From Dino Trux to Jurassic World kids love dinosaurs, and whether you are seeking an educational science pit stop or a fun-in-the-sun adventure, there are a lot of places around the country to share these wonderful beasts with your crew. We’ve got the scoop on the very best places to check out dino bones, the best virtual reality experiences and even ideas on how to get up close and personal to the creatures of yesteryear. Pack the car and hit the road to one (or all) of these dino-mite destinations.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Orlando, FL
Most people are familiar with Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which is one of four Disney theme parks in Orlando, but not everyone is aware that the park features an entire land dedicated to the Jurassic animals. What Dino Land U.S.A. lacks in science, it makes up in the form of fun. This “land” is home to the thrill ride, “Dinosaur,” where riders will travel back in time, go aboard a Jeep and attempt to rescue a dinosaur before a meteor strikes. What could go wrong? Dino Land U.S.A. also features a replica of the T-Rex “Dino-Sue” which is pretty amazing. However, Mom and dad might be more impressed with the “fossil fun site” known as The Boneyard which is an open-air place space themed around a dinosaur dig giving the little explorers time to burn off some energy.
Burke Museum – Seattle, WA
Located on the campus of the University of Washington, the Burke Museum of Natural History has outgrown its space and is currently building a whole new museum that will be 66% larger and is expected to serve up to 4,000 visitors a day and when you plan to have a bunch of dinosaurs on display, you need your space. Unlike other museums that house their dinosaurs in the basement, the new Burke will feature their dinos on proudly on the top floor. Opening in the fall of 2019, the new exhibit will focus on the fossils from Washington state including giant whales, creatures from the ice age and more. Visitors will now get an up-close look at what the researchers are working on every day with large glass windows looking inside their laboratories.
Museum of Natual History - Los Angeles, CA
Dinosaurs are a big deal at The Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. So much so that they recently expanded their space for them with the new 14,000 square foot Dinosaur Hall. You need that much space to present the world’s only Tyrannosaurus Rex growth series. You’ll also find a Stegosaurus and the 25-foot tall Triceratops making their debut here as well. The museum is also home to a Dino Lab where you can see their staff working on real fossils and get your hands on some other ones that are said to be between 66 and 120 million years old! Of course, what will really thrill your kids is the Dinosaur Encounters where large-scale puppets (think huge) come “alive” to give a better sense what living with guys would be like.
Dinosaur World – Glen Rose, TX; Cave City, KY and Plant City, FL
They say everything is bigger in Texas, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that you can find dinosaurs there too. You can wander around this dog-friendly park and get up close and personal to hundreds of life-sized dinosaurs in a natural setting. You’ll also find interactive exhibits to spark imaginations and a dino-themed playground to burn off excess energy. Of course, no visit is complete without a stop at the gift shop on the way out. Also worth keeping in mind: it’s a great place to hold a one-of-a-kind birthday party making you the best mom and/or dad in the world. You’ll also find Dinosaur World in Cave City, Kentucky and Plant City, Florida too!
National Museum of Natural History - Washington D.C.
This Smithsonian museum will be opening a new dino-sized permanent exhibit on June 8, 2019. The David H. Koch Hall of Fossils–Deep Time will allow guests to travel through ancient ecosystems to witness the evolution of life and see firsthand over 700 fossil specimens including early insects, reptiles, mammals, a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Diplodocus and a woolly mammoth. The exhibit will also share how the choices humans make today will affect our future.
Museum of Science - Boston, MA
The Museum of Science’s first Tyrannosaurus Rex model was first created in 1960 and was based on three incomplete skeletons. Since then, over 30 skeletons have been found and so today’s model of the creature looks a bit different than its brethren. Here, you’ll learn what separates the prehistoric creatures from modern animals, check out “bone dictionaries,” play with scale models of Coelophysis, learn about Mesozoic murals and what future dinosaurs might look like today. You’ll also find tons of models including bones, footprints and even dinosaur dung–which is likely to be your kids' favorite part.
Jurassic World Ride – Universal Studios Hollywood, Studio City, CA
Universal Studios Hollywood is finishing up its final touches for the upgrading of the Jurassic Park ride into something bigger and better and inspired by the new Jurassic World movie franchise. Many of the dinosaurs featured in the original ride will come back with all-new technology. According to Universal Studios, “This next-generation thrill ride will be a fully reimagined iteration of the ground-breaking adventure, elevating every facet of the experience. With the introduction of never-before-seen dinosaurs, enhanced storytelling, lush scenic design, an entirely new color scheme and uncompromised state-of-the-art technology, the ride will capture elements never experienced within a theme park.” To complete your dino experience, stop for lunch at the Jurassic Café serving up huge turkey legs (that Fred Flintstone would approve of), California-style personal pizzas, gourmet burgers, roasted chicken, signature salads and more.
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.
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.
Great 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 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.
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.
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 (which is April 13, 2019). 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 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: The grounds and trails are closed on Mondays.
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 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.
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.
American Museum of Natural History - New York, NY
Who wouldn’t want to meet “Rexy” from the Night at the Museum movies? Not only that, but you’ll also find the 122-foot long Titanosaur, a Velociraptor and the Triceratops, among thousands of other super cool specimens. And a brand new (although temporary) exhibit opens on March 11, 2019. At T. Rex: The Ultimate Predator, you’ll learn how one dinosaur became the most fearsome carnivore of the Mesozoic, meet the entire Tyrannosaur family, engage with amazing interactives and jump into a multiplayer virtual reality game. It will only be around until August 9, 2020. 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.
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!
Jurassic Park at the Islands of Adventure - Orlando, FL
“It's lunchtime and you're on the menu,” teases the Jurassic Park River Adventure ride. Sure, the water cruise starts out innocently enough, but soon, your family will be bumped off course and will float toward the restricted area of Jurassic Park. And while you’re there, be sure to check out the hands-on activity center, where kids can 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.
—Jeff Totey with Gabby Cullen & Amber Guetebier