Salt Lake City, Utah
Natural History Museum of Utah
Chances are that you might be flying in or out of Salt Lake City on your trip to Utah and if that’s the case, I’d recommend visiting the National History Museum of Utah as one of the best dinosaur attractions in Utah with kids.
The museum is just a short drive (maybe 10-15 minutes) from the center of Salt Lake City and is perfect for dinosaur lovers! With numerous exhibits dedicated to paleontology, we spent a few hours exploring here. With all the exhibits indoors, this would be a great place to visit on a very hot or very cold day, or if it’s particularly rainy.
We spent most of our time in the Past Worlds exhibit, which depicts Utah’s history covering hundreds of millions of years. There were plenty of hands-on exhibits, including a dinosaur dig and a puzzle to recreate a fossilized dinosaur skeleton. You could also cast your vote for what happened in the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry mystery, which is going to be another dinosaur attraction recommended further down in this article!
One of the best things was a paleontology preparation lab where you can watch staff and volunteers conducting research and preparing displays. Having a child who is determined to be a paleontologist one day, and this gave him a glimpse at what a career in the field might look like.
You can find more information about ticket prices and operating hours on the National History Museum of Utah website.
Ogden’s George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park
Around a 40 minute drive from Salt Lake City is the Eccles Dinosaur Park. This park features over 100 dinosaur sculptures of just about every species you could imagine, all brought to life through robotics and sound.
If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to be in the time of the dinosaurs and have them all around you, then this is the place to really see what that might have felt like! The sculptures aren’t just placed around the park; they’re in the habitats they would have been in during prehistoric times, so it really gives you an idea for how it all would have looked.
The park includes an indoor museum with hands on exhibits, but the main features of the park are outdoors so I probably wouldn’t visit in really inclement weather. Advanced ticket purchase isn’t necessary so you can always see how the weather looks on the day; tickets and other information can be found on the Eccles Dinosaur Park website.
Dinosaur National Monument
If you only visit one dinosaur attraction in Utah with kids, then this should be it! It was the highlight of my kids’ trip to Utah, and a must see for any budding paleontologist.
The only downside to visiting Dinosaur National Monument is that it’s quite out of the way compared to all of the other attractions you might be looking at visiting in Utah, especially the other National Parks. Most of the 210,000 acre park is actually in Colorado, and it’s about a 3-hour drive from Salt Lake City.
The park is closest to the small town of Vernal, but the good news is that Vernal is another great place to visit for dinosaur fans with two other dinosaur attractions on this list, so it’s definitely worth the drive.
Dinosaur National Monument is $25 per vehicle to enter, but it does participate in the National Parks Annual Passes so if you have one of those, you’ll be good to go. They have a Visitor Center close to the entrance to the park, and that’s where I’d recommend starting your visit. There are bathrooms and a gift shop as well as a small exhibit about the park, and you can stamp your National Parks passports and pick up your Junior Rangers books here too.
From the Quarry Visitor Center, the next place to visit is Quarry Exhibit Hall, where you can see the dinosaur bones that have been preserved. You could drive your car from the Visitor Center to Quarry Exhibit Hall, but if you’re up to a short hike, follow the Fossil Discovery Trail which leads from the Visitor Center up to Quarry Exhibit Hall.
It’s a moderately easy 1.2 mile hike (2.4 miles round trip) that my kids managed no problem, but very small children might find it challenging in places and it’s definitely not stroller friendly. On the trail you might spy dinosaur fossils and petroglyphs on the rock walls. If you don’t want to follow the trail back to the Visitor Center, you could walk down the paved road instead which is a much better shorter trek.
The Quarry Exhibit Hall is the highlight of the park. There are approximately 1500 dinosaur bones preserved in the rock wall, and there are even places you can touch actual dinosaur bones, which blew my mind – there’s something really incredible about touching a bone that was actually once part of an actual dinosaur!
There are remains of species such as Stegosaurus, Allosaurus, and Diplodocus here, and the Rangers will be happy to tell you more about how they were discovered and why they think so many of their remains were found here. There are exhibits about the dinosaurs themselves, as well as other animals that lived in the late Jurassic period. Kids can turn in their Junior Ranger packets here, or back down in the Visitor Center.
We spent a few hours visiting the Visitor Center, hiking, and exploring the Quarry Exhibit Hall before heading on to our next activity but if you have more time, there are other hikes you can take and some spectacular scenic drives. Visit Dinosaur National Monument for more information on the park.
Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum
It would be hard to miss this museum in the small town of Vernal seeing as there are huge dinosaur sculptures outside! This wasn’t somewhere we even had on our list of dinosaur attractions for kids in Utah, but as we drove past I knew we had to go inside!
The museum covers two floors as well an outdoor dinosaur garden where you can find all of the dinosaur sculptures. Inside, there are exhibits featuring fossils, rocks, and of course, dinosaurs! There is also a free visitor center inside the museum where you can ask questions about your visit to Vernal and the surrounding area.
We purchased the kids activity books to complete in the museum at the desk where we bought our tickets. There are books for younger kids as well as older ones, with activities to complete as they explore the museum. Once they’ve finished, they can turn the books over to be checked (then they’ll get to keep them) and collect their free dinosaur patch.
My kids loved completing the books! Not only did they both really want the dinosaur patches, but the books kept them engaged as they explored. They had to visit different exhibits to answer the various questions which meant they had to explore all the different exhibits, not just the dinosaurs!
This mean that they ended up finding new and different things they were interested in. There is a rock exhibit that shows how rocks can look grey and boring under regular light, but under a UV light they glow different colors! My kids ended up saying this was their favorite part of the museum!
Advanced tickets are not required here, and the museum was very quiet when we were there. Tickets and more information can be found on the Utah Field House website.
Red Fleet State Park
Red Fleet State Park is a 20 minute drive outside of Vernal. It’s a gorgeous state park with some breathtaking scenery, but that’s not why we visited: we were there to see dinosaur tracks!
On the Dinosaur Trackway Trail, you can see actual dinosaur tracks that are 200 million years old! The trail is located on the North side of the park and is about a 1.5 mile round trip. The ground can be uneven in places so its definitely not stroller friendly, but most kids could manage it without too much trouble.
You’ll hike through a forest down towards the water and once you reach the edge, the dinosaur tracks can be found in the slabs of red rock. There are about 40 footprints, some of them up to 17 inches in length. The tracks are best viewed in the early morning or late afternoon, as they can be obscured when the sun is directly overhead.
Not only is this a beautiful, easy hike but getting to see actual dinosaur tracks made by actual dinosaur feet was amazing! It was fun to look at how the tracks were different and talk about which dinosaurs might have walked there. We completed the hike in the late afternoon in the winter, which was perfect for viewing the tracks and seeing the sun set over the sandstone rock. You can find out more on Red Fleet State Park here.
Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry
The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry is one of the great mysteries of the dinosaur age. With over 12,000 bones found at the quarry, this is one of the densest concentrations of dinosaur bones found. Not only that, but over 75% of those bones come from carnivores with the majority coming from one particular dinosaur, the Allosaurus – and paleontologists have no idea why!
Finding so many dinosaur bones in one area means paleontologists have learned a great deal about dinosaurs from this site, but it remains a mystery as to why all these bones were here and why so many of them belonged to the Allosaurus. Paleontologists have their theories, but nothing has ever been proven.
Kids can ponder this mystery, read about their theories, and come to their own conclusions from the evidence presented. It’s a fantastic, hands on experience at a real dinosaur excavation site and a really unique opportunity.
The quarry isn’t in the easiest place to reach, but I think it’s worth the trek to get there. The last 12 miles to the quarry are on an unpaved road, and there is nothing in the way of gas or restaurants nearby so make sure you come prepared, especially in the summer when it can be incredibly hot. There are bathrooms however.
You can find out more about the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry here.
USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum
Not far from the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry if the USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum. This museum covers two floors, with one side dedicated to paleontology and the other archeology. There is also a visiting exhibit in the center section of the museum.
This museum is the perfect dinosaur attraction for kids in Utah. The museum is small enough that it can be explored in an hour or two, and there are dedicated areas just for little ones to explore. There’s also a small gift shop, and admission is very reasonable.
We naturally spend most of our time in the paleontology area. There were plenty of dinosaur fossils to see on display, and there was a lot of information about what paleontologists had discovered about dinosaurs from finding those fossils.
There was also a fantastic kids play area for younger children. It was a small area, but there was a climbing structure, books, coloring sheets, a dinosaur puzzle, and a dinosaur dig. My younger son loved this and it kept him busy while my older son and I looked at the exhibits.
The archeology side of the museum proved to be interesting as well, and we spent some time learning about the people who lived in Utah, including Native American tribes. This was a great history lesson with plenty to see, and we really enjoyed it.
You can learn more about the USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum here.
Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail
The Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail was somewhere we only decided on at the last minute, struggled to actually find, debated just walking away from, and ultimately became the place we saw the most dinosaur fossils of any of the dinosaur attractions for kids in Utah! I cannot stress enough that this place is worth the effort!
Mill Canyon is located just outside Moab, about 15 minutes from Arches National Park. Chances are that you’ll pass the canyon as you enter or leave Moab, but it’s incredibly easy to miss! My advice would be to plug the name into your GPS and follow the route, no matter how much you might feel like you’re going the wrong way!
Most of the road towards the canyon is a dirt road, often with deep sand, and it would definitely be considered off road. At the end of the road however you’ll find a small parking lot with signs explaining the significance of the canyon, and what you’ll find there.
There are two signs that explain what used to be found in Mill Canyon during prehistoric times. The trail is a short 0.2 mile hike but it’s not the easiest trek; there are some steep hills, sharp drop offs, and I would be cautious with very small children.
The trail is a loop so it doesn’t matter which end you choose to begin. We were the only people there at the time, and I was a bit nervous of walking too far away from the car in such a remote area, but actually you can see the parking lot the whole time and it felt perfectly safe.
There are several signs on the trail to point out the dinosaur fossils, and it was these that really helped us find the fossils. The signs were so specific as to where to look, and we were able to really understand what we were looking at. There are so many different fossils from all different kinds of dinosaurs, and my little budding paleontologist was finally happy that he’d been able to find some fossils in the wild!
BYU Museum of Paleontology
The Museum of Paleontology at Brigham Young University is a small museum that is free to enter (although donations are accepted if you would like to leave one). It was built to house the fossils found in Utah and the surrounding states, and is a great place to take kids to learn more about paleontology.
There are several larger exhibits as well as plenty of smaller ones to explore. You can also see paleontologists at work, which is another glimpse into what the career might be like for budding paleontologists like my kids! The museum also houses the world’s only complete skeleton of a Torvosaurus, which is an impressive 30 feet long!
An hour or two is plenty of time to see everything the museum has to offer, so this is a good place for a short stop. You can find out more about visiting hours and admissions at the BYU Paleontology Museum here.
The Mountain Museum of Ancient Life
At Thanksgiving Point just outside of Provo is The Museum of Ancient Life. This museum has the world’s largest display of mounted dinosaurs. There are 60 complete dinosaur skeletons here, including a T-Rex (always a favorite with my kids!) and the most complete Stegosaurus skeleton in the world.
I loved the way this museum was set up, starting with the Big Bang and then moving chronologically through the different prehistoric time periods right up to modern times; this meant that we were able to understand better the different dinosaurs that lived through the various ages.
This is a much more hands on museum than the BYU Museum of Paleontology down the road, which meant it was a bigger it with my kids. There were plenty of exhibits where they could play paleontologist, and experimenting in the Junior Paleo Lab. There were also galleries here to view paleontologists at work.
If you only have time for one museum in the Provo area, I would lean towards this one. My kids seemed much more engaged here because it was so hands on, and seeing so many complete dinosaur skeletons in one place was pretty impressive.
You can find out more about The Mountain Museum of Ancient Life here.