A Love of Play and Learning

Longtime Brookings residents Pat and Dale Larson always believed that play is learning, and learning is fun. During the summers, Dale and Pat would drive across the country with their three young daughters to explore the world around them. They hiked through national parks, donned costumes at Colonial Williamsburg, and searched for life in the ocean.

Pat and Dale also strongly believed that everyone, no matter age or ability, had unique gifts to offer the world. They encouraged their three girls to become involved, volunteer, and to give back to their community. Education and philanthropy were to be lifelong ambitions.

It All Started with a Trip

When Pat and Dale’s daughter, Carmelle Larson Jackson traveled across the country with her own children, she was determined to make the journey as fun as the destination. She made frequent stops at children’s museums and came away with a love for the energy and creativity found in each place.

She also came away with a vision: to build an exciting place where children of all ages and abilities could learn through play in her own hometown of Brookings, South Dakota.

Larson Family Foundation Supports the Vision

The Larson Family and the Larson Family Foundation turned this vision into a reality by fully funding the start-up costs of the Children’s Museum of South Dakota, and by establishing an endowment for future operating costs.

The Larson Family Foundation is a private, non-profit organization founded in 1990 to fulfill the need of the state’s communities and citizens and help improve the quality of life for all South Dakotans.

It was established by Dale Larson, Former CEO and President of Larson Manufacturing Company and current Museum Board Chair. The purpose of establishing a foundation was to give back to the community of Brookings and the state of South Dakota which have played a significant role in the growth and prospering of Larson Manufacturing, the nation’s leading manufacturer of storm doors and storm windows.

Over the next four years, the Larson Family assembled a diverse board of advisors who teamed up with consultants and professionals from the children’s museum industry, leaders in the Brookings community, educators from the local school district as well as South Dakota State University to develop a world-class museum that promotes learning through play, creativity and discovery.

Quick Facts

  • The Children’s Museum of South Dakota was built in a 1936 brick school building and was part of a downtown revitalization
  • The official ground-breaking ceremony took place on Oct. 15, 2008
  • The Museum opened its door to visitors on Sept. 12, 2010
  • We are the first Children’s Museum in the state of South Dakota
  • Mama T. Rex and Max are the only full-size permanent animatronic T. rex dinosaurs on display in the United States
  • We have one of the largest outdoor exhibits in all the children’s museums in the world
  • The Children’s Museum of South Dakota welcomed its 100,000th guest on Aug. 1, 2011
  • The Museum welcomed its 500,000th guest on May 28, 2015
  • The Museum welcomed its one-millionth guest on July 30, 2020.

We’ve won a few awards along the way


The Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce named the Children’s Museum of South Dakota the Business of the Month in September 2021.

Named one of 12 must-see destinations in North Dakota and South Dakota by the Star Tribune.

December: 2021 Mayor’s Empower Award: A recognition program designed to recognize outstanding commitment of a business in employing and empowering those with disabilities.

2021 South Dakota Great Place designation


September: The City of Brookings and Mayor Keith Corbett celebrates Sept. 12-19 as “Children’s Museum of South Dakota Week”

October: Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities Award presented by the South Dakota Humanities Council


January: Executive Director Kate Treiber Recognized with Pinnacle Player Award

February: Great Service Star Award awarded by the South Dakota Department of Tourism

December: Best Way to Play With the Family by 605 Magazine


January: Café Coteau Manager honored for hospitality at South Dakota Tourism Conference

February: Great Service Star Award awarded by Department of Tourism


February: Great Service Star Award awarded by Department of Tourism


September:  The City of Brookings celebrates Sept. 12 as “Children’s Museum of South Dakota Day”

June: Featured by Google in 2016 Annual Report 

May: Named “Best of the Midwest” by Midwest Living Magazine

April: Named ‘Facility of the Year‘ by Brookings CVB

March: Recognized as a participant in Breastfeeding Friendly Business initiative

February: Great Service Star Award awarded by Department of Tourism

January: Receive ‘Excellence in Tourism Innovation Award’ from South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard and South Dakota Tourism Dept.


November: Take spot on list of “50 Midwest Museums We Love” by Midwest Living Magazine

September: The State of South Dakota names Sept. 12, 2015 “Children’s Museum of South Dakota Day” throughout the state

August: Highlighted on family travel website, Road Trips for Families.

August: The City of Brookings names each Sept. 12 to be “Children’s Museum of South Dakota Day” in Brookings, SD

July: Recognized by the Alliant Group as one of “Eight Enchanting LEED Certified Buildings in the US”

June: Recognized by Kiwi Magazine as one of “Six Green Children’s Museums to Visit

May: Museum Welcomes Half Millionth Guest

May: Awarded Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor based on 5-star rating by reviewers

April: The Children’s Museum of South Dakota is included in Midwest Living’s “Best of the Midwest Travel Edition”

April: Brookings, SD is listed as a “Best Under the Radar” vacation destination – highlighting the Museum – by www.VacationIdea.com

March: PrairiePlay.org receives a Silver ADDY

February: Great Service Star Award awarded by the Department of Tourism

January: PrairiePlay.org receives ADDY nomination



July: “Must-See Attraction” in South Dakota as recognized by the Travel Channel

May: Recognized by Midwest Living magazine’s special “Best of the Midwest Travel” publication

April: The Children’s Museum of South Dakota included in Midwest Living’s “Best of the Midwest Travel Edition”

Jan: Great Service Star Award awarded by the South Dakota Department of Tourism


Prestigious LEED® Green Building Silver Certification

National ‘Buildy Award’ – Presented by the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums honoring Recent Outstanding Museum Projects

Great Service Star Award


Children’s Museum of South Dakota featured in the Chicago Tribune as a ‘must see museum’  >>

CMSD featured in Midwest Living Magazine’s ‘Top 25 New Places’


Mayor’s Award for Historic Preservation

A.B.L.E. Award (Ability, Belief, Leadership and Equality to Achieve Access For All)

The Children’s Museum of South Dakota and Banner Associates awarded the ACEC National Recognition Award for Engineering Excellence for Structural Design


The Children’s Museum of South Dakota awarded the Honor Award by the American Society of Landscape Architects, Great Plains Region

Banner Associates and the Children’s Museum of South Dakota Take Home South Dakota ACEC 2010 Grand Award of Excellence

What is a Children’s Museum?

A place where children learn through play and explore in an environment designed just for them.

Meet the Museum Team

Play is the focus of our work day!

Plan your trip

Play along with us on the South Dakota prairie!

Make a difference

You can help us spark imagination and support learning through play, creativity, and discovery!