Dinosaur Digs, Museums, and More: 10 Places to Get Your Paleo On


Photo by Louie Psihoyos/Corbis. Design by Jennifer Fox for Yahoo Travel.

Maybe you’re fan of Jurassic World or happen to have a household of dinosaur-obsessed children who can talk endlessly about the difference between Apatosaurus and Deinonychus. Well you’re in luck, because the US has some of the best dinosaur related spots in the world. Here’s a look at some of the top places to get your dino on, from joining a fossil dig to looking at skeletons and animated replicas.

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Dinosaur National Monument, Utah and Colorado


Photo: NPS

This national park, which straddles Utah and Colorado, contains the motherlode of dinosaur fossils. Dinosaur National Monument is home to the largest quarry of Jurassic Period dinosaur bones ever discovered. Visitors can see a 200-foot exposed quarry wall in the visitor center which showcases exposed dino bones from Stegosaurus, among others. Beyond the bones, the monument also offers hikes, scenic drives, and whitewater rafting. $10 per vehicle.

PaleoWorld Research Foundation, Jordan, Mont.


Photo: PaleoWorld Research Foundation

Adults and children can join paleontologists from this non-profit foundation to help dig for fossils in the area known as the Hell Creek Formation, near the small town of Jordan. A typical day could include prospecting (i.e., digging) for the likes of Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils. Any discoveries are put into the collections of Garfield County Museum. Dig season runs June 1 through July 31, and the cost is $170 per day for adults, and $150 per child 15 and under.

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Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose, Tex.


Head to Texas to literally follow in the footsteps of dinosaurs.The bed of the Paluxy River at the Dinosaur Valley State Park contains dinosaur tracks from sauropods (large elephant-like tracks) as well as theropods (smaller and often with a three-toed pattern). Be sure to check river conditions before you set out though. The park also has area to hike, mountain bike and fish. Entrance fee is $7 for adults and children 12 and under are free.

Connecticut Dinosaur Trail, Conn.


Photo: Peter Rivera/Flickr

Connecticut may not be as closely associated with dinosaurs as say, Utah or Colorado, but this tiny state offers up some dino gems. Stop at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History to see prehistoric skeletons of Stegosaurus, Brontosaurus, and more. In the Discovery Room, kids and adults can open drawers to touch the fossil of a Grallator dinosaur track or a Woolly Mammoth tooth, as well as rocks and minerals. The room also features to-scale replicas of dinosaur footprints. The Dinosaur Place at Nature’s Art Village has more than 40 life-sized dinosaurs like Brachiosaurus and more (mostly statues and one animatronic dino) on 1.5 miles of nature trails. And for cooling off, SplashPad, is a dinosaur-themed water park.

Astro Gallery of Gems, New York


Photo: Astro Gallery of Gems

While taking your kids to a fancy showroom on Fifth Avenue may not be the first idea that comes to mind, take the whole family to Astro Gallery of Gems, which sells rare, museum quality dinosaur fossils. Feel free to just browse, or splurge on a Diplodocus foot ($1850) discovered in Wyoming, or a Velociraptor claw ($12,500) that is approximately 75 million years old.

Dinosaur Discovery Museum, Kenosha, Wis.


Photo: Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Located midway between Chicago and Milwaukee, this museum opened in 2006 and focuses exclusively on the link between modern birds and meat-eating dinosaurs. Visitors can see life-scale replicas of Tyrannosaurus Rex among others, and check out the Carthage Institute of Paleontology’s paleontology lab. Kids can get dirty every Saturday and Sunday at Dino Digs, where they can use paleontologist’s tools and dig for fossils at simulated excavation sites. Sorry kids — the fossils stay at the museum. No admission fee but a $2 donation is suggested.

Maryland Science Center, Baltimore


Photo: MDSCI

Head to the Dinosaur Mysteries exhibit at the Maryland Science Center to literally walk in the footsteps of a paleontologist. The exhibit hall showcases over a dozen full-size dinosaurs replicas (like T. Rex), and visitors can walk through a landscape that features dig pits, a field lab, and excavation sites. Kids can also touch a Triceratops skull or grab a brush to help search for fossil replicas. Look out for live lizards and toads, too. Admission is $20.95 for adults and $16.95 for children ages 3-12.

Museum of Western Colorado, Grand Junction, Colo.


Photo: Museum of Western Colorado/Facebook

If you want to live out your dinosaur hunter fantasies, head to Colorado-Utah Dinosaur Diamond to join paleontologists from the Museum of Western Colorado on a fossil via the Dinosaur Journey Dino Digs. Sign up for the Jurassic Gladiator Pit: The Mygatt-Moore Quarry One Day Dig and help search for dinosaur bones. Fossil from the giant Apatosaurus and the flesh eating Allosaurus, are common in the quarry, and any discoveries are sent to the museum. (Minimum age is five, $140 per participant). Or try a three-day adventure along the Colorado River where the group will discover canyons, tracks, and the geologic history of Western Colorado in addition to digging. Minimum age is eight, $375 per participant.

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The Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, Woodlawn Park, Colo.


Photo: VisitCOS.com

This kid-friendly museum displays dinosaur skeletons (T. Rex, Triceratops, and others) fossils, and prehistoric marine reptiles. Visitors can also take a peek at a working paleontology lab where specimens are being freed from rocks and restored. In the children’s area, pint-sized visitors can brush off fossils in their dig box. Parents be warned — the museum is also home to Colorado’s largest dinosaur store. Adults, $11.50, children five-12, $7.50.

American Museum of Natural History, New York


Photo: Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis

This legendary museum is home to the world’s largest dinosaur fossil collection with over 100 specimens- 85 percent of them are fossils rather than casts and what’s on display represents only a fraction of the museum’s inventory. Expect to spend all day in the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing. Highlights include everyone’s favorite dinosaur, the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex, as well as an Apatosaurus. Don’t miss the Discovery Room, where visitors can assemble a life-sized cast skeleton of Prestosuchus, a 14-foot long reptile from the late Triassic Period, and handle real fossils. Suggested admission prices are $22 (adults) $17 (students/seniors), $12.50 (children).

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