Utah is chock-full of dinosaur museums, and that's good news for my five-year-old dinosaur lover. What makes the Eccles Dinosaur Park in Ogden different? First, there is a lot more to it than a museum full of bones. Second, it's the only major dinosaur attraction north of Salt Lake City. Our family enjoys the Ogden Dinosaur Park so much, we bought an annual pass.
The Ogden Dinosaur Park has a good museum, with lots of skeletons and interactive computer touch screens, but in my opinion, it's a preview to the main event. What makes this dinosaur park unique is the realistic dinosaur statues scattered through several acres of scenic outdoor walking paths and playgrounds.
The admissions desk is inside the museum, so it's a good place to start. Find the skeletons and fossil displays on the lower floor. There are several carnivorous therapods, which are my son's favorites, as well as some sauropods, a hadrosaur, an ankylosaur and a winged reptile. Each skeleton has its own computer touch screen where older kids and adults can learn fun facts or take quizzes.
The upper floor is home to a realistic display of a mother Triceratops defending her babies from a young T-Rex. The robotic exhibit moves and makes noise and it's the first thing my children want to see every time we visit. However, that wasn't always the case. Though not graphic, this exhibit can be scary for babies and toddlers.
There is also a collection of rocks and gems on the upper floor. I doubt many visitors spend a lot of time here, but there are a number of beautiful and interesting specimens, and our whole family enjoys passing through every time we visit.
The museum has a working paleontology lab where a real paleontologist is regularly available to answer questions. We stopped by the window one day and my son impressed the scientist so much with his knowledge and interest, we were invited into the lab for a backstage tour. The paleontologist showed us a hadrosaur skull that was found with T-Rex AND crocodilian teeth inside. Now, that's fun science.
You'll hear the sounds of the Mesozoic era as soon as you step outside. Spend some time exploring the wide, paved paths of the park and discover life-sized dinosaurs around every turn. There are over 100 dinosaur statues, including the Triceratops, Utahraptor and Parasaurolophus, whose fossils have all been found in Utah.
The statues are set among the plants and trees of the Ogden River Parkway, which makes the experience more enjoyable for grown-up tastes and makes the dinosaurs more realistic. The park dresses up for Halloween and Christmas, making it fun in the off-season too.
Sometimes it's a challenge to get my children to slow down in the Ogden Dinosaur Park's museum and park because they just want to get to the playground.
My kids never tire of grabbing a brush to uncover fossils in the sand box just outside the museum. Sometimes, we stop there before we wander the rest of the park. As long as there are enough brushes to go around, there is usually plenty of space for everyone to dig. There is also seating nearby where parents can relax and while they supervise their kids. Nobody likes a sand thrower.
The playground is a lot like other playgrounds, with swings and slides and things to climb upon, except this playground is full of dinosaurs. My children always spend time in the petrified tree, where they can climb to the top of the tower and then choose a slide get back to the bottom. Unlike the dinosaurs in the rest of the park, the dinos on the playground are meant to be touched and climbed.
There is also an Education Building near the playground. It's not always open, but when it is, it is full of dinosaur books and puzzles and toys. I don't think this building is a top priority during a visit to the Ogden Dinosaur Park, but it's a good place to find some educational down time or escape from inclement weather.
Before you go
The Ogden Dinosaur Park is open year-round, though it is closed on Sundays during the off-season. Admission for adults is $7, students (13-17) are $6, and children (2-12) are $5. Children under age 2 are free. A 3-hour visit, give or take, is probably right for most families.
There is a snack bar and gift shop on site, but the snack bar is small and not always open, so we've never tried it. There are several good picnic spots near the playground and I recommend bringing a picnic if you want to eat during your stay.
Most of our visits to the Ogden Dinosaur Park have been through an annual membership. Family memberships ar $60 per year, which for most families, pays for itself in three visits or less. Last year, I found a Groupon for a $30 family membership, and it was such a great deal that I not only bought one for our family, I told all our friends and relatives about it as well.
The membership included weekday admission to the Tracy Aviary, Ogden Nature Center and the museums at Ogden's Union Station and we visited all of these attractions, making the membership an even better deal. Our membership also got us half-off at the Hogle Zoo while their dinosaur exhibit was up. We have been members of the Tracy Aviary two different times and were able to use its reciprocal benefits for weekday Dinosaur Park visits as well.
The Ogden Dinosaur Park is one of Utah's best family attractions.