If I Were A Kid

Linda Burton posting from Pierre, South Dakota – If I were a kid with a weekend coming up, I know what I’d do. I’d butter up. I’d shamelessly compliment Mom’s cooking, set the sprinklers out for Dad, and even stop pestering my brother. For one evening, at least. And, most important, I’d lay my Passport to Fun on the table where it couldn’t be missed. Hint Hint. If all that failed, I’d beg. Oh, I know how to say “pretty please,” you bet. My Passport to Fun is a list of kid-friendly fun things to do in Pierre, a surefire way to eliminate those dread words “I’m bored.” Six places to go, and one extra enticement; get the passport punched at each location and receive a reward. But, OMG, I’m not a kid! At least, I’m not dependent on somebody else to take me where I’d like to go. I admit to having a kid’s heart, but lucky me, I’ve got a driver license and my own car. Now, about that Passport.

The South Dakota National Guard Museum is the first thing on the list, with the tempter – see an actual helicopter! All kids are fascinated by helicopters, because they are LOUD. And they can hover, right above your head. The flight simulator might be interesting to a kid, but the WWII Field Telephone would be of more interest to an oldie like me, as I still battle with today’s cell-phone technology. Outside a plane and trucks and jeeps are great photo ops. Not open weekends or holidays; go weekdays between 9-4. 301 E Dakota Avenue, 605-224-9991. http://mva.sd.gov/natl_guard_museum.html

It doesn’t matter what your interest is, you’ll find something that fascinates you at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center. It’s a 15,000 square-foot museum that puts you in the heart of the South Dakota experience with artifacts, dioramas, and interactive exhibits. Kids can sit in a combine cab and harvest corn or see how they measure up to a full-size mammoth; all ages will love the countless stories of the Northern Plains Indians and the gutsy homesteaders and the old west scoundrels. The setting is breathtaking, tucked into a hill overlooking everything. 900 Governors Drive, 605-773-3458, www.history.sd.gov

I love horses and I love rodeos, and most kids I know do too. Casey Tibbs was a 9-time World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider; at the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center those who dare can ride a bronc simulator,  hop on a saddle, wear a cowboy hat, and get their picture taken, a darn good souvenir to remember a fun day. From the top of the hill where this new building sits, you can see about half of South Dakota. 210 Verendrye Dr, Fort Pierre, 605-494-1094, www.caseytibbs.com

Grandson Matt gave the ultimate compliment to this place; he didn’t want to leave, after all, there are over 60 hands-on exhibits! I like the fact that it is open every day; it’s a real science playground and a family place. Very handy to get to; close to Pierre’s first schoolhouse, and a park with picnic grounds, right by the river. The South Dakota Discovery Center, 800 W Dakota Ave, 605-224-8295, www.sd-discovery.com

Everyone in Pierre has asked me if I’ve “been to the dam yet” which is a sure sign it’s impressive to all. Great displays at the Visitor Center about the building of the dam; a relocated chapel to walk through. The tour of the power house is a mind-bending experience, absolutely awesome, as is the scenery from the drive across the top. Take a picnic for lakeside. Scheduled tours from Memorial Day through Labor Day; call to set up during the rest of the year. Oahe Dam Visitor Center, 20207 SD Hwy 1804, above the Oahe Dam, 605-224-4617 http://www.engineeringsights.org/

The Buffalo Interpretive Center wants you to know all about the story of the buffalo; it overlooks one of the three tribal bison pastures; the Sioux tribe has over 300 bison. Inside, kids can wrap up in a real buffalo robe and play with the same kinds of toys used by Sioux children of the plains; here you can learn about Sioux life and culture. The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe opened the Center in 2004; 29349 SD Hwy 1806, Fort Pierre, 605-223-2260 http://www.lbst.org/

So go get your Passport stamped and take a kid along; I say that’s a pretty good reward in itself. But best of all, you’ll know a lot more about South Dakota, and Pierre. These places not only open the doors to our past, they are shining examples of what is important to us today.