Yesterday was one of our fullest days of the trip. We were staying in Rapid City for three nights. This area had so much to offer that we decide to spend a few days here so as to be able to enjoy much of what the Black Hills has to offer.
But even with our extended stay we found our days filled to capacity, trying to fit it all in. Quite honestly, we could have spent an entire week at this location and everyone has expressed a bit of sadness over having to leave tomorrow. We have all fallen in love with the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Our day began with some sites in town.
While researching Rapid City I came across two of their lesser known gems. Both of which are parks. We decided to spend the morning in Rapid City checking out these two local sites and then the remainder of our day would be split between the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mt. Rushmore.
Our first stop of the day was Storybook Island. I don’t know that I can fully convey how much I loved this place. I think I may have been a bigger fan of this special place than even the kids. I found myself grinning uncontrollably as we walked through and had to resist the urge to hop and clap my hands with delight.
Storybook Island is a public playground in Rapid City themed off childhood storybooks and nursery rhymes. It reminded me so much of one of my favorite places in Pennsylvania: Storybook Forest at Idlewild Amusement Park. I LOVE Storybook forest. I find it magical to stroll through a world where the places of bedtime stories come to life.
Storybook Island is similar. The difference, however, is that here you are encouraged to touch, climb and play on the pieces.
It was definitely geared toward elementary aged children and younger but that didn’t stop my teenagers (and Toby and I) from reverting back to childhood and playing along with Tyler and Ozzie.
Rusty as the Big Bad Wolf: “Little Pig, little pig, let me in.”
Tyler and Ozzie (my two little pigs): “Not by the hair on my chinny, chin chin”
Rusty: “Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!”
Momma: Run, piggies, run!!!
When we walked in I was moved by the greeting that welcomed us:
What a poignant reminder and wonderful message!
The park is free to the public and remains that way through donations. There is a collection box at the entrance that welcomes you to the park and allows you to leave a donation to help maintain the park and keep it open for the public to enjoy.
We stepped through the gates into a land of magical tales of princesses, pirates and Pooh Bear.
We spent an hour and a half, walking the shaded paths, taking pictures, and allowing the kids to climb, play and explore Storybook Island. It was the first day of school for Rapid City so we had the park to ourselves.
Here is a peek into our magical morning:
At noon we left Storybook Island to drive over to another one of Rapid City’s lesser known gems: Dinosaur Park.
High on the hill, overlooking the city, sits a green Apatosaurus. This famous roadside icon has been looking down on the city since 1936.
Here is his story:
“Concrete monsters lord over a city in the Black Hills — and they may rule forever. Generations of children have visited the hilltop Dinosaur Park. The immensity of the Brontosaurus, the fearsome jaws of the T-Rex… indelibly burned into tiny, soft skulls. When dinosaurs walked the earth, they looked like this! Well, maybe not quite. As an early entrant into the world of dinosaur tourist attractions, the giant creatures sculpted here are what dinosaurs were thought to look like in 1936. And there’s an undeniable cartoony style to these bright green, life-size sculptures. Modern depictions differ, of course. Yet the bright green thunderbeasts above Rapid City still satisfy legions of little crunchers. The five sculptures were a Depression-era project cooked up by the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce, who saw them as a way to make jobs, get the government to pay for it, and capitalize on the flood of visitors to nearby Mount Rushmore. Emmit A. Sullivan is credited as the sculptor — the same artistic genius who created the Christ of the Ozarks and the dinosaurs at Dinosaur World in Arkansas. The dinos were dedicated on May 22, 1936, on the crest of a hill overlooking the city. The five figures — an Apatosaurus, Triceratops, Stegasaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex., and a Brontosaurus, were fashioned from concrete over iron pipe frameworks. The Brontosaurus is 80-ft. long and 28-ft. high, standing at the highest point of the ridge. The other dinos are situated along walkways straddling the ridge and down the slope to the parking lot. They’ve had a 70 year run as part of this free public park. It is probably the only dino park that encourages kids to climb on all its displays.” -Roadside America
We decided to enjoy our picnic lunch at Dinosaur Park. We parked, and went into the visitor’s center to pick up a brochure that explained the history of the park as well as gave information about all the different dinosaurs represented by the statues at Dinosaur Park, and then climbed the steps to the top.
It was kitschy and reminiscent of a family’s 1950s road trip across the United States, all piled in the back of a station wagon. I loved it!
We ate our picnic lunch with the Apatosaurus.
We couldn’t have asked for a better view or for better company.
Once everyone’s bellies were filled it was onto the next part of the day…
Next Stop: Crazy Horse Memorial.