Top Attractions: Fossils, tracks and gotta-see-it-to-believe-it dinosaur sites in Texas

WORDS
Julia Bunch
PUBLISHED
March 2016 in
DallasChild, FortWorthChild, NorthTexasChild
UPDATED
March 3, 2016
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If your pint-sized paleontologist loved Jurassic World when it roared into theaters last summer or obsessed over all the dino gear that came with it, it’s time to take those fossil fanatics (including you) to seek out up-close and personal encounters. Find the state dinosaur of Texas in Fort Worth, venture west to track their footprints in Glen Rose or head south to see what beasts roamed our state.
 
Texas Memorial Museum in Austin
Home to thousands of ancient fish, dinosaur, mammal and bird fossils, this museum also boasts the Onion Creek mosasaur, an impressive 30-foot skeleton of an extinct snake relative discovered in — you guessed it — Austin’s Onion Creek in 1935. Marvel other natural wonders at this four-floor museum while you’re there, and download interactive activities for the kids from the website’s curriculum resources before you go.
Price: Adults, $4; kids 2−12, $3; kids younger than 2, free.
Learn more: 512/471-1604; tmm.utexas.edu
 
Dinosaur World in Glen Rose
Roam among more than 150 life-size dinosaurs at this 20-acre theme park. And visit the motion-activated animatronics, including a T-rex, inside the museum before letting kids put their paleontology skills to the test. The Fossil Dig, Dino Gem Excavation and Boneyard activities encourage kids to unearth faux prehistoric creatures, fossils and bones — then take them home as souvenirs.
Price: Adults, from $12.48; kids, $9.30; activities cost extra
Learn more: 254/898-1526; dinosaurworld.com/texas
 
Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose
Kids — and parents — can literally walk in the footprints of giants such as T-rexes, velociraptors and sauropods (like the one in Danny and the Dinosaur) along the modern-day Paluxy River, an area with some of the best-preserved tracks in the world. Pro tip: Bring galoshes for the kids because they’ll definitely want to splash around in the riverbeds. Call ahead to check water levels.
Price: Adults, $7; kids younger than 12, free
Learn more: 254/897-4588; tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/dinosaur-valley
 
Mineral Wells Fossil Park in Mineral Wells
This six-acre pit in Mineral Wells is the real paleontological deal. While you don’t necessarily need to bring any supplies with you to unearth marine fossils such as clam and oyster shells from more than 300 million years ago (which you can take home), we think it’s more fun to bring hand shovels, brushes or strainers for exploring. Pack a picnic lunch to eat under a pavilion. Note: Mineral Wells Fossil Park is primitive, so you won’t find running water, indoor restrooms or concessions to buy food or water.
Price: Free
Learn more: 940/328-7803; mineralwellsfossilpark.com
 
Waco Mammoth National Monument in Waco
View a herd of Ice Age-era adult and baby mammoth fossils from suspended walkways at the recently named national monument in Waco. Stop by the Excavation Station where kids dig and brush in a giant clay pit to find replica mammoth bones, with or without and instructor. Admission and excavating are free, but you can also take a guided tour for an additional cost.
Price: Free; tours, $5 for adults, $4 for kids seventh grade and older, $3 for kids sixth grade and younger and free for kids younger than 3
Learn more: 254/750-7946; nps.gov/waco
 
Fort Worth Museum of Science and History in Fort Worth
Did you know Texas has a state dinosaur? The 12-foot high and 60-foot long Paluxysaurus jonesi, named for the town Paluxy near the Jones Ranch, where the bones were discovered, calls the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History home. Check out the permanent DinoLabs and DinoDig exhibits, where kids can build a dinosaur by computer, then head outside to the interactive excavation site. Bonus: If your little digger finds a fossil small enough to fit inside their hand, they can take it home.
Price: Adults, $15; kids 2–12, $11; kids younger than 2, free
Learn more: 817/255-9300; fortworthmuseum.org

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