Walk Through Time at Dinosaur State Park

So the truth is, today I had planned to write about the latest library class that Boo and I have been attending at the Glastonbury Library. It’s a great class, and I hope to get all the details in a post very soon. But last week, while we were at the library waiting for class to begin, I decided on a whim to see if the Library’s state park pass was available that day. Turns out, it was! So we checked out the pass and made plans to visit Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill the next day. A short attention span is one of my incurable flaws. If you want proof you can just take a little tour of my basement full of ambitious yet half-finished craft projects. Now, what was I talking about? Just kidding :)

Specifically, we went to the Dinosaur State Park Exhibit Center, which is a little like Close Encounters of the Third Kind meets Jurassic Park with this extraterrestrial-esque dome housing the prehistoric dinosaur tracks.

Now, in the true spirit of cinema, let’s flash back to the library for a moment and talk about that park pass. Like I mentioned before, I picked up the pass while we were at the library last Friday morning. Although these passes can be checked out by any CT resident with a valid CT library card (not just Glastonbury residents), and they can also be kept for a generous 48-hour period, unfortunately, you cannot reserve a pass in advance. You just gotta get lucky. So spontaneity is definitely your friend here.

Here’s what I got:

Here’s what was inside:

 Here’s the actual pass that you need to show at the admissions desk:

Any questions? :)

Dinosaur State Park is really easy to find. Coming down from the north as we were, we took 91S to exit 23, headed east on West Street (that’s a left turn, but I couldn’t resist the directional pun), went straight, and voila! There it is on the right. Lots of free parking.

The pathway to the dome is literally a walk through time. It’s really neat. The stones are imprinted with information that chronicles the natural history of our planet.

Where do people fall on this timeline? Well, let’s just say blink and you might miss us. But here’s a hint: in the photo below I am completely covering with my feet the entire section where humans appear on Earth and looking back towards the dawn of time. Kind of makes you feel small, doesn’t it?

Too young to participate in my little existential crisis, Boo just had a great time running on the path beside the painted dinosaur tracks.

And even more fun running off the path.

Time to go in!

First stop the admissions desk where we presented our pass. Just a note: at first they tried to tell us that our pass was not valid here, but fortunately I was able to show them where it is printed very clearly on the back of the pass that it is good for admission for two adults and four children to Dinosaur State Park.

It seems the confusion was tied to the fact that you cannot use a regular state park season pass to gain free admission to this museum or other state park exhibit centers. Anyway, once they understood that it was a library pass and not a state park vehicle season pass, we didn’t have any problems.

Without the pass, hubby and I would have paid $6 each (kids 5 and under are free), so it was a great deal. I almost felt like we were getting away with something with access to all this free fun.

The inside of the building is, not surprisingly considering the shape of the outside of the building, circular. This is great news because it means your little one can go around and around and around while you follow behind and occasionally get to stop and read a little bit about the exhibit. I think it took us three passes around the building with Boo to get our eyes on everything. Then we took turns watching him so we could go back for a closer look.

Here’s the main attraction, the trackway, right in the middle. It sort of looks like one part ancient fossil, one part lunar surface. Am I right? But it is very cool. And a glass wall lets even the littlest visitors enjoy a clear view.

Now, I’m sure if you’re not familiar with the history of Dinosaur State Park, you are probably wondering how this slab of fossilized footprints ended up in the middle of this exhibit center. You’ll have to forgive me for not going into the details myself since, as you most likely know by now, I am long-winded enough without adding in a history lesson. But I can’t leave you completely empty-handed. So if your curiosity can’t wait until you visit the museum yourself, pop on over to CT Museum Quest or the park’s website for more information.

Suffice it to say for our purposes that once upon a time dinosaurs roamed the land that would one day be Connecticut; many, many, many, many millennia later someone discovered their prints on this very spot; and relatively shortly after that, this exhibit was created.

Although the actual content of the exhibit was way above Boo’s head, many of the interactive displays were well within his reach. Pull-down wall segments and light-up boards were popular picks.

In addition to the main exhibit area, there are two other spaces of interest. To your right as you enter the building is the auditorium where they show short films.

While we were there they were screening a film about the history of birds. The images were pretty captivating so Boo watched for a little while, but ultimately he got antsy and we had to sneak out when he started with the high-pitched screaming. There were plenty of other little kids in there though, and no one seemed to mind a little fussing. Click here for a schedule of films and show times.

On your left as you enter, is a room labeled “Demonstration.”

It’s filled with fun activities for kids like real fossils to examine, games, craft projects, and coloring pages.

And you can even make your own dino prints on a handy bookmark.

After a few more laps around the trackway, a brief stop in the museum store where we made up for the amount we saved on admission by purchasing for Boo his first model dinosaur, and a stop in the restroom to make sure they were equipped with some sort of diaper changing apparatus (they are), we headed back outdoors to take a look around.

Right outside the museum there is a lovely seating/picnic area on each side of the entrance.

And there are more picnic areas nearby. Dinosaur State Park also has several nature trails that we hope to come back and try when the weather gets warmer. In the meantime, the insider info is that the “red trail” is best for little kids and strollers.

Another neat tip that I want to share (because I totally would have missed it were I not, per usual, nosing around in the corners trying to get the inside scoop on every last activity) is that the museum has these fun “bingo” boards available to make exploring the exhibit and the trails more engaging and interactive for kids. Borrow a laminated board (in the winter they are kept behind the desk, but I was told they make them more visible in the summer), help your kids find and mark off the different items, then return the board for a mysterious “prize,” the details of which were not disclosed to me  Now I definitely have to go back out of sheer curiosity.

Back outside, Boo spent a little more time running around (with his new best friend, Iguanadon).

Then it was back to the future…

And just in time for a nap :)


Tell us: what is your favorite CT state park to visit?


Dinosaur State Park

400 West Street, Rocky Hill, CT

(860) 529-5816 (park phone)

(860) 529-8423 (info line)

Email: info@dinosaurstatepark.org

Website: http://www.dinosaurstatepark.org/ 

Get directions here:

Enter your starting address:


Hours & Admission


Park grounds are open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (trails close at 4:00).

Exhibit center is open Tuesday through Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closed Mondays).

Check the website for the most up-to-date information including information about special holiday closings.


Grounds: FREE

Exhibit Center:  Adults and teens (ages 13+): $6;  Ages 6-12: $2; Ages 5 and under: FREE

Attention Grandma and Grandpa! CT residents who are age 65 or older can also obtain a Charter Oak Pass that allows them free admission to this and other state park exhibit centers. Click here for more information or ask for details at the park.

Hints & Tips

  • Don’t forget to check if your local library has a state park and museum pass available! See our Museum Pass page for helpful links. One word of warning though: many of these passes carry steep overdue and/or lost pass fines, so pay close attention to the lending policies. It’s not a deal if you have to pay late fees :)
  • The museum is fully handicapped and stroller accessible.
  • Pets are not allowed in the museum or on the trails, only in the picnic areas.
  • They accept Visa, Mastercard, and Discover cards (no American Express) for purchases over $10; no debit cards.
  • No food or drink allowed in the museum with the exception of water bottles.
  • There is no food available at the park, but you can grab a bite at one of the many nearby restaurants including one of our kid-friendly picks, On The Border.
  • Paid entry to the museum is good for the entire day, so you can feel free to leave the museum, or even the grounds, and be readmitted without additional charge. Just show your receipt.
  • Check out the interactive track casting area in the summer.
  • Enjoy additional fun, FREE events on Dinosaur State Park Day on Saturday, August 18th, 2012. This is an annual event. Check the website for details and updates.
  • Click here for even more special events.
  • If you like this outing, check out the Peabody Museum in New Haven for related exhibits.

Break out the fancy bibs, it’s time for some more tiny dining. Plus, where did the month go? The February roundup is right around the corner.


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