With Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom out this month, there’s no time like the present to take a prehistoric trip with the kids. Pack the car and hit the road to one (or all) of these amazing destinations that have paleontology written all over them. From dino battles to a kitchy forest, scroll down to see the best places to take kids who love dinosaurs.
Cabazon Dinosaurs - Cabazon, CA
The world famous roadside attraction may not be the most scientific of spots, but it sure is fun! Climb up Dinny the 150-foot replica Apatosaurus, or take a peek out of Mr. Rex’s mouth. Check out the animatronic dinos in the open-air museum, pan for gold or spend time in the totally diggable sand pit. Oh, and snapping that iconic pic of the fam, the mountains and the dinos? A must.
Good to know: Don’t miss the curious bookshop located inside Dinny!
American Museum of Natural History - New York, NY
No doubt about it, AMNH is one of the best places in the world to see dinosaur fossils, and in January of 2016, the museum welcomed the Titanosaur, a 122-foot long giant, to the legendary fourth floor of fossils. Dino fans of all ages will gape over the T-Rex (yup, the one and only “Rexy” from Night at the Museum), the Velociraptor and the Triceratops, among thousands of other super cool specimens. Families with kids ages 5-12 should stop by the Discovery Room, an interactive, behind-the-scenes look at the museum, where visitors can assemble a life-sized cast skeleton of Prestosuchus, handle real fossils, and even unearth an Oviraptor nest in a re-creation of a paleontology field site.
Good to know: In the summer months, it’s easy to let the kids stretch their legs (and their outside voices) at the playground—located only one block away—in Central Park.
Nash Dinosaur Track Site - South Hadley, MA
Billed as the best place in North America to see dino tracks, this Western-Mass wayside attraction was started in 1939 by Carlton S. Nash and is still in the family today. Formerly known as Nash Dino Land, think more of a roadside-stop than a museum. Though it’s not exactly a state-of-the-art facility, the fact that very little has changed in 70+ years is part of its indelible charm. (Snap a photo of your kiddos in the same place as the photo above). Since the 1930s it has produced thousands of dinosaur tracks impressions, many that are now housed in museums. The Nash Dinosaur Track Site and Rock Shop will delight all your rock hounds and pint-sized paleontologist alike. Admission is just $3 adults and $2 a kid.
Good to know: The site is closed in winter.
Dinosaur National Monument - Jensen, UT
Welcome to a dino digger’s dream. Over 1,500 prehistoric bones are still encased in the rock at Dinosaur Quarry exhibit hall on the Utah side of Dinosaur National Monument, and visitors can view reconstructed dinosaur fossils—like Allosaurus and a baby Stegosaurus. The quarry gives kids a view of the fossils in their natural state (instead of removed, cleaned, and reassembled), and when you’ve checked out the dino-box there are plenty of other activities (including hiking and kayaking on the Green River) to explore.
Good to know: The visitor center is where you'll be able to hitch a ride to the quarry, chat up park rangers and bone up on the history of the area.
Wyoming Dinosaur Center - Thermopolis, WY
There are over 30 mounted skeletons and hundreds of displays and dioramas in the museum, all designed to educate and thrill even the tiniest dino fans. It’s hard to say exactly what’s the star attraction, “Jimbo” the Supersaurus or the real-life dig action that happens from late spring into early fall. Families are encouraged to sign up, and if anyone finds a fossil, it’ll be labeled with their name and kept on display at the museum!
Good to know: Don’t think your little people can do the dig under the sun? Opt for the dig site tour, instead.
Dinosaur State Park - Rocky Hill, CT
200-million-year-old Dilophosaurus tracks—2,000 of ‘em. That’s what, in 1968, was discovered in Rocky Hill, Ct. Today, the trackway is a protected National Landmark, and visitors can check out 500 of the tracks in the Exhibit Center's geodesic dome. Little visitors will dig examining fossil boxes, investigating rocks and crystals, working on puzzles, reading books or making a Dinosaur Tracks bookmark in the Discovery Room, while nature nuts will love the flora and fauna-filled (only two miles!) trail around the center.
Good to know: Aug. 19 is Dino State Park Day!
Children's Museum of Indianapolis - Indianapolis, IN
There’s plenty to see and explore here at this 29-acre children’s museum, but your dino lovers will jump for joy when they see the massive replica dinosaurs that look like they are trying to get inside. Kids can spend time in the Dinosphere, a dinosaur-themed play area where they can dig for dinosaur bones, check out full-size dinosaur skeletons, touch a real T. rex bone and see a collection of fossils.
Good to know: When you’ve dino-ed out (is that even possible) there’s plenty more to do here including a pirate’s shipwreck, Egyptian tombs and even an archeology lab.
Museum of Paleontology, UC Berkeley - Berkeley, CA
Located right on the campus of University of California, Berkeley, the museum is primarily a research facility. This means the impressive collections are closed to the general public except on the annual campus-wide open house—Cal Day. If you stop by on a different day you will still be able to see a number of fossils on display on both the first and second floor the Valley Life Sciences building, including a mounted T. rex as well as a T. rex skull. Click here for building open hours.
Good to know: Docent-led tours can be arranged for school groups.
Dinosaur Park - Rapid City, SD
Dinosaur Park in Rapid City has been celebrating the state's paleontological history since its opening in 1936. The public (and free) space boasts life-size concrete dinosaur figures the kids can climb, and the 360-degree view of the Badlands is worth the uphill trek necessary to reach the park. The park is a must-see spot if you are in the area!
Good to know: The popular tourist attraction is a short drive out from the Black Hills and about 30 minutes from Mt. Rushmore.
The Prehistoric Gardens - Port Orford, OR
If you’re up for a road trip to the Oregon Coast and want a fun pit stop that is more Pee Wee’s Big Adventure than Smithsonian museum, this place is for you. It’s a campy, cool dinosaur park with dinosaur sculpture looming amid gorgeous, lush Pacific Northwest forest. In short, it’s awesome. While the dinos aren’t real, the ancient Oregon forest is.
Good to know: The Gardens are open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in spring and fall and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. in the summer. Check website for winter hours.
Plains Dinosaur Museum & Field Station - Malta, MT
The Great Plains Dinosaur Museum may be small, but it’s mighty. Home to Leonardo, the world’s best-preserved dinosaur, it’s also one of the best places for those who really want to get dirty, dino-style. Kids ages 5-11 can sign up for the Junior Paleo Field Experience: three hours at a real dinosaur dig with the pros, then back to the lab to process, analyze and write up their finds. Not to worry— there’s plenty of hands-on stuff for the smaller set, including their very own dig pit outside the museum.
Good to know: The museum is open May-Aug., and the Junior Paleo experiences typically occur from June to mid-Aug.
The Field Museum of Natural History - Chicago, IL
The Field Museum was already a hot-spot for dino fans even before SUE—the most complete T-Rex skeleton ever discovered—arrived in 2000. Evolving Planet takes guests on a journey through four million years on Earth; there are videos, hands-on interactive displays, and an expanded dinosaur hall. SUE, of course, is the highlight and doesn’t disappoint.
Good to know: There are several family programs, including Meet a Scientist, Dozin’ with Dinos and the Discovery Squad.
photo: courtesy The Field Museum
Jurassic Park at the Islands of Adventure - Orlando, FL
Even though the popular Jurassic Park ride will shut down on Sept. 3 for a complete renovation (reopening in 2019!), there's still plenty of dinosaur fun to see and do at the Island of Adventure at Universal Orlando. Stop by the hands-on activity center, where dino fans can marvel at a massive T-rex, test their own DNA to see what kind of dinosaur they would be, answer dino trivia, examine dinosaur eggs and, if they are lucky, watch a baby velociraptor "hatch." There’s also Camp Jurassic, a prehistoric playground perfect for families with kids of all ages. You can also let the kids navigate suspension bridges, slides, Thunder Lizard Trail and even try their hand at the water cannons in the containment paddock.
Dinosaur Valley State Park - Glen Rose, Tx
Follow the path of a dinosaur battle that took place millions of years ago. The Paluxy River is home to over 1,500 dinosaur tracks, the newest one being exposed in 2014. The extremely popular, and fairly easy hike takes dino hunters along the creek bed, in search of the tracks under the water. One of the most famous trackways ever discovered, a section of it can be seen at the American Museum of Natural History.
Good to know: The tracks aren’t visible when the water is high. Check the conditions before driving out of the park.
Which place would you pick to visit with your dino fans? Share with us in a comment below!
—Gabby Cullen & Amber Guetebier