Among the many reasons to visit Grand Junction, Colorado is the Dinosaur Journey Museum in nearby Fruita. North America’s largest dinosaurs once roamed the land here some 150 million years ago, leaving behind great paleontological treasures that are still being dug up today.
The museum is located near the west entrance of Colorado National Monument, which makes it the perfect day trip for visiting both. The two go hand-in-hand for a rich educational experience as well. The geological formations in the region have made it one of the best places in the United States to find dinosaurs. Dinosaur fossils from this area can be found in museums all over the country. Known as the Stegosaurus state, many of the first dinosaur fossils were actually found here in western Colorado.
In this hands-on, interactive museum, kids will see real dinosaur bones as well as full-size cast skeletal mounts of Velociraptor, Stegosaurus and others. My six-year-old, Reagan, especially loved the robotic reconstruction of Triceratops and others. One even spits at passers-by, which made for some people watching.
The simulated earthquake ride was fun for Reagan, who has never experienced a real earthquake. There is also a sandbox where you can make your own dinosaur tracks and a “quarry site” where kids can dig up actual Jurassic dinosaur bones. A working laboratory where bones are being prepared for display can be viewed from the glass windows on the second floor.
For budding paleontologists, Dinosaur Expeditions can be arranged at actual dig sites in the 150-million-year-old badlands of the Morrison Formation there in Fruita. For Western Colorado, choose either a one-day dig or a three-day expedition with raft trip. Both tours include transportation, meals, field instruction and a tour of the Journey Paleo lab by a professional paleontologist. A five-day expedition into eastern Utah is also available and includes all the same as the one and three days, as well as lodging. Two and four-day digs are sometimes available as well. Check the website for details.
I think Reagan’s favorite area of the museum was the gift shop. We picked out a special souvenir and for a quarter she rode the mechanical dinosaur, which is exactly like the mechanical pony at the grocery store, only green.
Definitely don’t leave Grand Junction without doing three things: driving Rim Rock Road at Colorado National Monument, visiting Dinosaur Journey Museum, and sampling chocolate almond toffee at Enstroms.