Drive-O-Saurus Rex

If CGI-enhanced T-rexes gets your family excited, then head into the fossil-dense realm of Wyoming and Montana, where the real dinosaurs once roamed.
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Lay Me Down: A fossilized dinosaur bone  (PhotoDisc)

What was it like on Earth 145 million years ago? Scientists are still learning about the age of dinosaurs—and tourists of all ages are learning with them. Sure, digging for fossils is dirty work, but it's work that teaches, stimulates, and fascinates, and it's a kind of learning that parents and children can tackle together. Besides, what kid doesn't like getting their hands dirty?

This route takes you from the Wyoming Dinosaur Center to some of Montana's most famous dino sites, with opportunities for hands-on experiences all along the way. Keep in mind, however that Wyoming and Montana are big—dinosaur big—so it's often a long drive between stops. But that simply means you'll get to experience the West's wide-open spaces and big sky country along the way, and probably deer and antelope playing, too.

Day 1: Thermopolis and the Wyoming Dinosaur Center
Get down and dirty at this excellent Wyoming Dinosaur Center (307.864.2997; http://server1.wyodino.org/) where kids and adults dig with working researchers, and families can dig together or apart. Kids Digs (ages eight to 12) run several times each summer; sign up in advance. Dig for a Day, offered weekdays from spring to fall, is aimed primarily at adults but children can accompany parents (parents should be certain their kids can act appropriately as this is serious work). The fossil-laden quarry beds, 15 minutes from the Center, are in the Morrison Formation, whose rocks originate from the Jurassic Period, some 208 to 145 million years ago. Sauropods (camarasaurus and diplodocus) are among the dinosaurs found here. The Center's museum has more than 200 displays, including ten full-size dinosaur skeletons. Because this is a research facility, visitors can also view the preparation lab where technicians work on fossils. There are several private campgrounds in the area, including Country Campin' (800.609.2244; www.countrycamp.net), a ranch-like setting along the Big Horn River.

Published: 1 Mar 2006 | Last Updated: 2 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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