It’s Allison from Tips for Family Trips with another monthly dose of travel inspiration. Does anyone in your family love dinosaurs? If so, it’s hard to find a better place than Utah for dinosaur destinations.
Paleontologists recently discovered several new dinosaur species in Utah, and you can find out more about them in the May 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine. These new species, along with (really) old favorites, are on display in Utah museums. There are also plenty of places in Utah where you can still see evidence of ancient life in nature.
Here are my favorite Utah dinosaur destinations for families.
Natural History Museum of Utah, Salt Lake City
This beautiful new museum is where you’ll find the latest discoveries from Utah quarries on display. I visited the Natural History Museum of Utah last week with my daughter’s 4th Grade class and spotted several of the new species featured by National Geographic. This museum has a lot more than dinosaurs. Learn about every stage of Utah’s natural history with lots of hands-on activities and play areas that are so fun, your family might forget how educational they are.
Museum of Ancient Life, Lehi
With 60 complete dinosaur skeletons and more than 50 hands-on exhibits, the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point is one of the largest dinosaur museums in the world. The Museum of Ancient Life is a great destination for dinosaur lovers of any age, but it is especially good for families. Children may enjoy gazing into the gigantic jaws of a prehistoric shark, playing in the paleontology lab or learning about erosion at the huge sand and water table.
Eccles Dinosaur Park, Ogden
Part museum, part park, this dinosaur destination is much more than just dinosaur bones. Lifelike scale models of dinosaurs have been placed throughout the park, so visitors can get an idea of what dinosaurs really looked like as they wander the wide, stroller-friendly nature trails. However, the dinosaur-themed playground has always been my kids’ favorite part of the Eccles Dinosaur Park.
Prehistoric Museum, Price
The Preshistoric Museum at USU-Eastern in Price is small, but worthwhile. We recently stopped here for a couple of hours on our way home from a long weekend in Moab. This museum packs a lot of good dinosaurs, including Utahraptor and Stegosaurus, into its small space. It also has a new play area for kids. Most of the bones on display here are real (not casts) and most were found locally.
Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, Price
The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, about 30 miles south of Price, “contains the densest concentration of Jurassic-aged dinosaur bones ever found.” Visitors to the quarry will find a small museum, nature walks and two buildings that have been erected over dig sites to protect the bones. In one building, visitors can watch paleontologists and volunteers working during the field season.
Dinosaur National Monument, Vernal
The wall of bones at the Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall is the most popular attraction at Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal. The exhibit hall has been renovated in recent years, making the experience of seeing more than 1,500 dinosaur bones better than ever. There are several places where visitors can touch the ancient bones. Dinosaur National Monument has a lot more to offer than just dinosaurs. Visitors can also enjoy petroglyphs, scenic drives, whitewater rafting, hiking, camping, stargazing and more.
Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail, Moab
The Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail is an easy, flat loop trail where you can see dinosaur bones up close, still embedded in the rock. This short trail is located about 13 miles outside of Moab, just off of Highway 191. If you’re planning a vacation to Arches or Canyonlands National Parks (and you should), this is an easy side trip. For specific directions, visit www.utah.com/dinosaur.
St. George Dinosaur Track Site, St. George
The St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site is a relative newcomer to the Utah dinosaur scene. In 2000, Dr. Sheldon Johnson found a large rock slab covered with perfectly preserved dinosaur footprints while excavating his land for development. The footprints, tail drags and skin impressions here help researchers understand how dinosaurs moved and behaved and what they looked like. The site was preserved and a small family-friendly museum has been built over it.
Have you visited any of these places? Do you have a favorite dinosaur destination? Please share your experience with us in the comments!