One of Texas’s lesser-known boasts is among its oldest—about 225 million years or so. The state was a dinosaur stomping ground throughout the Mesozoic, with 21 dino species from the era discovered here so far. Not surprisingly, the Lone Star State today offers many ways to tap into its paleontological wonders.
High on the list is Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, about an hour southwest of Fort Worth, where visitors can find genuine dinosaur tracks on the banks of the Paluxy River. Located at the edge of an ancient ocean, the area once hosted four-legged herbivores known as sauropods and two-legged carnivores known as theropods. Their footprints—big, bold, and unmistakably dinosaur-like—can be spotted in the riverbed on clear days.
Down the road, Dinosaur World promises a breezy Cretaceous walkabout. The family-friendly park features more than 100 life-size replicas along a winding, mostly shaded walkway. Beasties come in both statue and animatronic varieties, and a faux fossil dig and gem excavation bring hands-on fun for the kids.
Many such dino simulations dot the state. At Austin’s Zilker Park, visitors dig for fossil casts in the Dino Pit at the Austin Nature & Science Center, visually aided by 19 oil paintings of the creatures. Not far southeast, the highlight of Cedar Creek’s family-owned Dinosaur Park is a 125-foot-long diplodocus that dwarfs its 30 reptilian peers amid the cedar. At the Dinosaur Company in Allen, north of Dallas, 300 dinos twitch and roar with lifelike detail and dynamism, among them a 43-foot-long tyrannosaurus rex.
For a heavier dose of learning, Texas’ museums are unmatched. The Morian Hall of Paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science brims with real fossils and skeletons, displayed in ways that evoke how the long-extinct animals moved in life. Catch them swooping, stalking and gnashing their teeth in an immersive 30,000-square-foot permanent exhibit space.
The prehistoric meets the futuristic at DinoGlow, a star attraction of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History’s DinoLabs. With the aid of a touchscreen, the interactive stegosaurus sculpture can be painted with light cast from projectors. Paluxysaurus jonesi, the official state dinosaur of Texas, makes a breathtaking sight near the museum entrance. Moved to its primo spot in 2016, the long-necked sauropod’s massive reconstructed skeleton is made of both foam material and real fossilized bone. The origin of the latter? None other than a ranch in North Central Texas.