Ah, Sioux City, Iowa. The place I called home for four years during college. When people ask me where I’m from, I tell them Sioux City because no one has heard of my hometown of Wayne, Nebraska. After all, I basically grew up in Sioux City anyway because it was home to the closest mall, Chick-fil-A and orthodontist, so I and tons of other hometown kids made the Sioux a regular trip during our free time.
Located in Iowa’s northwest corner and bordering Nebraska and South Dakota, Sioux City is the heart of a Midwestern area known as “Siouxland.” It’s about 90 miles north of Omaha and 90 miles south of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. To anyone else in the country, Sioux City probably means nothing. But for the locals, it’s kind of a big deal.
When I graduated from BCU in 2015 I couldn’t wait to move across the state to the Quad Cities – after all, most people have the desire to get away from their hometown. However, now that I’ve lived six hours away for nearly two years, I didn’t realize I took so much of Sioux City for granted. Here are 10 things that made Sioux City home for me:
1. Grandview Park
Grandview Park is home to the city’s free summer music festival Saturday in the Park. The annual festival has hosted artists like Cee Lo Green, Sublime and even Aretha Franklin, and food vendors from the area flock to the park to showcase their local favorites.
I got some of my best writing inspiration from Grandview Park. While I love the atmosphere at SITP, I miss being able to drive down to Grandview on a Saturday evening, sit on the empty stage with my notebook and write down my thoughts.
2. La Juas
Shortened from Taqueria La Juanita by lazy college kids, La Juas is the ultimate late-night hub for Sioux City youth and young adults. On any given Friday or Saturday night, you could drive down Pierce Street and see lines out the door at La Juas.
What brings everyone there? The carne asada burrito. I always ordered it with extra avocado and dipped it in the delicious hot sauce, which when you have a cold is the perfect supplement to your preferred medication – it really packs a punch and clears out your head!
3. Southern Hills Mall
The mall is my earliest memory of Sioux City. As a kid from small-town Nebraska, “going to Sioux City” meant going to the mall. I got my ears pierced at the Claire’s in third grade. Took my first guitar lessons at the music store that is now closed. Bought my first Green Day CD at the F.Y.E. And once I got to college, the mall became the one place I would always run into people from high school.
Whenever I venture back to the Sioux, the mall is one place I always hit up.
4. Historic Fourth Street
Turning 21 in Sioux City meant getting to hang out at the bars on and near Historic Fourth Street downtown. Buffalo Alice’s was a fun place to get pizza and beer for dinner. Tuesdays and Fridays were good nights to go down to the Chesterfield and sing karaoke or listen to live music. And a block over is the popular hangout of BCU students, the Firehouse.
But don’t worry, drinking wasn’t the only activity I enjoyed downtown. The Riviera Theatre offered cheap movie nights on Wednesdays to college students, and my friends and I took full advantage of that. Sometimes we would go to the Promenade Cinema as well and see movies right when they came out (my roommates and friends will remember when I went to see Silver Linings Playbook a whopping four times!). And the eats are good too – my favorite thing to get downtown is the bacon cheeseburger with macaroni from SoHo Kitchen and Bar.
5. Norm Waitt Sr. YMCA
Starting my sophomore year, BCU students were offered discounted memberships to this YMCA, located just across the Missouri River in South Sioux City, Nebraska. After gaining the proverbial “freshman 15,” I was all in. Because one of my closest friends at BCU taught a couple classes there, I ended up getting to know a lot of the trainers and instructors, which made it easier for me to motivate myself to go.
If I had to pick between my current Y in Bettendorf, Iowa, and this one, I’d pick my current one every time. That being said, I would’ve never discovered the group exercise classes I’ve raved about in multiple other articles had it not been for the ones I’d attended here – being a member here was a huge factor in helping me take care of myself.
6. El Fredo Pizza
When I went on my first visit to BCU, I met with the jazz band director, and he mentioned that they were playing a gig at El Fredo Pizza that evening. The ensemble was talented and the pizza was good – their tangy sauce gives it a unique flavor I’ve never experienced anywhere else.
During my four years as bass player for the ensemble, I enjoyed free pizza at each gig. I always enjoyed the El Fredo show because that was the only time we really had much of an audience. And the pizza is my all-time favorite – the Quad Cities have their own style of pizza (and a Wikipedia page about it), but it just doesn’t fulfill my hankering for pizza like El Fredo.
7. Orpheum Theatre
My earliest memory of the Orpheum is from fifth grade, when my piano teacher gave my family tickets to a performance of a Russian ballet company. Always the visual person, I was in awe of the grand entrance hall as we walked in from Pierce Street – I just had to walk down the big stairs the way Mia Thermopolis did in the Princess Diaries movie.
In college, BCU students got discounts to symphonies and musicals – for one of my gen-ed classes I attended a symphony and saw performances of Fiddler on the Roof and Riverdance. I also got to actually perform there as a member of BCU’s choral groups in our annual Christmas collaboration with the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra. Getting to stand on the same stage as Broadway troupes and other semi-famous musicians was an experience that was both empowering and humbling.
8. IBP Ice Center
After the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics I developed an obsession with figure skating. Despite my lack of coordination, my parents took me skating at the IBP Ice Center a couple times a year. I knew I wasn’t talented or driven enough to practice skating for competition, but it was still fun.
I didn’t go often because it was expensive, even for kids. But in college our student activities board offered two free skating nights for us – just another activity I always took full advantage of.
9. Briar Cliff University
Of course, I can’t forget my alma mater. I would’ve never discovered most of these hangouts without being a BCU student. Grandview Park is only a mile from campus. A fellow student is almost always willing to carpool to La Juas or the mall or downtown. I’m not sure if they’re still partnering with the Y, but sometimes we got to hold pool parties and other fun “game nights” there. Our jazz ensemble played a gig at El Fredo every year. I got to sing on the stage of the Orpheum four times and also walked across its stage at graduation. Students got to go ice skating for free a couple times a year at the ice center.
Also, through BCU I got to take some amazing trips I probably never would’ve had the opportunities for otherwise. My freshman year I got to spend 10 days touring Italy with the choir – finally getting to see the Colosseum, Pantheon, Roman Forum and the Vatican satisfied the dreams of 12-year-old me who was obsessed with Roman history. Sophomore year, I got to go to New York with our honors program and spent a day walking around the city with a friend I knew only through Facebook – something my mom is still mad at me about. And senior year, the choir went on a spring break trip to New Orleans, where we got to eat delicious seafood and wander around Bourbon Street just a few weeks after Mardi Gras. These trips are probably my favorite memories of being a BCU student.
10. The Memories
Last I heard, the Chesterfield was temporarily closed and the Riviera Theatre was torn down. BCU’s younger choir students no longer get the amazing experience I did of singing in the Oprheum. The Quad Cities have plenty of unique pizza places, pubs and Mexican restaurants, but they don’t do the Sioux City food and bar scene justice.
Many BCU professors and employees that had been there my freshman year had moved away and been replaced by my senior year. The school has implemented new programs that make the BCU experience very different from my own. And, just like me, the people I met in college all went their separate ways to pursue careers or graduate studies. So while the locales still largely exist, the Sioux City I once knew is now only a collection of fond memories.