Midwest Living Review
The Children's Museum of South Dakota, where kids can pretend to be grownups and grownups can pretend to be kids, is an educational experience disguised as a fun house. The creators of the exhibits and activities put a lot of thought into making it fun. Kids can change tires on cars, pretend to be store clerks, run an ice cream shop or anchor a TV show -- just like adults. And rooms such as Our Prairie make it a definitively Midwestern experience. Whether they are climbing clouds to the sky, playing house inside a realistic sod home, standing in a nearly life-size tepee or harvesting potatoes from a realistic farmstead, the children come away with a better appreciation of prairie life and the working world.
Warm-weather visitors can have the most fun with a huge outdoor play area with a stream for splashing and collecting buckets of water for activities such as rock-filled cyclinders that teach about filtration. Kids can climb through willow tunnels, get lost in a prairie-grass maze, pretend to hatch eggs in a human-sized nest and try their skills in the fishing pond. The museum pond (opened in 2013) lets kids use nets and magnetic poles to catch realistic-looking trout and sunfish. Expect a lot of squeals and wet kids. (A mom-to-mom tip: Pack a towel.)
Some kids will want to stay near flowers and nature areas, avoiding the museum’s biggest—and scariest—resident: a life-sized Mama T. rex who roars, moves her little arms, blinks and flicks her tail to rattle intruders. Some kids find her baby T. rex, who lives in a cave during inclement weather, even scarier because it’s closer to their eye level. If you have jittery kids, let them gawk at the beasts from the quiet safety of the windows in Our Prairie exhibit.
Don’t miss a snack or meal at the museum’s Coteau Café, which serves adult- and kid-friendly health foods including a cleverly arranged and garnished grilled cheese sandwich that looks like an owl. The café sits within a wonderfully airy modern atrium that was built onto the renovated 1920s school building when the museum opened here in September 2010. It seems fitting that the old school is still teaching kids—but making it much more fun than a classroom.