In our youth, most of us cherished dinosaurs, or a specific character from a book, movie or television show that was a dinosaur. Dino from the Flintstones, the Dinosaurs TV series with the Sinclair family, Barney, Littlefoot from the Land Before Time, Disney’s Dinosaur featuring Aladar, Rex from Toy Story, and more recently, Blue from Jurassic World’s raptor squad, to name just a few.
One might ask, how and why did dinosaurs become so popular? Paleontologist Stephen Brinkman shares the late Stephen Gould’s insight into why. In his interview with National Geographic: “The late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote that the popularity of dinosaurs is due to three virtues: big, fierce and extinct.”
There is something enchanting and remarkable about being able to encounter these creatures that are larger than life, and in Texas, these experiences are easier to have than you might think.
As you drive north on US Highway 83 in the eastern Panhandle, to bring you into Canadian, a unique sight waits for you at the top of a bluff. She is none other than Aud the Dinosaur, Canadian’s official greeter for residents and visitors, in all her bright green and concrete glory (above). Aud, short for Audrey, is the artwork of the late Bobby Gene Cockrell, who created the dinosaur for his wife, Audrey. It’s said that Cockrell wanted children to know they were almost home when they saw Aud from the highway. She still stands proudly today and serves as a mascot for the community, and a roadside attraction for travelers in the state.
In Fort Worth, or Cowtown as many locals fondly call it, you can find more than just the legacy of the west. In fact, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History boasts DinoLabs and DinoDig® exhibits. These experiences bring the fascinating story of dinosaurs discovered in North Texas to life with full articulations of dinosaur skeletons native to the region and a dig site replicating a local paleontological field site. Come face to face with Paluxysaurus jonesi, the State Dinosaur of Texas, plus life-sized models of Acrocanthosaurus and Tenontosaurus dossi.
Visit Fort Worth
Fort Worth Museum of Science and History
At The Dinosaur Park in the Wyldwood area, kids of all ages can enjoy an outdoor, dinosaur encounter. At this attraction, the realistic life-size dinosaur replicas show skin and color variations to give a better understanding as to how they may have looked when alive. These statues range in size from the 2-foot long Compsognathus to the 123-foot Diplodocus, the longest dinosaur that ever lived. The dinosaurs are back from a tree-lined nature trail, situated among plants, trees and rocks, making it easy to imagine real dinosaurs in a natural environment.
The Dinosaur Park
Another notable dinosaur that stole the hearts of many morning newspaper readers can be found in the West Texas Town of Iraan. In May of 1964, the town held the first Alley Oop Day, to celebrate the popular comic strip about a time-traveling caveman, and his pet dinosaur Dinny. The comic was created by Vincent Trout Hamlin, who was inspired by the Trans-Pecos region during his work travels. Visitors today can head to Alley Oop Fantasy Land and take their photo with Dinny, or mark their calendars for the Alley Oop Festival, held in early summer.
In McKinney, step back in time on a nature trail that features a 46-foot T-Rex and life-size animatronic dinosaurs. For the 16th year, the Heard Museum Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary offers a popular seasonal Dinosaurs Live! Exhibit. In addition to the nature trail experience, the Museum also offers photo op and play area dinosaurs along with an outdoor fossil dig area.
Heard Museum Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Dinosaurs Live! Exhibit Sept 3, 2022 thru Feb 20, 2023
Traveling across our great state to see these attractions requires fuel for the car and body, and who knew you could also experience a Dinosaur Parade of sorts at a popular refueling station in Henrietta. This popular roadside attraction can be found at the Texas Best Smokehouse and Travel Center, where you can stretch your legs and wander among the likes of Allosaurus, Spinosaurus, and a huge Brachiosaurus.
As we all know, everything is bigger in Texas. Everywhere you go and whatever you get to see in the state is usually big and fierce but when you add the requirement to experience “extinct” you can best fulfill it with checking off these dinosaur encounters from your “gotta see and do in Texas” bucket list.
Texas Best Smokehouse and Travel Center – Henrietta
101 U.S. 287 and Hwy 148