A good family travel destination in Rapid City is Dinosaur Park. It was one of the first free tourist attractions in the Black Hills region, opening in 1936. The park was designed to divert travelers traveling to and from Mount Rushmore into Rapid City.
The dinosaurs in the park were designed by Emmet Sullivan, who also created the Christ of the Ozarks statue in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Dinosaur Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 21, 1990.
Dinosaur Park is located at 940 Skyline Drive, high on a ridge overlooking Rapid City. On a clear day the park provides views that extend for dozens of miles east to the Badlands. When we visited it was snowing and raining and a little foggy, so our view was limited.
The ridge contains dinosaur fossils from the Late Jurassic/Early Cretaceous era, and dinosaur footprints have been discovered nearby, so it is an appropriate setting for a dinosaur park.
The park contains 7 concrete dinosaur replicas — looking a little dated (e.g., dragging tails) but interesting, nonetheless. They were constructed with a skeleton of 2-inch pipe, and a framework of wire mesh which was covered in concrete. Dinosaurs were originally gray but were painted green with white bellies in the 1950s.
Admission is free, however steep flagstone stairs have limited handicapped accessibility in the past.
The park is currently closed as renovations are underway to modernize the attraction, improve its accessibility, upgrade visitor amenities, and improve site interpretation. The projected cost for the project is $3.5 million and is expected to be completed in December of 2023.
Dinosaur Park is a little “corny”, but I found it appealing in a nostalgic way. Certainly, it is work a few minutes of your time to visit when it reopens.
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