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Few creatures capture the imagination of children and adults alike quite like dinosaurs do. These reptiles roamed North America millions of years ago, and they left behind evidence of their existence in the form of fossils and tracks. Today, museums and natural areas from coast to coast give visitors the opportunity to get better acquainted with these ancient behemoths. Whether your inclinations lean more towards paleontology or pop culture, this list includes a dinosaur-themed attraction for every taste.
Field Museum: Chicago, IL
Waiting to greet you when you first walk into the Field Museum, Chicago’s museum of natural history, is Sue the imposing tyrannosaurus rex, named after Sue Hendrickson the fossil-hunter who found the skeleton in South Dakota. At 40 feet long and 13 feet tall at the hip, Sue is the largest of the 30 or so tyrannosaurus rex specimens that scientists have found to date. When you’ve taken enough selfies with it, check out Máximo, a cast replica of a titanosaurus discovered in Argentina.
Dinosaur National Monument: Jensen, UT
Dinosaur National Monument straddles the border between Utah and Colorado. The main attraction for dinosaur lovers—Quarry Exhibit Hall—is on the Utah side. Here you can see (and touch!) 149-million-year-old dinosaur bones exposed in a rock wall. From the Quarry Exhibit Hall you can access the Fossil Discovery Trail, where you can see more fossils. Be warned that parts of this trail can be pretty steep and there is nowhere to stop for shade.
La Brea Tar Pits: Los Angeles, CA
An Ice Age excavation site in the middle of a metropolis? That’s exactly what the La Brea Tar Pits are. A wealth of dinosaur bones was discovered here hundreds of years ago and preserved when land owner George Allan Hancock donated 23 acres of his ranch to LA County with the stipulation that the fossils be properly exhibited. More than three million fossils have been discovered at the site since and a selection of those bones are displayed in the on-site museum, including the remains of a Columbian mammoth nicknamed “Zed.” Depending on when you visit, you can see excavators in action. You can also watch as scientists in the Fossil Lab clean dinosaur bones and prepare them to be displayed.
Cabazon Dinosaurs: Cabazon, CA
West of Palm Springs you’ll find California’s most iconic roadside attraction: a pair of steel-and-concrete sculptures known as the Cabazon Dinosaurs that were featured in the 1985 flick Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. “Dinny,” a 150-foot-long apatosaurus and his sidekick, a 65-foot-long tyrannosaurus rex dubbed “Mr. Rex,” were the brainchild of artist Claude Bell, who had the dinosaurs built in the hopes of attracting diners to his since-shuttered roadside restaurant. Inside “Dinny” you’ll find a gift shop. For a fee you can climb up to Mr. Rex’s mouth and get a glimpse of the adjacent freeway through his teeth.
Wyoming Dinosaur Center: Thermopolis, Wyoming
The world’s first true bird is believed to be a creature known as an Archaeopteryx. There is only one Archaeopteryx specimen on display outside of Europe, and you can see it at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in the town of Thermopolis. The star of the show, however, is “Jimbo the Supersaurus”—one of the largest and most complete specimens of this plant-eating sauropod dinosaur (the ones with really long necks) ever found. Jimbo is just one of more than 58 mounted dinosaurs on display at the Wisconsin Dinosaur Center. If you visit during the spring and summer months, you’ll have the option of touring a nearby dig site.
Dinosaur Valley State Park: Glenrose, TX
Southwest of Fort Worth, Texas lies Dinosaur Valley State Park, where you can walk in the footsteps of giants—literally. Two types of dinosaurs, sauropods and theropods, left their footprints here millions of years ago. Choose your footwear for the trip thoughtfully: The fossilized tracks are in a riverbed, which means you’ll have to get your toes wet. Whether the tracks are visible or not depends on several factors, so before heading out, check the park’s social media feeds to make sure conditions are favorable.
Dinosaur State Park: Rocky Hill, CT
More dinosaur tracks await at Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, Connecticut. In fact, this is one of the largest dinosaur track sites anywhere in the country. You can see approximately 500 Jurassic-era tracks in the Exhibit Center’s geodesic dome. From May through October, weather permitting, you can make your own cast of a dinosaur footprint, though you will need to bring your own supplies.
Dinosaur Provincial Park: Alberta, Canada
The bones of approximately 35 species of dinosaurs have been discovered at Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada, making the area so significant to paleontology that it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is a Nature Preserve, so the only way to see fossils in the wild here is on a guided hike. There are several tours to choose from and they sell out quickly, so book your spots ahead of time.
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