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Mid Atlantic US Best Places for a Family Vacation with Dinosaurs. Dinosaur Encounter at Academy of Natural Science  in Philadelphia by Wil KleinTo add extra value to any family vacation with young children one of the easiest things to do is find a dinosaur or maybe two. Maybe you cannot recreate Dinotopia but you can share in learning and fun.
 
Here’s the scoop. Luckily nearly everyone in North America is within a short drive of a dinosaur encounter. From dinosaur footprints in Philadelphia to fossil digs in Pittsburgh and interactive an interactive walk-through maze in Virginia, dinosaurs remain popular with everyone. Gargantuan skeletons evoke WOW! s while animatronic encounters can be fun but eerie. Add a few petrified rocks, interesting fossils; maybe a woolly mammoth, and mini family adventure will be complete. I have assembled a short list of the best places in the Mid Atlantic states to create and share your own dinosaur adventure.
    
Delaware: Wilmington - See dinosaurs from China. The Delaware Museum of Natural History showcases two huge castings of dinosaur skeletons a Tuojiangosaurus and Yangchuanosaurus; both are Asian relatives of the more familiar Stegosaurus and Allosaurus dinosaurs. The Science Action Lab within the Dinosaur Gallery provides visitors with a practical connection to paleontology and offers the chance to ask questions of staff. Bonus Points: The Nature Nook for young children provides the chance to explore and imagine. Tykes can crawl inside a cave; tiptoe through a forest; sit in an eagle's nest. Wait for it! Each year at the end of December the museum celebrates Dino Days with scavenger hunt, storytelling, fossil digs, and crafts. (4840 Kennett Pike, P.O. Box 3937, Wilmington, DE 19807. (302) 658 – 9111 or www.delmnh.org)

New Jersey: Trenton - Look for dinosaurs & mammoths. The New Jersey State Museum covers archaeology/ethnology, cultural history, fine art, and natural history. Perhaps the coolest specimens at the facility are those of the Hadrodaur or duckbill dinosaur. The natural history area has been expanded to include additional Ice Age mammal fossils. (205 W. State Street Trenton, NJ 08625. Recorded Information (609) 292-6464, 292-6330 or www.state.nj.us/state/museum

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia - Home of Paleopalooza, the Festival of Fossils. The Academy of Natural Sciences is one of my favorite spots for a dino fix. It is a place where dinosaurs take priority. They have more than 30 species on display including 14 complete life-size dinosaurs, dinosaur eggs, nests, hatchlings, and footprints plus an animated Apatosaurus. View footprints, sculptures, murals, paleontologist tool s, a life-size model showing the internal anatomy of a Stegosaurus.Academy of Natural Sciences Dinosaur Hall in Philadelphia Bonus Points: The Academy offers weekly activities for young  children and their favorite adults. Join in exploring nature through games, crafts, songs, and museum adventures. Dinosaurs may be involved. Wait for it! Each February, the Academy celebrates all things prehistoric during Paleopalooza, a two-day festival of fossils. (1900 Ben Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19103. (215) 299-1000 or www.acnatsci.org)

Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh - 
Make time for dinosaurs. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History offers oodles of interactive spots ideal for families with children plus great activities. Kids are invited to dig for fossils like real paleontologists or travel back to the Mesozoic with museum staff to see two colossal Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons, a mother and juvenile Apatosaurus, and world-famous Diplodocus carnegii. Bonus Points: Throughout the year the Museum offers unique after hours adventures and pajama nights. (4400 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. (412) 622-3131 or www.carnegiemnh.org)

Virginia: Martinsville - Visit Cera’s home.
The Virginia Museum of Natural History is the home of Cera, an animatronic Triceratops.  She is part of a temporary exhibit “Dinosaur Discovery” at the museum until early 2014. Life-size casts of dinosaurs dominate the exhibit, which includes a 40-foot long skeleton cast of an Acrocanthosaurus, 12-foot long skeleton cast of a Deinonychus, a carnivorous dromaeosaurid dinosaur. Also at the museum smaller dinosaur models and a wealth of dinosaur track-castings may be seen. Visitors are encouraged to learn more about the "missing" Virginia dinosaurs and how fossils are formed. Bonus Points: Dinosaur Discovery features a walk-through maze, consisting of a series of dinosaur murals on the inner-walls of the maze, as well as dinosaur specimens and interactive elements awaiting participants at nearly every “wrong” turn. (1001 Douglas Avenue, Martinsville, VA 24112. (703) 666-8600 or www.vmnh.net


Content research and written by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Editor FTF. Images courtesy Academy of Natural Sciences with photo credit to W. Keiln. Updated copyright 2014.


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