Dinosaurs are fascinating for all ages, but our prehistoric predecessors are particularly awe-inspiring to kids learning about them for the first time.
Dinosaur attractions that stand alone or as part of museums breathe life into what can otherwise only be imagined from books or on screens. Thinking about colossal creatures roaming the Earth with footsteps big enough to shake the ground feels like make-believe but standing next to a life-sized model of a sauropod footprint brings an entirely new perspective.
I remember when my parents would take me to visit the American Museum of Natural History in New York City as a kid. Looking up at the long neck of the rearing Barosaurus skeleton at the grand entrance could stop anyone in their tracks, but it feels even bigger when you’re small.
Our region has played a large role in the unearthing and research of dinosaurs in North America, from discoveries of old dino stomping grounds in Connecticut to paleontology digs and expeditions led by institutions such as the American Museum of Natural History and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pennsylvania.
If you know a kid who can tell his Brachiosaurus from his Stegosaurus or can identify a Triceratops in two seconds flat, you don’t want to miss out on these local dinosaur attractions.
Rockville Centre, N.Y.
Filled with lessons of evolution, extinction and how animals eat, dinosaurs are excellent science teachers. Dinosaurs! is an engaging educational space on the grounds of Long Island’s Tanglewood nature preserve that focuses on adaptations. Towering models of dinosaur skeletons, hand-painted murals and lifelike animatronics (check out the Euoplocephalus above!) serve as the attention-grabbing example of how animals conform to their surroundings, with interactive and hands-on exhibits and real-life birds and reptiles throughout to tie them to today’s world. Outside, even more dinosaurs, animals and a dino dig can be found in the People’s United Bank Animal Adventure.
New York, N.Y.
A premier dinosaur attraction, the American Museum of Natural History is home to the world’s largest collection of dinosaur fossils, the first of which was found in 1897. Pick your favorite from the many scale models of ancient reptiles in the dinosaur halls, where you can see Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, flying Pterodactyls and more. T.rex fan? Now through August 2020, “T.rex: The Ultimate Predator” will get you up close and personal with the notoriously scary, tiny-armed carnivore. The museum is also home to a cast skeleton of one of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered: the Titanosaur. At nearly 19-feet-tall and 112-feet long, it cannot even be contained within its gallery!
Lake George, N.Y.
You are going to see a lot more than squirrels and birds on this nature trail. At Lake George Expedition Park, visitors embark along the 1.5-mile path of Dino Roar Valley, encountering prehistoric sights and sounds and meeting a variety of moving, roaring, dinosaurs along the way. After exploring the trail, little ones and their families can enjoy a dinosaur-themed stage show and hands-on activities and adventures like the opportunity to climb into a dinosaur’s nest and fossil digging. Open seasonally.
Located on the sprawling grounds of Overpeck County Park a short drive from Manhattan, Field Station has attractions starring dinosaurs for kids of all ages. Paleontologists have worked to make the park experience as authentic as possible, with scenic trails featuring over 30 realistic animatronic dinos. Live shows, games and activities like the T.rex “live feeding” make this a memorable and educational day trip for the whole family. Check website for seasonal schedule.
Andrew Carnegie’s interest in dinosaurs and evolution fueled paleontology expeditions in the late 1800s that led to the discovery of many dinosaur types in North America, beginning the fossil collection that can be seen in the “Dinosaurs in their Time” exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Home to dozens of original fossils from the Mesozoic Era, most of the skeletons are real, not replicas. Remarkably, over 75% of the objects on display are “type” specimens – meaning that they are the original specimen on which individual species are based – including the T.rex!
New Haven, Conn.
Outside the museum, the life-sized bronze Torosaurus statue invites visitors to explore the Great Hall of Dinosaurs inside. Its collection includes Stegosaurus and Triceratops fossils and the type specimen of Brontosaurus. You’ll also get to see Rudolf Zallinger’s famous mural “The Age of Reptiles” – the world’s largest dinosaur mural.
Rocky Hill, Conn.
Walk in – or at least next to – the footsteps of dinosaurs. Dinosaur State Park is the site of 2,000 dinosaur tracks –500 of which are on display – believed to be from large carnivorous dinosaurs called Dilophosaurus. The fossils were accidentally discovered when the land was being excavated for a new building in the mid-sixties. The park’s museum, surrounding gardens, picnic area and the opportunity to cast your own dinosaur footprint make it perfect for a family day out.
For a day of fun, Nature’s Art Village has something for everyone, from museums to mini golf to shopping and antiquing. They also have more than 50 life-sized dino models over 1.5 miles of nature trails, complete with hands-on activities and lessons for your journey. Feel the towering presence of a 40-foot Brachiosaurus, meet an animatronic Dilophosaurus, feel the rumble of a volcano near Raptor Bay and finish with a picnic. The kids will love the dino-themed playground and maze, which ends with sliding out of the mouth of a T.rex! Check out their website for more seasonal activities.
Lake Compounce may be the oldest amusement park in North America, but a few of its resident are way older. Prehistoric pathways feature huge animatronic dinosaurs that move and breathe. The popular fossil dig area is always a hit with little ones. Open seasonally. Get $15 off tickets with AAA.
South Carver, Mass.
Geared toward families with young children, Edaville is full of rides and fun activities for kids – plus, it’s the only dinosaur attraction in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Discover 23 lifelike animatronic dinosaurs along the Dino Land seasonal walking trail (open through the end of October 2019). “Paleontologists” are there to guide and teach on your self-guided tour. Included in the admission to Edaville. Save $2 on tickets with your AAA card.
Which of these dinosaur attractions would you like to visit? Tell us in the comments.