Do you dig dinos? Are you a fossil fanatic? Is your kid a future paleontologist? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you’re in luck! There are plenty of dinosaur attractions in North and South Carolina that will help you get your fossil fix. We’ve rounded up the top dinosaur attractions below.
North Carolina Coastal Region
NC Museum of Natural Science Whiteville
415 S. Madison St., Whiteville, NC 28472
910-788-5100 | Website | Admission: Free
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday (10 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Formerly known as the North Carolina Museum of Forestry, this satellite location of the NC Museum of Natural Science is known for celebrating the history of North Carolina’s forests. The Fossil Pit exhibit allows kids of all ages to dig through the pit to find real fossils of their own. Fossils include marine and terrestrial fossils from the coastal plain of North Carolina. Confirm with the museum directly to determine if the exhibit’s availability during the COVID pandemic.
While you can find joy in the Fossil Pit and Fossil Lab year-round, some of the most exciting dino adventures happen during special events throughout the year. Keep an eye on the museum’s social media accounts for fun adventures like Dino Day Camp and their “Let’s Dig Up Dinosaurs” events on Take a Child Outside Week. These special events allow for more hands-on and unique experiences to learn about fossil excavation.
Aurora Fossil Museum
400 Main St., Aurora, NC 27806
252-322-4238 | Website | Admission: Free
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday (10 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Millions of years ago, Aurora and the area now known as the NC Coastal Plain were covered by ocean. The Aurora Fossil Museum allows you to take a trip back in time. You’ll experience what the land would have been like at the bottom of the Aurora phosphate mine, approximately 160 feet below sea level.
Visitors can dig through the pits in the park to find their own fossils and sometimes even shark teeth. The journey back in geological time will thrill any aspiring paleontologists.
Plus, the shark hall features real remnants of C. megalodon, the “terror of the Miocene-Pliocene seas.” This prehistoric shark was nearly 60 feet long!
North Carolina Piedmont Triad
Greensboro Science Center
4301 Lawndale Dr., Greensboro, NC 27455
336-288-3769 | Website
Admission: $19.50 for adults, $17.50 for children ages 3-13, Free for children 2 & under
Hours: Every day except select dates (9 a.m.-5 p.m.)
With the ‘Prehistoric Passages: Realm of Dragons’ exhibit, young paleontologists can learn about dinosaurs’ relationship with birds and other reptiles. To understand this connection, guests come face to face with the largest, heaviest lizard in the world: a komodo dragon.
Plus, a “prehistoric petting zoo” allows you to feel what it was like in the dinosaur days. You’ll love the chance to stand side by side with Velociraptors, Brachiosauruses, and Diplodocuses at the Greensboro Science Center. Touching one of these creatures is a unique experience children will love.
North Carolina Triangle
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (Raleigh)
11 W. Jones St., Raleigh, NC 27601
919-707-9800 | Website | Admission: Free
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday (10 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Journey through the NC Museum of Natural Sciences Extinct Tour to experience fossil fever. This self-guided tour will allow you to view unusual fossils. In fact, this three-story museum houses the only real Acrocanthosaurus skeleton on display in the world! This species of dinosaur was a carnivore from the Cretaceous period. The specimen on display at the museum was preserved in ancient mud after it attacked a herd of dinosaurs.
Besides seeing this one-of-a-kind skeleton, you’ll also be able to pose for a photo within the jaws of a Carcharodon megalodon. These enormous jaws come from the largest shark to ever threaten the North Carolina shores.
In 2020, the museum announced that the Friends of the NCMNS gifted the main Raleigh location the famous ‘Dueling Dinosaurs’. The new exhibit features the two most popular dinos, T. Rex and Triceratops. The specimen includes the best-preserved skeletons of these two dinosaurs to date! The museum will now have the only 100% complete skeleton of a T. Rex ever found. This exhibit will be available beginning in 2023.
Museum of Life and Science
433 W. Murray Ave., Durham, NC 27704
919-220-5429 | Website
Admission: $23 for adults, $21 for Seniors, $18 for children ages 3-12, free for children 2 & under
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday (10 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Explore the late Cretaceous period by taking a stroll along the ‘Dinosaur Trail’ at the Museum of Life and Science. This outdoor exhibit starts with a fossil dig that houses fossils 5 million to 23 million years old. Lucky visitors may find pieces of ancient sharks, fish, or shells!
The trail is home to more than a dozen life-size dinosaur replicas. Guests are welcome to touch the dinos to get a feel for what their skin may have felt like and even climb aboard some for pictures. You’ll also get a chance to view an early relative of the T. Rex, an Albertosaurus.
North Carolina Mountains
Doc’s Rock Gem Mine & Appalachian Fossil Museum
100 Shoppes on the Parkway Rd., Blowing Rock, NC 28605
828-295-2034 | Website
Admission: $8-$75 for mining; $14.99 for adult museum tickets, $4.99 for children museum tickets Hours: Thursday through Tuesday (9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.)
View North Carolina’s largest private collection of fossils, gemstones, and minerals at the Appalachian Fossil Museum. Fossils in the museum include a Triceratops from Montana and a dino that could take down a T. Rex.
After you tour the museum, Doc’s Rock Gem Mine provides a wonderful experience for all ages! While there are many gem mining locations in the NC mountains, this one is unique in that alongside the gemstones, miners may find fossils. A trained specialist can teach you all about the fossils and stones that you uncover.
Asheville Museum of Science
43 Patton Ave. Asheville, NC 28801
828-254-7162 | Website
Admission: $8 for adults, $7 seniors & children ages 3-18, free for children 2 and under
Hours: Sunday 1-5 p.m., Monday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
The Tyrannosaurus rex might be the most famous dinosaur, but do you know about it’s ancestors? The Asheville Museum of Science (AMOS) houses a Teratophoneus curriei. T. curriei is an early member of the Tyrannosauroidea and lived 10 million years before T. rex. The T. curriei fossils were first found in Utah, and the AMOS T. curriei is a cast of one of these sub-adult fossils.
Western North Carolina does not reveal many fossils due to the limited amount of sedimentary rock. However, there has been evidence that a distant relative of T. curriei roamed NC at one point.
Mineral & Lapidary Museum
400 N. Main St., Hendersonville, NC 28792
828-698-1977 | Website | Admission: Free
Hours: Monday through Friday 1-5 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
At some point, most dinosaur gurus have seen a fossilized dinosaur bone or skeleton, but the Mineral & Lapidary Museum in Hendersonville has something a bit more distinctive in their ‘Fossil Corner’: Guests of this museum can touch and view a real fossilized dinosaur egg nest.
The egg nest was found in Hunan Province, China. It’s believed that the eggs are from the late Cretaceous Period. Alongside the egg nest there are several other fossilized bones and a life-size casting of a T. rex head.
South Carolina State Museum
301 Gervais St., Columbia, SC 29201
803-898-4921 | Website
Admission: $8.95 for adults, $7.95 for seniors, $6.95 for children ages 3-12, free for children 2 and under
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday Noon-5 p.m.
The Museum’s natural history collection includes information about South Carolina’s geology, biology, and paleontology. While exploring the paleontology section, you’ll have a chance to view fossils dating back to 500 million years ago. Alongside dinosaur fossils, the museum showcases prehistoric camels and saber tooth cats that once lived in South Carolina. Meanwhile, a 43-foot long model of a prehistoric megalodon shark “swims” overhead.
Mace Brown Museum
2nd Floor, 202 Calhoun St., Charleston, SC 29401
843-953-3967 | Website | Admission: Free
Hours: Thursday through Tuesday (11 a.m.-4 p.m.)
The Mace Brown Museum houses nearly 1,000 fossils right on the College of Charleston’s campus. One favorite display is the reconstructed megalodon jaw which contains real fossilized teeth.
In 2020, the museum welcomed a few new dino residents. Casts of a T. rex and a Triceratops skull are now on display. The T. rex cast is particularly exciting as it is a replica of the largest T. rex ever discovered, “Scotty”.
Scotty has a unique tie to the College of Charleston. A geology professor and Mace Brown Museum curator, Scott Parsons, was one of the people to discover the ginormous dino in 2011.
1112 Celebrity Circle, Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
843-808-9619 | Website
Admission: $15 for adults, $10 for children
Hours: Sunday through Thursday (10 a.m.-6 p.m.), Friday & Saturday (10 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Unlike many of the other dinosaur attractions, Dino Park does not have real fossils. Instead, the park allows you to walk through a trail of life-sized animatronic dinosaurs. Dino Park houses over 20 dinosaurs in a true-to-life setting. It’s like taking a trip back in time to the Jurassic Period.
Kids can also ride a T. rex, dig through a dino fossil sandbox, and play in a dino ball pit.
Bob Campbell Geology Museum
140 Discovery Lane, Clemson, SC 29634
864-656-4600 | Website | Admission: Free
Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m-5 p.m.
You may have seen a few T. rex casts and fossils by now, but there’s one part of a T. rex that you likely haven’t seen. The Bob Campbell Geology Museum not only displays a full-size, complete T. rex skull, but it also has a cast of the tiny brain next to it.
In addition to the many fossils on display, visitors can watch paleontologists at work in the Fossil Preparation Laboratory. Kids of all ages can watch as fossils arise from the rock in real time. Screens offer close-up views of the paleontologists’ findings while little ones can stand on the platform for a bird’s eye look. Most recently, the Fossil Prep Exhibit has uncovered a 68-million-year-old duck-billed dinosaur.
While the exhibit is open daily, the regular fossil prep is conducted on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.