I was going through some old e-mails recently and found one that I missed from the Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau. It’s the bureau’s 2009 list of the top-five free things to do in Rapid City. Here’s the list, with the bureau’s descriptions of each site:
- Dinosaur Park — Built in the early 1930’s, Dinosaur Park has seven life-size concrete replicas of prehistoric reptiles. The dinosaurs stand atop a prominent ridge in the middle of the city. The park, on scenic Skyline Drive, affords visitors a sweeping view of Rapid City. In addition, Dinosaur Park is a good jumping-off point to explore the hiking trails of nearby Skyline Drive Wilderness Park.
- Storybook Island – This attraction is a favorite for families with children. It’s a fantasy land where the Cat in the Hat, Winnie the Pooh, and more than 100 other favorite childhood characters come to life in sculptures, displays and play areas. There are lots of things to climb and crawl into, and this year Storybook Island has added a 25-foot pirate ship. In summer, the Storybook Island Theater stages children’s plays.
- The City of Presidents – While wandering through downtown Rapid City you’re likely to encounter George Washington, Ronald Reagan or Richard Nixon – all in bronze. In fact, life-sized bronze sculptures of 33 American presidents are located on street corners throughout Rapid City’s business district. Eventually, bronzes of all past presidents will be downtown. You can pick up sculpture maps and other information at the City of Presidents information center, located at the corner of Seventh and Main Streets. (Look for James Monroe.)
- Cleghorn Springs Fish Hatchery – This hard-working hatchery produces and releases close to 1 million trout each year. You can tour the site and see the fish at every stage of development. (There are also some massive lunkers.) The process is explained in detail, and family nature programs are offered daily during the summer.
- Stavkirke Chapel — Built in 1969, the unique "Stavkirke" is one of the most unusual pieces of architecture in the Black Hills. Also known as the Chapel in the Hills, the church is an exact copy of the famous 830 year-old Borgund Church in Norway. The intricate wood carvings, strange dragon heads and ingenious pegged construction make it a place of unusual interest and great beauty.