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For many decades, dinosaurs have fascinated both adults and kids across the world. These fierce-looking creatures from a long-ago world may have gone extinct. However, they still captivate the interest of many, and their legacy lives on in the fossils and skeletons buried just beneath our feet.
We know dinosaurs came horned, clawed, winged, crested, fuzzy (yes!), and typically super strong, yet they remain surrounded in mystery. Well, at least, so we heard in folklores.
However, some curious kids want to know where the creatures lived, how they moved, what they ate, and why they disappeared. Tales and movies might not be the answers. But that’s not a problem as you can make a full vacation out of learning all of it.
Below are 12 amazing dinosaur-themed day trips to go for vacations with your little ones. These places are not only sure to wow your kids but also give you an intimate feel of these incredible creatures. So, chin up, and let’s go for a ride.
Day Trips 1: Dinosaur Provincial Park, Brooks, Alberta, Canada
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Some call it the unofficial dinosaur capital of the world. When you consider the prehistoric landscape lush with greenery, the abundant water that supports many creatures, Canada’s province of Alberta might truly be the unofficial dinosaur capital of the world.
This Provincial Park is the UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s richest fossil grounds. And over the years, scientists have discovered 44 species dating back 75 million years. Impressive!!
The provincial dinosaur park has self-guided trails; the broad section opens only to scientists, guides, and guests on interpretive outings. The Natural Preserve provides tourists with a firsthand view of amazing historical artifacts like the Fossil Safari, where you learn how to distinguish a fossil from a rock, tell the difference between tortoise and dinosaur remains, and identify coprolites (a.k.a. dinosaur poop), and also get to see hundreds of in-situ bones on the Centrosaurus Quarry. The dinosaur provincial park in Canada is going to be worth your time.
Day Trips 2: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.
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The fierce Tyrannosaurus rex chomping on a triceratops’ head and a sauropod whose long neck stretches over visitors in the Hall of Fossils—Deep Time, the Smithsonian National Museum will sure captivate you and your kids.
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has about 31,000-square foot dinosaurs and fossil halls opened in June 2019. And unlike the common approaches, the Smithsonian’s new hall connects dinosaurs, fossils, and humans by placing them in the context of “deep time,” the 3.7 billion-year continuum of life on Earth. The Toy-size dioramas at child height help kids envision the long-ago landscapes where dinosaurs prowled, the science of climate change, and how ecosystems, habitat, and creatures evolved make this museum just the perfect place to visit.
Day Trips 3 : Dinosaur National Monument, Jensen, Utah, and Dinosaur, Colorado
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Dinosaur National Monument’s 210,000 acres, sitting on the border between Colorado and Utah, houses rich fossils coupled with pristine desert, beautiful landscapes, and mountains.
It has an indoor wall of 1,500 dinosaur bones of Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, and the other late-Jurassic era beasts fascinate tourists. Quarry Exhibit Hall in Jensen, Utah.
Your little ones can run their fingers along with 150-million-year-old bones. And for relaxation, the monument combines fossil viewing with scenic hikes, drives, river rafting, and lots more.
Day Trips 4: Dinosaur State Park, Rocky Hill, Connecticut
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The Dinosaur State Park is an 80-acre facility that combines an exhibit center and a conservatory. There you will find footprints of creatures that wandered the region some 200 million years ago and tracks discovered in 1966.
The park’s indoor features about 500 three-toed dinosaur prints, which allow kids to imagine the movements of what was likely Dilophosaurus, a two-legged carnivore of the early Jurassic period noted for the double crests on its head.
Add guess what? With the right ingredients, the staff will help you make your cast of a dino footprint to take home. Two miles of nature trails wind through the park, which flourishes with 250 different species of leafage, many of which were around when the dinosaurs were.
Day Trips 5: Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada
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Here is home to the impressive 88.5 feet “Gordo,” one of the three complete Barosaurus skeletons on display globally, which is also Canada’s largest mounted actual dinosaur skeleton.
The helmet-crested Corythosaurus, a duck-billed Hadrosaurus, a giant Tyrannosaurus rex, the heads of Triceratops and a plant-eating ceratopsian, as well as the winged Deinonychus, whose similarities to modern birds inspired the now-accepted theory that they are connected through evolution, all make the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada a must-visit for every dinosaur lover.
The CIBC Discovery Gallery allows kids to dig for replicas of fossils. However, before visiting the ROM, you might have to download the free Gallery Trail: Dinosaur Discoveries activity guide to lead kids through the exhibits.
Day Trips 6: Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose, Texas
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The Dinosaur Valley State Park’s Paluxy River contains miles of 113-million-year-old sauropod and theropod footprints. You may be needing your boots. And in late summer, when the water level runs low, the paths pop into view on the riverbank and shallow water.
Walking in actual dino marks and jumping—or trying to—from one track to another turns a hike in the 1,500-acre park into incredible time travel.
Interestingly, each footprint in the mud tells a myth.
The rounded sauropod prints reveal that the creatures positioned adults on the herd’s flanks and juveniles in the middle; some say it’s for protection.
While you may not see footprints of Apatosaurus and Tyrannosaurus, you’ll find giant fiberglass versions from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair.
Apart from dinosaur hunting, there’s also plenty of fishing, hiking, and picnicking. However, the current can be very dangerous, and you should always ask a ranger if it’s safe before anything.
Day Trips 7: American Museum of Natural History, New York City
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Right from the ticket hall of the Central Park West entrance, you begin to see the freeze-frame skeleton of a Barosaurus protecting its young from an attacking Allosaurus, the world’s tallest, the free-standing mount of any rearing animal. And at the Orientation Center, you find a gigantic Titanosaur, 19 feet high and 122 feet long.
In the dinosaur Wing’s two halls, the dreadful Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus rex, Apatosaurus, and other major reptiles wink at you immediately you step in.
Safe to say that the American Museum of Natural History the world’s largest collector of dinosaur fossils. The mean-looking Apatosaurus and other skeletons will make your vacation worthwhile.
Day Trips 8: Dinosaur Ridge National Natural Landmark, Morrison, Colorado
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The monument is outstanding for its segment of a “Dinosaur Freeway” that runs along an ancient inland sea from Boulder, Colorado, to northern New Mexico.
Here, you get to see more than 300 footprints of Apatosaurus and Allosaurus, as well as fossils of other Jurassic-era creatures ingrained in rocks.
The Natural Landmark has a guided Triceratops Trail where kids can uncover the three-toed footprints of a Tyrannosaurus as well as the four-toed prints of a Triceratops. Kids can go on digging for replica fossils at Backyard Bones and also push the sand around in the Seaway Fossil Box.
Day trips 9: Jurassic Coast, Dorset
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The Jurassic Coast in Dorset is famous for its fossils. In fact, many fossils are still being washed from the cliffs of this World Heritage Site today, and thumb right onto the beaches where just anyone can discover them.
However, winter is often the best time to find fossils. That’s because beaches are quieter and the rough weather tends to reveal more of them during this period.
Extreme caution is key when dealing with cliffs and tide. Hence, be sure not to leave your kids roaming around by themselves.
Day Trips 10: Prehistoric Trackways National Monument, Las Cruces, NM
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The Prehistoric Trackways National Monument is a host to plenty of dinosaur tracks and fossils from the Paleozoic Era that give scientists indications of what life might have been like during this time.
There is enough space for visitors to hike. Who knows, you might discover some fossils of your own.
This government-protected region doesn’t have any specific visitor center; rather, it is open for exploration and discovery. Much of the collection found at this site has since been moved for study and display. Hence, ensure you check out the Jerry MacDonald Paleozoic Trackways Collection New Mexico Museum of Natural History.
Day Trips 11: Museum of Natural History, Berlin, Germany
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Featuring a great exhibition hall, 30 million objects, including dinosaur skeletons, fossils, and the remains of the ancient bird, Berlin’s Museum of Natural History is one of the best and most important research institutions globally.
Much of the items on display were discovered by the museum’s scientists from Tendaguru Hill in Tanzania; an expedition now considered one of the most successful dinosaur digs.
This museum is gradually becoming the center of attraction when it comes to dinosaurs. You and your kids are going to enjoy every minute in the museum.
Day Trips 12: T-Rex Cafe, Lake Buena Vista, Florida
While T. Rex Cafe may not be the best place for an educationally enriching day at the museum, it does afford your kids plenty of fun.
Just like Rainforest Cafe, T. Rex Cafe is entirely occupied by prehistoric creatures. You can order an on-theme Boneyard Buffet with a Chocolate Extinction dessert and enjoy the “meteor shower” every 15 minutes, making the life-sized dinosaurs roar and come to life.
The world is a very big place, and as such, this list is not exhaustive. There are, of course, other dinosaur-themed destinations you could go for a day trip or vacation. But, a trip to any of the locations on our shortlist will leave you with remarkable memories.