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Jun 29, 2012
05:18 PM

Dinosaur Summer Adventure is Larger Than Life

A 5-year-old aspiring paleontologist gets a dream summer vacation visiting bevy of prehistoric themed towns and spots out West

Dinosaur Summer Adventure is Larger Than Life

The ultimate summer vacation for a 5-year-old dinosaur enthusiast – or, as he calls himself, a "paleontologist" – began with an Amtrak train ride on the California Zephyr from Detroit to Denver. We spent some time with family in Colorado Springs and explored the area, even learning of a new dinosaur species: Theiophytalia kerri, discovered in the Garden of the Gods Park.

After our time in the Springs, we headed northwest to drive the Dinosaur Diamond National Scenic Byway. We entered the byway in Fruita, Colorado and visited the Dinosaur Journey Children's Museum, complete with animatronic dinosaurs and hands-on-exhibits – including an earthquake simulator, which the kids liked. The byway took us north through the high plains dessert to the very small town of Dinosaur, Colorado – with road names such as the Stegosaurus Freeway and into Vernal, Utah – otherwise known as "Dinosaurland."

Our hotel in Utah was even dinosaur-themed, with a large light-up Sauropod billboard at the roadside and little plastic dinosaurs in the room for the kids. We visited the local dinosaur museums and gift shops and explored the Dinosaur National Monument. The monument encompasses some 200,000 acres of protected land where dinosaurs once roamed the earth – including the quarry wall where tourists can touch the fossilized remains of the dinosaurs.

One of the highlights for our son was the hour he spent with the park ranger discussing dinosaurs and being sworn in and pinned as a "Junior Paleontologist." We also visited a dinosaur track displaying the footprints of the Iguanodon and Apatosaurus, among other species of dinosaurs.

After days of dinosaurs and associated loot from the gift shops – including several fossil replicas – our son was in dinosaur heaven. Our 3-year-old daughter also very much enjoyed the dinosaur adventure, but was somewhat disappointed when we didn't find any "princess bones," which is what she was hoping to discover. Our next family vacation will be to Disneyland, so she can have her princess experience.

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