corn Palace
604 North Main Street
Mitchell, SD 57301
Our South Dakota adventures were part of a crazy, awesome road trip called MINI Takes the States. For 2 weeks, MINI owners rallied across the country hitting up cities like Green Bay, race tracks, and everything in between. We had the pleasure of driving both a MINI S convertible and a MINI John Cooper Works, both with 6-speed manual transmissions. It’s pretty much the most fun you’ll ever have.
The best part? The whole trip raised over 1,000,000 meals in partnership with Feeding America. Learn more here.
More from 2016 MTTS: