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Best Places to Vacation with Dinosaurs in California. Santa Monica  Dinosaurs ShoppingMaking a dinosaur adventure happen is fairly easy because nearly everyone in North America is within a short drive of dinosaurs, ancient mammals, and fossils. California is no exception. Though the places may not be Dinotopia, there is still the possibility for fun and shared learning.
From dinosaur topiaries in Santa Monica to the active dig at La Brea and crazy dinosaur encounters at LA’s Museum of Natural History there are oodles of possibilities for sharing, learning, and fun.  I am including some of the best spots in California. Each offers a unique way to engage kids without boring them and that makes all of the difference. Los Angeles Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Puppet  

Los Angeles - Meet a dinosaur in person. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles is an awesome place no matter what your age but it is essential for any 10- year-old. They have a world-class collection of reconstructed dinosaur skeletons including a Camptosurus, an Allosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus rex (of course). It is possible to see scientists at work in the lab and engaging activities happen daily. Wait for it! I love puppets so for me this is the best and most entertaining part of the dinosaur experience. The museum has two realistic, large-scale puppets – a T. rex named Hunter and a Triceratops named Dakota.  The two perform throughout each week and their show is informative, engaging, witty and not to be missed. Bonus Points: The NHM Grille operated by Trimana, serves affordable gourmet grilled choices, made-from-scratch soups, and kid-friendly choices. And the gift shop is beyond tempting. It offers an array of exceptional gifts for dinosaur lovers of all ages.  (900 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90007. (213)763-DINO or )
Los Angeles - Checkout the action at Pit 91. La Brea Tar Pit Los Angeles California The Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park is one of my favorite spots to share with kids. The idea that before Hollywood and movies there were dinosaurs in Wilshire really provides a cool time line that is easy to follow. La Brea Tar Pits, one of the world's most famous fossil spots, offers a diverse assemblage of extinct Ice Age plants and animals. Bonus Points: The best part is the “real” science happening at Pit 91 Excavation. Each year during the summer months it is possible to watch scientists at work unearthing fossils. The Pit 91 Visitors Observation Station is open free to the public Wednesday through Sunday. Wait for it! For an entertaining time don’t miss the The Cat Has Left the Building! - an informative and witty performance at the Page. The star of the show is a large saber-toothed tiger puppet with attitude. (5801 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036. (323) 934-PAGE or  

San Diego County Natural History Museum - See what dinosaurs eat for dinner. CampOSaurus in San Diego at the Natural History MuseumDino Jaws features lifelike animatronic dinosaurs explores the often gross but always interesting topic of dinosaurs and their meal choices. The exhibit combines fun hands-on activities with the latest scientific discoveries. Bonus Points: Museum guests are invited to become a dino-detectives by using the special barcoded ticket to gather clues.  Tykes will enjoy Camp-o-Saurus, a special play area with a dinosaur’s nest, robotic butterflies, books, puzzles, and a plush “campfire pit.” Dinosaur Mountain allows kids to use their imagination while playing with plastic dinosaurs to their heart's content. Wait for it! This is the chance to touch real fossilized dinosaur poop. (San Diego Natural History Museum 1788 El Prado, Balboa Park San Diego, CA 92101.  (619) 232 – 3821 or
Cabazon - Look for the I-10 dinosaurs. Just west of Palm Springs look for Mr. Rex – a three-story replica of a Tyrannosaurus rex and Dinny – a 150-foot long Apatosaurus. Both dinosaurs are actually buildings with space inside for exhibits and a gift shop. There are a few animatronic dinos including a room with velociraptors, an alligator, a baby chimp, and a knight in full armor on a white horse. Bonus Points: There’ a fossil dig onsite and visitors that find a special rock get to take home a dinosaur souvenir. Wait for it! You may remember the giant T. rex from Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Climb to the top if you want to enjoy the view of Dinny through his teeth. As a note to parents: This place has a lot of Christian references about God's plan including a plug for creationism and a nix on evolution.   (50770 Seminole Dr., Cabazon, CA 92230-2304. (951) 922-8700 or

Calistoga - See trees turned to stone. Kids who like dinosaurs almost always like rocks so I have included this spot. Rocks turned to stone – how cool is that?  Walk into a petrified forest located in the hills between Napa and Sonoma Valleys. In the early part of the 1900s geological students excavated what is now known to be world's largest petrified trees. Almost all of the felled trees are Redwoods. The trail on site allows visitors to travel back in time more than three million years. Bonus Points: Even without a love of rocks and wonders of geology the hiking is terrific and it is in wine country – a nice benefit. (4100 Petrified Forest Road Calistoga, CA 94515. (707) 942-6667 or

Content researched and written by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files. Images by Nancy Nelson-Duac with additional image courtesy San Diego Natural History Museum. Copyright updated 2018.