See some of history’s most impressive creatures as you explore museums—and even an active fossil dig site—at these family-friendly attractions throughout Mississippi River Country.
The Field Museum, Illinois
The Field Museum of Natural History—part of Chicago’s Museum Campus along Lake Michigan—is one of the largest museums of its kind in the world. Take a stroll through the museum’s Evolving Planet and Hall of Dinosaurs exhibits to travel through 4.5 billion years of history and see fossil’s of some of the era’s most impressive animals, including the world-famous Sue, a 40-foot-long (and nearly 90 percent complete) T. rex. The Field Museum is also home to Maximo—a titanosaur, the largest dinosaur that ever lived—who’s nearly 30 feet high and more than 120 feet long.
Sitting high above the Mississippi River in Saint Paul, the Science Museum of Minnesota is a fun, family-friendly museum that features interactive science displays and illuminating exhibits. Kids (and kids of all ages) will marvel at the museum’s dinosaur exhibit, which features one of only four real triceratops on display in the world (and the largest complete specimen on display), an allosaurus, a diplodocus and more.
This noted natural history museum in downtown Milwaukee has more than 150,000 square feet of exhibit space, highlighting everything from Native American history to streetscapes of 19th-century Milwaukee. There are also several exhibits on dinosaurs and prehistoric animals, including a replica of a 14,000-year-old wooly mammoth skeleton that welcomes visitors to the museum’s atrium and “The Third Planet,” which shows the animals and landscapes of what Milwaukee would have looked like tens of millions years ago.
Gray Fossil Site & Museum, Tennessee
Part of East Tennessee State University’s Hands On! Discovery Center, the Gray Fossil Site & Museum in Johnson City gives visitors a chance to visit an active Pliocene-era fossil dig site. Animals uncovered so far at the roughly 5 million-year-old site include a sabretooth cat, mastodon, rhinoceros and more.
Looking for more Tennessee dinos? Head to Discovery Park of America in Union City in the far northwestern part of the state—a short drive from the Mississippi River—to visit their Dinosaur Hall and see fossil reproductions of a triceratops, a T. rex, an apatosaurus and an appalachiosaurus, as well as two real fossils of mosasaurs.