Grin and Bear it at Bear Country U.S.A.

Bear Country U.S.A. is a tourist trap. I doubt that’s a surprise to anyone reading this. That said, corny, kitschy or contrived attractions add fun and color to a family vacation. As we researched our Black Hills vacation, we chose Bear Country U.S.A. because while we expected to see wildlife on our vacation, we wanted a guaranteed slam dunk. For that, Bear Country U.S.A. delivered.

Bear Country U.S.A. offers much more than bears. It is “home to 20 species of North American mammals which live in large natural exhibits.” These animals include black bears, grizzly bears, wolves, bighorn sheep, reindeer, bison, mountain lions, and a number of smaller animals and we were able to see nearly all of them either from our car or in Babyland without much difficulty.

It took 20-30 minutes to drive slowly through the wildlife loop. The last and longest part of the drive was the black bear area, and the bears were everywhere. It was fun to watch them walking around so close to our van. There are many signs and a watchtower with a loudspeaker warning you to keep your windows up and we happily complied.

After the drive, we parked and walked through Babyland. Babyland is the home of the baby bear cubs. It’s also where the mature grizzly bears and all of the smaller animals live, but the baby bears are by far the best thing about Babyland. The yard is full of scampering, rolling, wrestling, climbing and just adorable baby bear cubs. The cubs were what made Bear Country U.S.A. worthwhile for me.

Know before you go:

  • Arrive early at Bear Country U.S.A. to avoid crowds and drive the wildlife loop at your own speed.
  • Bear Country U.S.A is located about 15 minutes outside of Rapid City, on the road to Mount Rushmore.
  • Bear Country U.S.A. is open every day from May to November.
  • There is a per person admission fee of $10-16, depending on age, with a $60 maximum per car. Children aged 4 and under are free. For that price, you can drive through the wildlife loop one time and spend as much time as you would like in Babyland.
  • We spent 2-3 hours at Bear Country U.S.A. Most people will have a hard time spending more than a half day here.

Bear Country U.S.A. was a bit of a splurge for us, but we got exactly what we expected. Bear Country U.S.A. was a fun start to our Black Hills vacation.

This post appeared on Travel Tips Tuesday on August 28, 2012.


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