There’s not much to see on the drive across South Dakota. Fortunately enterprising folks have been constructing roadside kitsch since the newly created National Parks drew visitors from all over after the turn of the century. Today there’s a lot less of them and the remaining sites are often in disrepair, but still some of my favorite things to see on the road.
Dinosaur Park, Rapid City, SD
Dinosaur Park, created in 1936, is a park on top of a high hill in Rapid City, SD featuring 7 dinosaur sculptures. It’s a fun goofy bit of kitsch worth seeing if you’re ever driving by Rapid City.
Wall Drug, located in Wall, SD, was purchased by Ted Hustead in 1931. Looking for a way to boost business, his wife thought of the idea to offer free ice water to tourist visiting Mount Rushmore. The simple strategy grew into a fleet of signs and billboards across the country and the world advertising the store and how far away it is. The store has evolved into a tourist trap, no, THE tourist trap, meant in the most loving and affectionate way. Wall Drug is a wonderland of roadside kitsch, photo ops, memorabilia, and oddities. The store interior is divided into a serious of small stores each given a western facade to appear like a small town with larger kitsch now located in an outside sculpture garden and playground for the kiddos including a giant jackalope, stuffed bison, and a large animatronic dinosaur modeled from Jurassic Park.
In the time of COVID, being packed into a small space with strangers (many not wearing masks) is not an ideal destination. But we quickly moved through the hall of cowboys to the outside attractions and generally stayed away from people when we could. As Katy had never seen Wall Drug it felt important to make a stop by. I had visited over 20 years previously while driving to Seattle and it has always held a place in my imagination.