Did you grow up lecturing classmates on the difference between a Brontosaurus and a Brachiosaurus? Did you spend sleepless nights watching Jurassic Park over and over (and over) again? While we can’t hook you up with a time machine, we can point you toward nine dinosaur museums and dinosaur attractions across the US where you can see real dinosaur fossil beds, view life-size dinosaur skeletons, and learn what the world was like millions of years ago. We even found a few just-for-fun stops that will satisfy your desire to eat, sleep, and play while surrounded by your favorite prehistoric pals.
Have you ever wondered what T. rex breath smells like? You can find out in the Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet at Chicago, Illinois’ Field Museum. You can even meet the dinosaur who once exhaled that foul-smelling breath. This 40-foot-long dino’s name is SUE, and it is the largest and most complete T. rex specimen ever discovered. Craft beer lovers can visit the Field Bistro and sip on Pseudo Sue and King Sue, beers brewed by Toppling Goliath and inspired by SUE the T. rex, or the museum’s first signature beer, Tooth & Claw made by Off Color.
Dinosaurs probably didn’t eat meals like Caprese Flatbread or Tuscan Chicken, but the historical accuracy of the menu at T-REX Cafe isn’t as important as the fact that the dining room is packed with life-size animatronic dinosaurs. There’s also a volcano outside and a larger-than-life octopus hovering above the bar. Kids can dig for dinosaurs or pan for precious gems in the interactive Paleo Zone while parents sip on a Caveman Punch or Raptor Rita. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made by phone or online.
The Dinosaur Diamond National Scenic Byway spans 512 miles through Utah and Colorado and, yes, it’s shaped like a giant diamond. You can start at any of the fossil quarries or along the loop; the town of Dinosaur, Colorado may be the most fitting spot to begin your prehistoric adventure. It takes about three or four days to traverse the entire trail and you’ll pass through locations like Dinosaur National Monument in Quarry Jensen, UT, the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail in Moab, UT, and the Dinosaur Garden in Vernal, UT.
There are plenty of spots for fishing, hiking, and white-water rafting at Dinosaur National Monument, but armchair paleontologists should head straight for the Quarry Exhibit Hall. Inside, you’ll find a large, sloping sheet of rock that houses more than 1,500 dinosaur fossils. This particular rock was once a sandbar on the edge of a large river where dinosaur carcasses would wash up and get stuck. Fast forward millions of years and now you can view the fossilized bones of Stegosaurus, Diplodocus, Allosaurus, and many other dinosaur species.
When you see the T. rex peeking out from the side of I-65 in Central Kentucky, you’ll know you’ve found Dinosaur World. This large outdoor attraction has hundreds of life-sized dinosaurs situated along a wooded walking trail, along with interactive exhibits, a dino-themed playground, museum, and gift shop. The colorful dinosaurs offer up lots of fun photo opportunities and it has the exact amount of kitsch that any roadside attraction worth its admission fee should have.
The Montana Dinosaur Trail traverses Eastern and Central Montana with stops at 14 dinosaur museums in 12 different cities across the state. Many dinosaurs called Montana “home” and now you can view the first baby dinosaur bones found in North America at Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, a mounted Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton and nearly complete Allosaurus skeleton at the Museum of the Rockies, and the remains of giant marine animals like the Mosasaur and Plesiosaur.
It’s no surprise that you’ll see dinosaurs when you visit the 31,000-square-foot David H. Koch Hall of Fossils – Deep Time fossil hall at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, but this exhibit has an even more important story to tell. In addition to fossil specimens, you’ll find educational videos and various interactive elements that demonstrate how humans are contributing to Earth’s changing climate and how the choices we make today could impact our planet far into the future.
There may not be any dinosaur fossils at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure, but there is an entire land dedicated to the film that probably got you hooked on dinos in the first place. The Jurassic Park area of the theme park is made to feel like the real thing with rides, food, and the iconic Jurassic Park gates. If you’re more of a Jurassic World person, you can stay in a Jurassic World suite at Loews Royal Pacific Resort and sleep in a replica gyrosphere bed.
As you approach the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and see the three large dinosaurs attempting to break out of the building (and one using his long neck to peek in), you already know you’re in for a dino-mite time. The museum’s interactive Dinosphere exhibit is undergoing an extensive refurbishment and is scheduled to reopen in spring 2022. During the closure, some of the exhibits have been temporarily relocated to other areas of the museum, but once Dinosphere reopens, you’ll be able to walk through realistic recreations of various dinosaur habitats and the creatures who once resided there.