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SOUTH BEND — Dinosaur lovers rejoice. Just 90 minutes from Battle Creek, there is now a museum of its own.

After more than two years of construction, the Indiana Dinosaur Museum on South Bend’s west side opened to the public on Friday, July 12.

The museum was developed by Mark Tarner, founder of the South Bend Chocolate Co., and is located on a 90-acre site at 7102 Lincoln Way W.

In addition to the dinosaur museum, the complex includes a chocolate museum, a restaurant and a market, as well as hiking and picnic areas, a lookout point and a bison-watching area.

The museum features a wide variety of life-size models of dinosaurs and real bones, reflecting the passion Tarner has developed over the past 20-plus years while growing the chocolate business he founded in 1991.

More: Dinosaurs, chocolate, a pub: Indiana’s newest travel destination

Photographs at the museum’s entrance document how Tarner, his family and friends spent large parts of each summer digging for bones in Montana and the discoveries they made.

“He probably has one of the largest private collections of dinosaur bones in the country, maybe even in the world,” said Kendra Bolen, a paleontologist who joined the museum staff earlier this year.

Tarner wanted to make the museum entertaining by featuring a hologram of a scientist who gives visitors an introduction to geologic time, showing how dinosaurs dominated the planet for about 165 million years before becoming extinct 65 million years ago.

The colors are bright, the signage is large, and there are opportunities for young visitors to get hands-on experience with fossil hunting and other activities.

“We don’t want it to be boring,” Tarner said during a recent tour, before which he had to remove his paint-covered shirt. “We want people to learn and get interested without being too sober and didactic.”

Throughout the complex, it is repeatedly emphasized that humans have only existed on this planet for a short time, especially compared to dinosaurs, and that there are still connections with the animals that lived long ago.

“We hope that visitors leave the museum with a deeper understanding of the period and our place in it,” Tarner said. To provide variety, the museum also plans to bring in new exhibits from Tarner’s collection or from loans to other museums.

Of course, there will also be a souvenir shop, which will probably sell hats, shirts, toys and other items, including chocolate dinosaurs.

According to, admission to the museum and adjacent park costs $25 for adults, $23 for students with ID, $22.50 for seniors and $20 for children ages 3 to 17. Children under 3 are admitted free.

An Explorer Pass, which grants access to the Chocolate Museum, costs $40 for adults, $35 for seniors and $32 for children ages 3 to 17. Children under 3 are free. Group tours and birthday party packages are also available.

The museum is approximately one hour and 30 minutes from Battle Creek via I-94 and US-31.

— Cassandra Lybrink of the Battle Creek Enquirer contributed to this article.