At the Houston Museum of Natural Science, you can meet “Lane,” a mummified Triceratops skeleton. Photo courtesy of Houston Museum of Natural Science.
The first dinosaurs roamed the Earth hundreds of millions of years ago, and so far approximately 700 species of dinosaurs have been named; new ones are still being discovered. With so many fossil sites for dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures located around the globe, it can be hard to narrow down which ones to visit.
One way to design a fossils-focused trip is to seek out specific prehistoric beasts. Whether you have a dinosaur-obsessed kiddo who wants to see a feathered, armored, or horned species, or you are inspired to visit some of the creatures featured in the Jurassic World movies, these 11 dinosaur-devoted sites are well worth a stop.
Heaviest Dinosaur: Argentinosaurus in Patagonia, Argentina
Although no complete skeleton has been found, scientists estimate that Argentinosaurus is likely the heaviest dinosaur discovered to date, putting weight approximations between 77 and 110 tons. At the Carmen Funes Municipal Museum in Patagonia, Argentina (the region where the find was made), visitors can see some of the fossils and a skeletal reconstruction of this sauropod—a type of large herbivorous dinosaur with a long neck and tail. The museum also has Giganotosaurus fossils—a fierce theropod dinosaur that was discovered in Argentina in 1993.
Feathered Dinosaur: Archaeopteryx in Berlin
When the first Archaeopteryx fossils were found in Bavaria, Germany, in 1861, they were thought to belong to a bird, but the creature was eventually reclassified as a dinosaur, indicating the link between modern birds and ancient dinosaurs. Well-preserved limestone impressions of Archaeopteryx show feather and bone details, and you can view one of the specimens at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin. The museum also holds flying pterosaur fossils and a Brachiosaurus that is the tallest mounted dinosaur skeleton in the world.
Debated Dinosaur: Apatosaurus in New York City
The first reported fossil find for the Brontosaurus, known for its long neck, led to its naming in 1879, although it was later determined that the discovery was not of a new species; instead, those fossils matched up with an already discovered dinosaur—the Apatosaurus. However, a 2015 study argued that the Brontosaurus may indeed be different enough to have its own name after all. You can debate the differences while viewing an Apatosaurus—the first sauropod ever mounted—at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Prehistoric Marine Reptile: Tylosaurus in Manitoba, Canada
Most budding paleontologists can tell you that a mosasaur is technically a prehistoric marine reptile rather than a dinosaur. But that doesn’t mean dinosaur enthusiasts won’t get excited to visit one. There are different types of mosasaurs, including the large, sharp-toothed Mosasaurus that appeared in the waters of the Jurassic World movie. You can visit the largest publicly displayed mosasaur—an almost 43-foot-long Tylosaurus that was unearthed in Ontario—at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Manitoba, Canada.
Famous Theropod: Tyrannosaurus rex in Chicago
The Tyrannosaurus rex is perhaps the most famous of all dinosaurs, and the Field Museum in Chicago houses the biggest and most complete T. rex skeleton in the world. Dubbed “Sue,” the skeleton stretches 40 feet long and is 90 percent complete. Because it can be tricky to display actual fossils rather than replicas, seeing Sue is a unique viewing opportunity indeed. Visitors to the museum can also check out a giant ground sloth and a towering 122-foot-long Patagotitan, a type of titanosaur.
Horned Dinosaur: Triceratops in Houston, Texas
In 2012, the Houston Museum of Natural Science opened a paleontology exhibit that includes a rare mummified Triceratops skeleton named “Lane.” Visitors can view an almost complete skeleton of the well-known, three-horned dinosaur and even touch a piece of its petrified skin. Notably, the skin specimen indicates that the Triceratops had quills sticking out of its back rather than smooth skin.
Ice Age Mammal: Mastodon in Snowmass Village, Colorado
In 2010, a bulldozer operator digging in Snowmass Village, Colorado, discovered prehistoric bones,
which turned out to be from a Columbian Mammoth. An excavation of the
rare high-elevation site yielded thousands of bones from prehistoric
species, including the biggest group of American mastodons ever found. Ice Age enthusiasts can visit the Ziegler Reservoir, where the fossils were unearthed, and the Snowmass Discovery Center to see bones and learn about the “Snowmastodon.” While in Colorado, add a prehistoric bonus stop at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, which displays a Stegosaurus, Diplodocus, and a bronze Snowmastodon statue, too.
Armored Dinosaur: Borealopelta markmitchelli in Alberta, Canada
In 2011, an impressively preserved armored dinosaur was discovered by miners in Canada. The skin and spiked back plates were intact, giving a good picture of what the creature actually looked like. The find turned out to be a new species named Borealopelta markmitchelli, a type of nodosaur similar to an Ankylosaurus. See the dinosaur on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada.
First Discovered Dinosaur: Megalosaurus in Oxford, England
To see the first dinosaur fossil ever scientifically described, you need to travel to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in England. The historic fossil is a jawbone of a Megalosaurus—a large meat-eating theropod, similar to the Tyrannosaurus rex—which was found in the early 1800s. You can see the footprints of the prehistoric beast on the lawn outside the museum. Bonus: The museum also displays two plesiosaur skeletons.
Antarctic Dinosaur: Glacialisaurus in Los Angeles
The first Antarctic dinosaur was unearthed in 1986, and additional fossils have been uncovered since then, despite the icy climate that makes excavation difficult. Although it may not be a household name, the novelty of seeing fossils from the elephant-sized Glacialisaurus and other Antarctic dinosaurs (two of which have not been named yet) may make a visit to the Chicago-based Field Museum’s “Antarctic Dinosaurs” traveling exhibit worth it. Visitors can view fossils and models and learn about the difficulties of dinosaur digs in Antarctica. The exhibit is on at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles Countyplanned for Charlotte, North Carolina, and Salt Lake City, Utah.
Early Find: Iguanodon in Brussels
Named for its teeth, which looked similar to an iguana’s, Iguanodon was a large plant-eating dinosaur that was the second species to be scientifically identified. Notably, the dinosaur had thumb spikes (which were originally thought to be a nose spike). During the 1880s, several well-preserved Iguanodon skeletons were found in a coal mine in Belgium; they are now displayed in lifelike poses behind glass cases at Brussels’s Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.