Go on Your Own Dino Scavenger Hunt
Dinosaurs stopped being a thing 65 million years ago, but we’re still obsessed with the scaly, feathery galoots. (That explains why we spend so much time looking for dinosaurs on our museum scavenger hunts.) The tri-state area is smack in the middle of a fossil-rich region that stretches from Canada to the Carolinas. And New Jersey became ground zero for our fascination with dinosaurs when the first nearly complete skeleton, a Hadrosaurus, was discovered there in 1858.
So the New York City area offers countless opportunities to see dinosaurs in fossil form and in life-size recreations. Here are just a few of our favorites.
Hail to the King at the Museum of Natural History
Naturally, the world’s foremost fossil museum comes first. The American Museum of Natural History—known to paleontologists as simply “The American Museum”—blazed the trail of dinosaur hunting in the 19th and 20th centuries. It helped that the American West was the home of the greatest, most famous dinosaur that ever lived. And through August 2020, that dinosaur holds court in a special exhibit befitting its majesty: “Tyrannosaurus Rex: The Ultimate Predator.” We’ve already highlighted this incredible close-up look at T. rex, so you have no excuse not to go say hi!
Dinosaurs Invade Long Island
“Dinosaurs!” is the new exhibit opening July 15 at the Center for Science Teaching and Learning in Hempstead, N.Y. Get up close and personal with more than 20 dinosaurs, including big animatronic beasts like Ankylosaurus and Stegosaurus. You can also meet live amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and dinosaurs’ direct descendants: birds, of course! (Image courtesy of the Center for Science Teaching and Learning)
Last Chance at Yale
The Peabody Museum of Natural History, on the campus of Yale University, offers a wonderful collection of dinosaurs—but it closes in January 2020 for years of renovations, so get there while you can. In addition to skeletons of Apatosaurus, Raptors, and more, their fossil-filled Great Hall features The Age of Reptiles, a huge mural imagining what dinosaurs looked like in their natural habitats. Impressively accurate in many of its essentials—especially considering it was painted in 1947—the mural is the most influential depiction of dinos in history. (Fun fact: The muralist also drew The March of Progress, the world’s most famous depiction of human evolution.)
Field Work in New Jersey
For a closer (imaginary) look at dinosaurs in a natural setting, visit Field Station: Dinosaurs in Leonia, N.J. Explore trails winding through the park to find dozens of life-size animatronic dinosaurs, as well as live shows, workshops, and more. New this year? Baby dinosaurs!
Farther out from the city, visit the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton to see fossilized Raptors locked in combat, a flying prehistoric sea monster, and the official state dinosaur of New Jersey: the aforementioned Hadrosaurus.
Welcome…to Jurassic Zoo
You have until November 3 to embark on a Dinosaur Safari at the Bronx Zoo. With dozens of animatronic dinosaurs—and this weirdo bird thing—the guided safari ride takes you back to the Age of the Dinosaurs and teaches you about their connections to the animals of the present. You can also uncover fossils and meet a walking, roaring dino. (Image courtesy of the Bronx Zoo)
Making Tracks in Connecticut
Head under the dome of Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, to witness a sight unlike any other on this list: a field of fossilized dinosaurs tracks. One of the biggest dinosaur track sites in North America, this set was made largely by Dilophosaurs (shown as frilly, spitting dinos in Jurassic Park) that lived in the area during the Jurassic Era, some 200 million years ago.
(Lead Image courtesy of Field Station Dinosaurs)