Where to visit dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in person and through dinosaur virtual field trips.
By: Mindy Scirri
Dinosaur field trips range from the pretty tame to the very scary. You know your children best. Some enjoy seeing animatronic dinosaurs while others would have nightmares for weeks. For others, the bones are interesting enough. Standing in front of a ginormous dinosaur skeleton is an experience that will never be forgotten, but if you cannot make it to a museum or dig site, there are many ways to discover prehistoric creatures virtually.
Before you embark on a face-to-face visit or a virtual tour of a museum or dig site, prepare your children for what they will see. Make sure your children understand that bones are inside most animals. Learning how a chicken has bones and how those bones join together is an easy lesson to do at home. Energetic and studious older children and teens may enjoy going on a real dig. Here’s a story about some boys who found some Pleistocene era fossils. Kids, trained to identify fossils and using their natural curiosity, can make important discoveries!
Foster your child’s interests and enthusiasm by enjoying these dinosaur field trips as a family online or in-person:
Dinosaur Virtual Field Trips
If you are not lucky enough to live near a dinosaur museum or dig site, and traveling is not an option right now, you can still learn a lot about these prehistoric giants through a dinosaur virtual field trip. Get your kids, your computer, and some popcorn, and enjoy:
“Take a virtual tour of the Canadian Museum of Nature’s public building, the Victoria Memorial Museum Building…. Enjoy a guided, comprehensive tour of the galleries. See dinosaurs, mammals and more as insights and little-known facts are revealed!”
“We provide distance learning experiences for classrooms around the world to learn more about the monument! Programs are free and we connect with schools via Skype or FaceTime. We offer programs from October to March and spaces are limited. Spaces are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Our virtual field trips focus on paleontology and geology and the environment 149 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed here.”
Located in the Hell Creek Formation of North Dakota, the Marmarth Research Foundation has completed field excavations and has shared its photographic collection here. See excavated remains of triceratops, torosaur, mosasaur, and others.
Virtually walk through the dinosaur hall at this natural history museum in Berlin, Germany.
“Missing the Museum? Virtually step inside NHM’s award-winning Dinosaur Hall and discover the Age of Dinosaurs from the comfort of your home. Learn how museum scientists study our ancient past through a variety of fossils and get an up-close look at a one-of-a-kind T. rex growth series.”
Take a virtual tour of the old Fossil Hall at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. See fossils, plants, and dinosaurs, as well as early mammals. Learn about Early Life, the Ice Age, and Ancient Seas.
“From our new and improved Distance Learning studio, we offer programs for schools, homeschool students, and public sites. We also provide free Information Sessions for teachers and educators who want to learn more about what we offer. Initially launched in 2006, we have connected to over 70,000 participants in 2,600 programs to Canada, the United States, and around the world!” Programs are offered by grade level, as well as virtual visits for any grade, but there is a cost. See if your homeschool network will get together for a dinosaur virtual field trip!
Check out the fossil images, arranged by geologic time period, in this digital collection. Choose from vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, fungi, protists, bacteria, and trace fossils from the Precambrian to the Quaternary periods.
Check out these online exhibits about dinosaurs: “Tiny Titans: Dinosaur Eggs and Babies”; “Dinosaurs, Mammoth, & Forests Primeval Celebrating the Great Zallinger Murals at Yale”; and “China’s Feathered Dinosaurs.”
Dinosaur In-Person Field Trips
If you are lucky enough to live near one of these museums or dig sites, or you have the opportunity to travel, a live field trip is a great way to celebrate your child’s love of these prehistoric creatures. Here are some dinosaur field trips to add to your homeschool schedule:
This mural is one of the largest in the world and earned Rudolph F. Zallinger the Pulitzer Award for Painting in 1949. It is at once a motion picture and a time machine, a menagerie and a botanical garden, that portrays an almost unimaginable chapter of earth history spanning more than 300 million years.
“The Bighorn Basin GeoScience Center is dedicated to the study, conservation, and appropriate display of the northern Bighorn Basin’s natural resources, and to the promotion of geoscience and local historical and educational activities. We offer exhibits and educational materials for educators, geoscientists, tourists, and the people of Wyoming.” Visit the museum, touch fossils, take a tour of the Red Gulch dinosaur tracksite, or attend a workshop or seminar.
“Dinosaurs once roamed here. Their fantastic remains are still visible embedded in the rocks. Today, the mountains, desert and untamed rivers flowing in deep canyons, support an array of life. Petroglyphs hint at earlier cultures. Later, homesteaders and outlaws found refuge here. Whether your passion is science, adventure, history or scenery, Dinosaur offers much to explore.”
“The Dinosaur Park features a unique outdoor museum setting. While most museums have dinosaur skeletons, our realistic life-size dinosaur exhibits show skin and color variations to give a better understanding as to how they looked when they were alive. These static statues range in size from the 2-foot long Compsognathus to the 123-foot Diplodocus, the longest dinosaur that ever lived. As you walk through a tree-lined nature trail the dinosaurs sit back from the trail, situated among plants, trees and rocks, making it easy to imagine real dinosaurs in a natural environment. The Dinosaur Park is an educational and fun place, where everyone can learn about the majestic animals that ruled our earth for over 150 million years. Other activities include a fossil-dig, playground, picnic area and a wonderful Dinosaur Store stocked with a variety of gifts sure to please any dinosaur fan!”
“In the late Cretaceous Period (75 million years ago), the landscape was very different. The climate was subtropical, with lush forests covering a coastal plain. Rivers flowed east, across the plain into a warm inland sea…. The conditions were perfect for the preservation of dinosaurs’ bones as fossils. After a century of excavations, over 150 complete dinosaur skeletons have been discovered. Disorganized concentrations of bones, called “bone beds”, have also been discovered. Over 50 dinosaur species have been found here, joining a list of another 450 fossil organisms. These ancient remains give us the world’s most complete record of the late Cretaceous Period.” See the visitor center, go camping, take a tour, walk the trails, and learn about their paleontology and research projects.
“We have a marvelous world class museum here in Woodland Park. We feature an awe-inspiring display of dinosaurs, prehistoric marine reptiles, pterosaurs and fish of North America’s late Cretaceous period. The fossil skeletons on display are supplemented with vibrant graphics and life-restoration sculptures to help you visualize these fascinating animals in life and the environments in which they lived.”
“We are one of the largest dinosaur track sites in North America. Beneath our geodesic dome, you will find an exceptional display of early Jurassic fossil tracks that were made 200 million years ago. Surrounding our Exhibit Center are more than two miles of nature trails and the Dinosaur State Park Arboretum, containing more than 250 species and cultivars of conifers, as well as katsuras, ginkgoes, magnolias and other living representatives of plant families which appeared in the Age of Dinosaurs. Our Museum presents a bird’s-eye view of the preserved Mesozoic floodplain covered with tracks, dioramas of Triassic and Jurassic environments, collections of fossils, and interactive exhibits.”
Visit one of the three outdoor museums and “discover hundreds of life-size dinosaurs” nestled among a lush assortment of native vegetation. “Let your prehistoric imagination run wild” and enjoy “kid-friendly activities like fossil dig and more.”
“A one-of-a-kind, prehistoric experience featuring over 30 life-sized, moving and realistic dinosaurs that’s thrilling, educational and fun!” Enjoy walking trails, live shows, and other games and activities.
“The Fryxell Geology Museum features one of the best collections of minerals and fossils in the Midwest. Admission is free…. Visitors to the Fryxell Geology Museum will see a complete skeleton of a Platecarpus “sea serpent,” skulls of Parasaurolophus, Ankylosaurus, Apatosaurus, Allosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex. Also on exhibit is the complete 22-foot long skeleton of Cryolophosaurus, a large crested carnivorous dinosaur discovered in Antarctica in 1991 by Augustana paleontologist and museum director Dr. William Hammer. He has collected items at digs in the Badlands of Nebraska and during his trips to Antarctica.” You can also access pre- and post-visit activities.
“The ultimate dinosaur dig experience!” Visit where excavation teams have found the bones of Elvis (brachylophosaurus), Leonardo (hadrosaur), and others. If you have the funds, join a six-day dig and get a real hands-on experience. Remember that “some 99% of the greatest dinosaur discoveries made are by amateurs with sharp eyes and a love for the science—not educated noblemen. JRDI continues that tradition….”
“The Tar Pits have fascinated scientists and visitors for over a century, and today, this area is the only actively excavated Ice Age fossil site found in an urban location in the world! Over the last 50,000 years, Ice Age animals, plants, and insects were trapped in sticky asphalt, which preserved them for us to find today. More than 100 excavations have been made at the Tar Pits since the early 1900s, and most of the fossils discovered here are housed in the museum at La Brea Tar Pits, at the center of the Tar Pits! The discoveries range in size from huge, extinct mammoths and sloths to “microfossils,” or tiny remains of plants and animals that give us clues about how ancient ecosystems and climates changed.” Check out the museum, excavations, 3D and live theaters, guided or self-guided tours, and youth and teen programming. Watch for free homeschool days.
“The Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail is a bold experiment; there are no guards or fences here. You, the visitor, are the protector of this valuable resource…. The Morrison Formation contains the fossil remains of plants and numerous kinds of dinosaurs including: Allosaurus, Camptosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Camarasaurus…. There is a self-guided walking tour in the area. Pamphlets which describe the tour sites can be picked up at the Grand Resource Area…. Highlights of Jurassic dinosaurs include fossilized bones of all shapes and sizes, fragments of fossil wood, and tracks.”
“Find out what New Jersey looked like 65 million years ago and learn about the lives of dinosaurs. Here, visitors can touch a real dinosaur egg, follow dinosaur tracks, make a dinosaur track rubbing, and hear the simulated sound of a honking Hadrosaur. Using various clues and fossils, such as footprints, fossilized eggs, and dinosaur teeth, you can become acquainted with the creatures that lived in New Jersey during the Age of the Dinosaurs. Hands-on interactive stations throughout the gallery encourage visitors to learn about the lives of dinosaurs, and characteristics such as their claw movements and crest trumpeting for communication. The exhibition focuses on dinosaur themes: Nesting and Growth, Tracks and Movement, Paleo-environmental Reconstruction (using paleontology to reconstruct the landscape of a specific time and place), Predator and Prey, and What’s for Dinner. In the laboratory area, children and families will have the opportunity to examine fossils and other specimens, using tools such as electric magnifiers and magnifying glasses.”
“The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology is Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the study of ancient life. In addition to featuring one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaurs, we offer a wide variety of creative, fun, and educational programs that bring the prehistoric past to life.” Check out the exhibits, activities, speaker series, special events, and off-site experiences.
“The UCMP collection includes vertebrate fossils from the Devonian to the Recent and from localities around the globe. Unique aspects of the collection are holdings of Triassic vertebrates from western North America, Cretaceous dinosaurs and mammals from Montana and Wyoming, Paleocene through Pleistocene mammals from the western US, the original material from the Rancho La Brea tar pits, Tertiary Australian marsupials, Miocene faunas of Colombia, and Pleistocene cave faunas of South Africa.”
Know of other in-person or virtual dinosaur field trips? Share your experiences in the comment section below….
More Dinosaur Resources