Here in the Austin area, we’re lucky to have some pretty cool places to get an up-close look at fossils in museum settings as well as dig for them in mock sites where our kids can play paleontologists as they uncover fun discoveries. For your junior dino hunters, we’ve rounded up the best spots for you to go explore dinosaurs around Austin.
— The Texas Memorial Museum
When you enter the Hall of Geology and Paleontology, your dinosaur fans will be in awe of the 500+ dinosaur and fossil specimens including the Onion Creek Mosasaur, a 30 foot aquatic reptile that swam in the shallow seas of Texas during the Cretaceous Period. Texas Memorial Museum has a long history of collecting dinosaur fossils in the Big Bend region of Texas. Remains of the sauropod Alamosaurus, ceratopsid Chasmosaurus, hadrosaurid Kritosaurus and theropod Tyrannosaurus are on exhibit alongside several specimens from other parts of North America.
Admission & Hours: Free for children under age 2, $3 for ages 2-12, $4 for ages 13 and up. The museum is open Tuesday – Saturday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
–> National Fossil Day Event: On Wednesday, October 12, the Texas Memorial Museum is hosting exciting activities:
- Fossil Identifications, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
- Fossil Dig Pit, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
- Gallery Talk: Saber-toothed Cats of Texas. 3:30 – 4 p.m.
- Ice Age Arts, 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.
— Austin Nature and Science Center Dino Pit
The Dino Pit is an outdoor paleontology exhibit at the Austin Nature and Science Center (ANSC). Kids can dig for dinosaur bones with shovels and then use brushes to examine their discoveries closely. Click here to read more about taking your kids to the ANSC.
Admission & Hours: Free admission! It is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Saturday and 12-5 p.m. on Sunday.
— Hartman Prehistoric Garden in Zilker Botanical Garden
In 1992, amateur paleontologists discovered dinosaurs once roamed the grounds of Zilker Botanical Garden. More than 100 tracks made by six or seven reptiles along with the bones of an ancient turtle were found. Paleontologists studied the best methods to preserve the tracks because they were deteriorating rapidly. Researchers decided to map and make casts of the tracks, then rebury the tracks to prevent further loss from exposure. This two-acre site has since been developed as a Cretaceous habitat. Plants in the garden represent the types that existed at the time of the dinosaurs. Here you’ll also find a life-sized sculpture of an Ornithomimus.
Admission & Hours: $1 for children (ages 3-12) and seniors (62 and over), $2 for adults, Austin resident (ages 13-61), $3 for adults, non-resident. The park is open daily from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
— The Dinosaur Park
Located in Cedar Creek, TX, 12 miles east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, The Dino Park is a really fun place to take the kids. You can walk along a tree-lined path to discover life-size replicas of dinosaurs. The statues range in size from the 2-foot long Compsognathus to the 85-foot long Brachiosaurus. There is also an interactive scavenger hunt you can try and a really great dino-themed gift shop. Click here to read our review of The Dino Park for more to know before you go.
Admission & Hours: $7 per person. Children under the age of 2 are free. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
— Champion Park
This park in Cedar Park offers a large, shaded sandbox where kids can dig for dinosaur bones. Bring your own buckets and shovels for digging. You’ll also find replicas of dinosaur eggs and bones that children can climb on.
Admission and Hours: The park is free to the public. Park hours are 7:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.