Dinosaur State Park in Connecticut needs to be on your list of places to go with kids. Go, right now, and put in on your list.
This is just over an hour from our house and we left very early in the day to be there for their 9am opening. We arrived before the gift shop opened. As you enter the big silver dome, be prepared, you go through the gift shop that has lots of cool goodies low to the ground.
The exhibits are very well thought out and combine interactive button pushing and lever lifting with a compelling story of how the foot prints were discovered and protected. There are plenty of things to touch and some great explanations of different rock patterns. This is followed by some great short films about how the tracks were made and preserved. I especially enjoyed the interactive exhibit on the patterns of the tracks.
Then you finally get to see the actual tracks. It was quite impressive.
A small room at the end contains some of the best stuff. This room is devoted to kids with magnetic dinos on posters, puppets, stencils, fossils with guides, books, CTs of dino eggs, coloring, stamping, and live animals. They do have live animal talks from time to time but we didn't stay to see them.
They had a film about dinosaurs in claymation. I found it deeply irritating because they gave human emotion and motivations to the dinosaurs. Really?! Don't bother with that film. There were other films later in the day. Hopefully they are better.
Be sure to ask for a Bingo sheet and walk around the grounds. There are plenty of picnic tables and gorgeous trails. There is a place to make your own casts too but it wasn't open - perhaps the crack of dawn was too early! or it was too chilly. A small open air theater, butterfly garden and herb garden will be good spots to visit later in the season.
This is a 5/5 star location. The trails were either dry or had board walks so it is easy walking. Strollers would be tricky. Everything is well labeled and the Bingo was a huge hit. Be sure to return it for prizes.
If you aren't sure about what to purchase in the gift shop I recommend the grab bag. It is $2 and has magnetic stones, misc gems, stickers, a pencil and a pencil topper along with a book mark. The gift shop can be overwhelming for its sheer coolness for nerds like me and my kids - so be prepared with a budget.
Bring lunch it is worth staying a while.
And if you geocache, there is a great cache on site. Is there a letter box??