Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? Even if you don’t know your Deinonychus from your Argentinasaurus, most people can’t help but feel the giddiness of a kid on a field trip when they see the fossilized remains of these amazing creatures. America is a fantastic place for dinosaur fans. The country is home to many fascinating paleontological sites where you can see prehistoric animals discovered in the ground beneath your feet. From where to see dinosaur tracks in the USA, to fossil sites and the best museums in America, there are a plethora of dino-themed things to get your teeth into. Take a journey across the country and 65 million years back in time with our guide to the best places to visit for fans of dinosaurs in the USA.
National parks and fossil sites
Budding paleontologists will relish the opportunity to get out into the field and see some of the most important prehistoric time capsules in the world. Greatly revered for dinosaur discoveries, these sites are a must-visit for travelers with a penchant for all things prehistoric.
The Petrified Forest National Park
The Petrified Forest National Park, is a natural wonder on the sun-baked plains of Arizona. This fascinating place may be overshadowed by another of Arizona’s national parks featuring a rather famous canyon, but it is a prehistoric wonderland. Not only can you see the rock-hard. Petrified remains of trees that are millions of years old, but also the fossilized remains of early Triassic-era dinosaurs. In the visitor center, you’ll see the statue of one of the park’s prized fossil inhabitants, a Coelophysis. These carnivores are the oldest species of dinosaurs discovered in America, so they occupy a special place in the hearts of paleontologists. They grew up to 10 feet long, which is pretty sizable for an early dinosaur. Most importantly, they paved the way for the evolution of their much bigger, scarier, and more famous cousins over the next several million years.
You can visit the Petrified Forest National Park from either the east or the west. There is a park entrance on either side. There is no public transport to the park, so your only options are to drive, hike or cycle in. The Petrified Forest opens every day except for Christmas and New Year’s Day, from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. There is a fee to enter, and a ticket is good for 7 days’ entrance to the park. Ticket prices are; $25 per car or $15 per individual. You can find out more about this incredible place at the Petrified Forest National Park page on the NPS website.
Big Bend National Park
Okay, so these next guys aren’t technically dinosaurs, but they are still very exciting for fans of prehistoric creatures. The magnificent Big Bend National Park in Texas is the site of an important discovery in the world of pterosaurs. Pterosaurs were flying reptiles. They lived from the early Triassic period through the reign of the dinosaurs until the extinction-level event at the end of the Cretaceous. They ranged from species the size of pigeons to creatures with a wingspan equivalent to that of a light aircraft. It is these massive examples that were discovered in Big Bend National Park.
Back in 1971, a student from the University of Texas named Douglas A. Lawson discovered an enormous hollow bone jutting out of the shifting Texan sands. It was determined that the bone belonged to the wing of an enormous pterosaur, measuring a staggering 39 feet across. Lawson named the creature ‘Quetzoqoatlus’, after the god Quetzalcoatl, who was once worshipped by the Aztecs. You can see a replica of this incredible creature in the Big Bend Fossil Discovery Exhibit in the park. Alongside the mighty pterosaur, you can see examples of over 1200 species of fossils found in Big Bend. The exhibit is open from dawn until dusk and is fully accessible to wheelchair users. It also has a handy picnic spot nearby.
Dinosaur National Monument – Colorado
It stands to reason that a place named ‘Dinosaur Monument’ is going to be a great place for dino-lovers to visit, and the park certainly does not disappoint. Home to the largest quarry of Jurassic-era bones ever discovered anywhere on Earth, Dinosaur is a paleontological paradise. Species found in the park include Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Ceratosaurus, and Diplodocus. You can see some of these remarkable specimens for yourself in the Quarry Exhibit Hall. Top attractions include an 80-foot long mural depicting the dinosaurs in their Jurassic environment, and a great wall of rock where you can see around 1500 genuine dino bones that have been frozen in time for millions of years. You even have the rare opportunity to get hands-on and touch genuine dinosaur bones in some parts of the exhibit.
The Quarry Exhibit Hall is open all year round, except on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day. Opening hours vary by season, but the standard hours are from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM.
Dinosaur Valley State Park, Texas
At Dinosaur Valley State Park you can walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs. The park boasts several perfectly preserved footprints on the banks of the Paluxy River. There are two distinct types of tracks visible in the hardened mud; three-toed theropod prints belonging to the carnivorous Acrocanthosaurs, and large, round ones from massive, long-necked Sauroposeidon Proteles. The prints belonging to these mighty herbivores are particularly exciting. They were the first sauropod tracks ever discovered when a small boy playing by the river found them in 1908.
Dinosaur Valley State Park is a joy of a place to visit and experience not only the tracks of times gone by, but some of the very best and most beautiful nature that Texas has to offer. The park is located in Glen Rose and is open daily from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. It costs adults $7 to get in, while for kids under 12, it’s free to enter.
Dinosaur Ridge, Colorado
Let’s move on to the third age of the dinosaurs with the awesome Cretaceous-era discoveries at Dinosaur Ridge. It was way back in 1874 that a large tooth was discovered in this part of Colorado. Paleontologists would later learn that it came from a Tyrannosaurus Rex, the king of the dinosaurs. A few years later, the world-famous Morrison Ridge yielded a treasure trove of fossils. Species found included dino fan favorites Stegosaurus, Diplodocus, and Allosaurus. In light of this discovery, 15 quarry sites were opened in the area to expedite the search for dinosaurs. It was in this region that another dinosaur poster-child was first found – the three-horned Triceratops.
Even if your dinosaur knowledge only extends as far as Jurassic Park, Dinosaur Ridge is a fascinating day out and offers the rare chance to see where some of paleontology’s most exciting and iconic discoveries were made. You can join guided tours of the site, either by tour bus ($10 per person) or on a special walk guided by an expert geologist ($15 per person). Both tour styles have limited capacity, so making a reservation online before you visit is a good idea to guarantee a spot on your preferred excursion. Other fantastic attractions at Dinosaur Ridge include an exhibit hall, the Discovery Center, a gift shop, dig sites, and two fossil-themed trails. Dinosaur Ridge is open all year, apart from Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day. Opening hours vary by season. The center opens at 9:00 AM on most days and closes between 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM.
Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, Utah
The Cleveland-Lloyd Quarry will be a familiar name to all those kids out there who once dreamed of being a paleontologist. This remarkable place is home to the Jurassic National Monument, one of the foremost sources of dino bones from this era. Over 12000 bones have been discovered here. Many of them once belonged to the fearsome Allosaurus, the apex predator of the Jurassic period. So rich is the Earth here that the quarry is still an active dig site.
There is a large visitor on-site, where you can see a replica of an Allosaurus skeleton, as well as a wall-mounted Stegosaurus. There are also many fascinating exhibits in the center, so visitors can explore the remarkable prehistoric discoveries made in the area. The center is open from April through October, after which it closes for the winter. Opening days are Thursday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. There is an entrance fee of $5 per adult.
Ladonia Fossil Park, Texas
This one’s a little different from the formal fossil sites on our list – because you can get involved in the digging fun! Ladonia Fossil Park is in North Texas, just over an hour north of Frisco. The fossil park itself is a designated area of the North Sulfur River off of Highway 34. The area is known for its rich collection of Cretaceous and Pleistocene era fossils. Most are from marine lizards such as Mosasaurs and Plesiosaurs (technically these weren’t dinosaurs, but we’ll let them on the list anyway). There’s such a pure adrenaline rush that you get from fossil hunting, and the chances of finding a tooth or other small bone from these ancient creatures are reasonably good at Ladonia. It is a popular place for families with kids who want to get their hands dirty and sift through the sediment in the hopes of finding prehistoric souvenirs.
The Ladonia Fossil park is suitable for families with kids of all ages, so long as care is taken. You are, after all, grubbing around in a free-flowing river. It is free to visit and open 24/7 but has few amenities to speak of, so make sure that you pack drinking water and plenty of snacks for those with a T-Rex-esque appetite. You’ll also want to pack your fossil-hunting gear, including trowels, colanders, sieves, and buckets.
There are steep stairs to get into the river canyon itself, so those with limited mobility may struggle to reach the park. The best time to visit Ladonia Fossil Park is when it has rained recently and the river is at a low level. Recent rain will mean that the river bed is sufficiently churned to move new fossils to the surface, but for safety reasons, you don’t want the water to be too high.
Museums in America with dinosaurs
To see dinosaurs in all their splendor, a museum is the place to go. These scientific palaces have got complete dino skeletons, models, and other awe-inspiring exhibits to get your teeth into. America has got some of the finest natural history museums and dinosaur exhibits anywhere on Earth, where you can go and be awed by these magnificent creatures looming large as they once did.
Wyoming Dinosaur Center
Wyoming Dinosaur Center has more than 58 mounted skeletons, including the only complete Archaeopteryx specimen outside of Europe, and the incredible sight of a 35-foot T-Rex skeleton charging a Triceratops. These awe-inspiring remnants are just a few of the awesome things on display at the museum. The center aims to inspire and teach, so provides opportunities to visit an active dig site and see paleontology in action.
The Wyoming Dinosaur Center is open year-round, with a summer season and winter season dictating opening hours. During the summer season (May through September), the museum is open from 8:00 AM until 6:00 PM. The winter season (from October through April), opens from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The dinosaur center is closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day, and Easter Sunday. Ticket prices are $12 for adult entry, plus $14.50 for the Dino De-Tour to the dig site. You can also get a combo ticket for both entry to the museum and the tour for $20.50, or $16.50 for kids and seniors. Tickets can be purchased in advance on the Wyoming Dinosaur Center website.
American Museum of Natural History, New York
It’s fair to say that this New York institution is iconic in the world of museums. Amongst the world-class natural history exhibits, there are two grand dinosaur halls, the Hall of Ornithischian Dinosaurs and the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs. Both have mounted skeletons from throughout the age of the dinosaurs, including the famous American Museum of Natural History T-Rex, Triceratops, Velociraptor, and even a mummified duck-billed dinosaur.
The American Museum of Natural History is open from Wednesdays through Sundays, from 10 AM until 5:30 PM. Tickets are for timed entry slots and must be reserved online in advance of your visit. Adult tickets cost $23, while for kids the price is $13.
Chicago Field Museum
The Chicago Field Museum is a wonderful place for fans of science, discovery, history, and nature. With countless exciting permanent and temporary exhibitions, it is a great day out in the Windy City. But there is one thing that makes this museum, in particular, a must-visit for dinosaur enthusiasts; the Chicago Field Museum T-Rex. Affectionately nicknamed SUE, this iconic dino skeleton is a jaw-dropping spectacle. At over 40-feet long, she is 90% complete, making her the most comprehensive Tyrannosaurus skeleton ever discovered. As if coming face-to-face with one of history’s most notorious predators wasn’t enough, the exhibit that houses her is incredibly immersive, allowing guests to experience the sights, smells, and sounds of the late Cretaceous period.
SUE is a permanent exhibition at the Chicago Field Museum, alongside Maximo the Titanosaurus and many other beautiful mounted fossils. Basic admission to the museum costs $27 for out-of-state adults. Additional costs apply if you want to see any of the special temporary exhibitions. Tickets for both permanent and temporary exhibits can be booked online in advance. The museum is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with the last admission being at 4:00 PM.
Montana Dinosaur trail
This one’s for the hardcore dinosaur fans out there! The Montana Dinosaur Trail is a state-wide scavenger hunt of dig sites, museums, and places of paleontological significance. Montana is legendary in the history of fossil-hunting, with sites including the famous Hell Creek yielding miraculous finds. The Montana Dinosaur Trail takes in 14 museums, where you can see discoveries from the region including the world’s first baby dinosaur skeleton, a mummified Brachlophosaurus named Leonardo, and the world’s largest collection of Triceratops and T-Rex remains.
Following the Montana Dinosaur Trail does not have to be a one-and-done type deal. You can do part of the trail, visiting only a few select highlights, or embark on the ultimate paleontological adventure and do the whole thing. To help you on your way, purchase a prehistoric passport from the Montana Dinosaur Trail website. Costing $5, it lays out potential routes and gives you valuable scientific insight into what you’re seeing. The dinosaur trail website also includes detailed information on each of the potential stops along the route.
Museum of the Rockies, Montana
The Museum of the Rockies houses one of America’s foremost dinosaur exhibitions. It is a highlight of the Montana Dinosaur Trail. The Seibel Dinosaur Complex contains such specimens as a near-complete T-Rex, bones from the famous Big Al Allosaurus skeleton, several fossilized eggs, and hatchling skeletons. You can also come face-to-face with a bonafide movie star. The museum contains fossils of Deinonychus, the North American cousin of the fearsome Velociraptor. Although the name might not be familiar, film fans will recognize Deinonychusfrom Steven Spielberg’s, Jurassic Park. The “Velociraptors” were based on Deinonychus fossils. In reality, Velociraptors were much smaller and covered in feathers, more akin to a very angry turkey than the sleek lizards that had Tim and Lex cowering in the kitchen.
The Museum of the Rockies is in Bozeman and is open year-round with some expectations for holidays. Opening hours are from 9:00 Am until 5:00 PM. You can make a ticket reservation online, but it is not necessary, as you can buy walk-in tickets.
Utah Museum of Natural History
The Natural History Museum of Utah houses the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Gallery. It is a sequential exhibit that takes visitors on a journey through Utah’s natural history. The gallery is home to the world’s largest collection of horned dinosaur skulls and the fossil of a Gyroposaurus, a type of duck-billed dinosaur. The museum also has an active lab and prep rooms, where you can see scientists hard at work cleaning and studying specimens. The Utah Museum of Natural History also holds an annual Dino-Fest. Featuring a lineup of experts, the festival explores all things prehistoric and the latest discoveries in the world of paleontology. Dino-Fest takes place in April, and tickets can be reserved online.
The Natural History Museum of Utah is located in Salt Lake City, on the University of Utah campus. It is open 7 days a week, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Tickets can be purchased online for $19.95 for adults and $14.95 for kids under 12.
Theme parks and family attractions
If museums and digs aren’t your thing, but you still want to inject a little bit of dino-themed fun into your US vacation, there are plenty of family-friendly theme parks with dinosaur attractions.
Dinosaur at Disney World, Orlando
America’s most famous theme park has got plenty of fun dinosaur rides and attractions to keep the whole family entertained. In Disney’s Animal kingdom, you find the Dinosaur ride. Based on the 2000 movie of the same name, Dinosaur is a dark ride that takes visitors on an immersive trip back in time. Riders come face-to-face with lifelike animatronic dinosaurs including Carnotaurus and Iguanodon. Dinosaur is renowned for being one of the scariest rides at Disney World, so exercise caution if you are traveling with very young children. The loud noises, flashing lights, and intense effects, not to mention the dinos themselves, are very realistic and could easily be overwhelming to sensitive riders. However, if you’re up for a few thrills and spills, Dinosaur is a must-ride attraction.
The Velocicoaster at Universal Studios, Orlando
Although all the escaped dinosaurs and ensuing chaos and destruction should probably put you off, Jurassic Park still looks like a pretty awesome place to visit. If you watched the movies and wanted nothing more than to take a trip there for yourself, then the Jurassic Park zone at Universal Studios should be at the top of your theme park bucket list.
Home to the famous Jurassic World River Adventure, which has recently undergone a high-tech upgrade to bring it in line with the most recent entries into the movie franchise, the zone is a great place to immerse yourself in a prehistoric world. The latest and most exciting addition to Universal’s attraction lineup is the Velocicoaster. This high octane roller coaster features zero-gravity stalls, loops, rolls, and seriously fast accelerations. It is the most intense and white-knuckle ride in the park, but perhaps the coolest feature is the pack of velociraptors that run along with the ride carriages as you soar through their paddock.
Dinosaur World, Plant City
For a less intense, but no less fun dinosaur theme park experience, head to Dinosaur World in Plant City, Florida. Suitable for all ages, including four-legged family members, Dinosaur World has beautiful life-sized dino models and animatronics spread throughout lush gardens and parks. There are also hands-on activities to enjoy, including dino digs where kids can get involved in excavating bones, and exhibits where you can see real and cast fossils.
Cabazon Dinosaurs, California
One of California’s quirkiest attractions, the Cabazon Dinosaurs have been delighting visitors for years. These massive models provide a fantastic opportunity to get some prehistoric selfies. They can be found on the roadside at Seminole Drive in Cazabon. Entrance to the park, with a dino trail and fossil panning activities, costs $13. Tickets are only available at the door. This is a great attraction for families with young children, as the models don’t have any of the scary motion or sound that dinosaur animatronics in other parks do.
Ogden’s George S Eccles Dinosaur Park, Utah
This roar-some attraction is filled with realistic, life-sized dinosaur models and robotics, taking you on a walk on the wild side, 65 million years ago. The models are all based on fossil finds, so they are accurate to our current understanding of what different dinosaur species looked like. You can see replicas of dinosaurs including Triceratops, Spinosaurus, Iguanadon, and several types of Raptors. Ogden’s George S Eccles Dinosaur Park is open year-round, from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM. Tickets can be booked online. For a birthday party to remember, the park also offers party packages for dino-mad kids.
All that dinosaur hunting will work up a ferocious appetite. Luckily, America has got a great choice of quirky and fun dino-themed restaurants to satisfy even the biggest hunger.
T-Rex Cafe, Disney Springs, Florida
One of Disney World’s themed restaurants, the T-Rex Cafe at Disney Springs is somewhere that budding paleontologists can not only dine on some prehistorically tasty classic American dishes but also get involved by digging for buried fossils in the Paleo Zone. The T Rex Cafe also features a gift shop where you can buy Triassic trinkets and Cretaceous clothing.
Jurassic Subs Georgia
Jurassic Subs in Bremen, Georgia is a fun sandwich joint where each of the menu items is named after a different dinosaur. Along with the dino decor, this makes it a fun place to stop off for a quick bite. Choose from a diverse selection of toasted and cold subs, with options for both carnivores and herbivores.
DinoLand Cafe, Myrtle Beach
Fancy feasting alongside life-sized dinosaurs? At DinoLand Cafe in beautiful Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, you can do just that. DinoLand is an immersive fun themed restaurant where your dinner companions include ravenous T-Rexes, sneaky Velociraptors, and enigmatic Triceratops. The dino fun doesn’t end with the decor. DinoLand puts as much effort into its food as it does the prehistoric ambiance. One for the meat-eaters among you, the menu features massive burgers, steaks, and plenty of fish options.
Jurassic Cafe Universal Studios California
Take a bite out of Jurassic Cafe’s delicious menu at Universal Studios in Hollywood. Inspired by Costa Rican cuisine, the food on offer features fabulous dishes such as slow-roasted Mojo pork, roasted mahi-mahi, and tropical fruit salad. This restaurant in the Jurassic World zone also caters to gluten-free, vegetarian, and allergy-specific diets.
Book a dino-mite vacation rental for your trip with Top Villas
From cozy cabins in the mountains to massive mansions with enough room for several Brachiosaurs, here at Top Villas, we offer a stunning selection of fantastic vacation rentals across the USA. Find and book your dream villa on our website.
Villas in Orlando with dinosaur-themed rooms
Some of our awesome Orlando vacation rentals have got dinosaur-themed rooms, perfect for dino-mad kids (and big kids). Here are a couple of our favorites.
This incredible villa is entirely themed around Hollywood movies. For dino fans, there is a fantastic room featuring artwork inspired by the Jurassic World series. It sleeps up to 70 people and is the largest villa on our site.
This villa in Bears Den features what might be a dream bedroom for budding paleontologists. With walls decorated to look like fossil-filled earth, this immersive room is just one part of a beautiful rental home that boasts facilities including a large private pool and access to the plethora of activities, bars, and restaurants of Reunion Resort.