Can’t get enough of all things Jurassic and Cretaceous? Or perhaps you have a little one who is dinosaur-obsessed? If so, check out the following recommendations to learn about some of the best places to see dinosaur fossils, models and murals.
Best Western Denver Southwest
A statue of a Stegosaurus and a Pteranodon sternbergi weather vane greet guests at the entry of this AAA Three Diamond® hotel, and the dinosaur theme carries throughout. The sitting area has a museum feel with dark wood and dinosaur skulls on display, while the breakfast area has replica fossils overhead. Murals of various dinosaurs and mammoths are painted in interior stairwells and on exterior walls. Your budding paleontologist will love the Jurassic dig pit where kids can identify fossils.
Dinosaur State Park
Rock Hill, Conn.
Under the geodesic dome at Dinosaur State Park are preserved dinosaur tracks believed to have been made by the Dilophosaurus, which measured about 20-feet long and resembled a Velociraptor. In the dome are also models and murals of dinosaurs from the Triassic and Jurassic periods, and in the Discovery Room little dinosaur enthusiasts can view several specimens. If you love unique souvenirs, bring supplies to make a cast of a footprint. When done at the dome, explore the more than two miles of trails in the arboretum.
Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
If you are hanging out at Disney World and find that there simply are not enough dinosaurs in your life, head over to Disney Springs and have a meal at T-Rex Cafe, a AAA Two Diamond restaurant that will satiate your Jurassic cravings with options like “mastodon stuffed chicken,” “paleo shrimp” and “chocolate extinction.” Dine with pterodactyls, Triceratops and dinosaur skeletons or with a giant octopus and jellyfish at the under-the-sea bar. The Tyrannosaurus rex and woolly mammoth get lively during the regularly scheduled meteor showers.
Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Travel back in time at the Giants of Mesozoic exhibit, set in Patagonia, Argentina. Skeletal casts of the four-legged, long-necked Argentinosaurus, the largest known dinosaur measuring at 123-feet long, and a Giganotaurus, the largest known meat-eating dinosaur which stood on two feet at a mere 47-feet long, are locked in battle while Pterodaustros and Anhangueras fly overhead. The Dinosaur Gallery has life-sized models and murals of the ancient reptiles that once roamed what is now Georgia, and outside at Dinosaur Plaza are bronze statues depicting a family of Laphorhothon atopus which look similar to Ducky in the Land Before Time cartoons.
The Field Museum
The Field Museum, a AAA GEM, is most notable for SUE, the largest and best-preserved T. rex yet to be discovered. The fossilized skull of this carnivorous creature weighs 600 pounds, so heavy that it is displayed elsewhere in the museum while a replica crowns the skeletal display. Be sure to arrive early enough to catch SUE Talk at noon, a 20-minute docent-led tour. Don’t miss the Evolving Planet exhibit either which has fossils and models of dinosaurs from every major category, including a Triceratops, a giant sloth and a woolly mammoth.
Dinosaur National Monument
Visitors to the monument will enjoy fossil viewing among the stunning arid mountain vistas. Inside Quarry Exhibit Hall, view around 1,500 fossils embedded in the cliff face which the building is set against. There are also models and murals depicting the prehistoric environments in which these animals lived. If you like hiking, pick up a trail guide and venture out on the Fossil Discovery Trail to admire rock layers from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods and spot fossils in the Morrison Formation.
Wyoming Dinosaur Center and Dig Sites
The Wyoming Dinosaur Center’s Dig for a Day program offers a hands-on experience that will be sure to create great vacation memories. After a short orientation, participants are shuttled to a dig site to search for fossils. Any time a bone is discovered, a technician helps to properly excavate and document the find, and while the center keeps all fossils, the finder’s name, the bone and its location are documented in the registry. The day ends with a guided tour of the museum where you will see Stan, a 35-foot T. rex, and Jimbo, a Supersaurus that is one of the largest dinosaurs ever to be mounted.