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Dinosaur Destinations to Wow Your Grandkids

If they’re excited by ‘Jurassic World: Dominion,’ these 11 museums are worth the trek

New exhibits are displayed during a press preview of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History

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Jurassic World: Dominion promises to be a blockbuster hit this summer — but it’s far from the only place where kids can get their dinosaur fix.

Truth be told, America’s fascination with prehistoric predators dates well before Jurassic Park, directed by Stephen Spielberg, first hit theaters in 1993. In fact, it was more than 150 years ago when the first prehistoric skeleton stood on display in Philadelphia in 1868, tripling attendance at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

We love our fossil friends so much that nearly all 50 states — and the District of Columbia — have recognized an official state fossil.

From Alaska up north to Florida down south, the fossilized remains of prehistoric animals that roamed North America are on display in natural history museums big and small.

There’s likely one close by, making a day trip possible for grandparents to treat their grandkids. Tickets can be purchased online, and discounts are available to children and older adults at most museums. Check ahead for any COVID-19 restrictions or other special requirements. Hours may vary depending on time of year so check before you go.

Here’s a roundup of some of what is available.

1. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

National Mall 10th St. & Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C.

What you’ll see: A new, 31,00-square-foot fossil hall features some 700 fossil specimens, including dramatically posed giants like Tyrannosaurus rex, Diplodocus and the woolly mammoth.

Open: Daily, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Dec. 25​.

Admission: Free

2. American Museum of Natural History

200 Central Park West, New York City

What you’ll see: On display since 2016 is a cast of a 122-foot-long Patagotitan mayorum, a titanosaur discovered in Argentina’s Patagonia region. Its neck and head extend out toward the elevator banks, welcoming visitors to the “Dinosaur” floor. 

Open: Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Admission: $23. Discounts for children and older adults. Pay what you want, for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut residents. Tickets must be reserved online, with timed entry.

Dinosaur at The Field Museum in Chicago

Bruno PEROUSSE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

The Field Museum in Chicago

3. The Field Museum

1400 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

What you’ll see: The museum claims the largest, most complete and best-preserved T-rex fossil in the world, known familiarly as “Sue.”

Open: Daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Admission: $29. Discounts for children, older adults and city and state residents.


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4. Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia

What you’ll see: Home to the world’s first mounted dinosaur skeleton (Hadrosaurus foulkii) has stood on display since 1868. More than 30 species can be seen in Dinosaur Hall, including T-rex, Avaceratops, Chasmosaurus, Corythosaurus, Deinonychus, Pachycephalosaurus, Tenontosaurus and Tylosaurus.

Open: Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission: $22. Discounts for children, older adults, and with online purchase.

5. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles

What you’ll see: Triceratops prorsus locked in mortal combat with a T-rex.

Open: Wednesday to Monday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission: $15. Discounts for children, students and older adults.

Bonus: Nearby at La Brea Tar Pits you’ll find preserved fossils on display included a saber-toothed cat, a mammoth and a ground sloth.

6. Dinosaur Journey

550 Jurassic Court, Fruita, Colorado

What you’ll see: The exhibition hall features fossil bones of dinosaurs such as Apatosaurus and Allosaurus, along with robotic reconstructions of Dilophosaurus, Utahraptor, Triceratops, T-rex and Stegosaurus.

Open: Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission: $9. Discount for children and older adults.

Bonus: The Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park has on display a carnivorous Albertosaurus libratus (a close but older relative of T-rex) and a Bambiraptor.

7. Wyoming Dinosaur Center

110 Carter Ranch Road, Thermopolis, Wyoming

What you’ll see: Among the 30 dinosaur skeletons on display is “Jimbo,” a 106-foot-long sauropod that stretches the length of the museum.

Open: Daily, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., May 15 through Sept. 14 (hours shortened the rest of the year).

Admission: $12. Discounts for children, older adults and veterans.

Bonus: You can join an actual fossil dig (staff and visitors have excavated more than 14,000 bones from nearby sites). Advanced registration is required for the “Dig for a Day” program that’s open to all ages, but being in good physical health is recommended.

8. Houston Museum of Natural Science

5555 Hermann Park Drive, Houston

What you’ll see: The Morian Hall of Paleontology is packed with models of prehistoric predators in action, chasing their prey. There are also skeletons suspended from the ceiling, slabs of petrified wood and other fossils on display.

Open: Daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and until 8 pm on Thursdays.

Admission: $25. Discounts for children and older adults.

9. Badlands Dinosaur Museum

188 Museum Drive East, Dickinson, North Dakota

What you’ll see: A range of dinosaur fossils and casts including a near-complete Triceratops skeleton named “Larry” and two skeletons of the duckbill Edmontosaurus.

Open: Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

Admission: $6. Discounts for children and older adults.

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University entry way to the Dinosaur exhibit

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University entry way to the Dinosaur exhibit

10. Museum of Life+Science

433 W. Murray Ave., Durham, North Carolina

What you’ll see: Along an outdoor trail, you’ll find over a dozen life-size models of dinosaurs. There is also a fossil dig site, where kids can hunt for marine fossils that are prevalent in the dirt and hauled in from a site in the eastern part of the state.

Open: Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission: $23. Discounts for children and older adults.

Bonus: Visit nearby Northgate Park, where you can spy a 77-foot-long Brontosaurus along the trail. It’s a vestige of the museum’s original outdoor dinosaur trail that was replaced after being damaged by Hurricane Fran in 1996.

11. University of Nebraska State Museum (Morrill Hall)

645 North 14th St., Lincoln, Nebraska

What you’ll see: A large display of skeletons and models of elephants of various prehistoric eras, including “Archie,” who at 14 feet tall is the largest Columbian mammoth fossil in the world.

Open: Tuesday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

Admission: $9.50. Discount for children.

Peter Urban is a contributing writer and editor who focuses on health news. Urban spent two decades working as a correspondent in Washington, D.C., for daily newspapers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio, California and Arkansas, including a stint as Washington bureau chief for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His freelance work has appeared in Scientific American, Bloomberg Government and CTNewsJunkie.com.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 9, 2022. It's been updated to reflect new information.

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