I push the doorbell from the 1980s in front of a rubber Dilophosaurus that looms over me. Nothing happens. Then its head jerks and his mouth opens, emitting a menacing growl. The rip in the rubber on his neck gapes open as he moves his head. I jump back in surprise as it shoots a stream of water out of its mouth. A sign near the dinosaur says that the water coming out of his mouth represents venom, of which is “purely speculation.”
I am in the worst dinosaur museum in Colorado and I’m in heaven.
Colorado and Utah have a lot of dinosaur museums; a lot of dinosaurs are found here. Dinosaur Journey is a working museum. There are back rooms where paleontologists and their students work on identifying bones. The museum itself is geared towards children. There is an earthquake simulator, a rubber gravel pit where you can “uncover” dinosaur bones, and tiny dinosaur feet you can use to make tracks in a sand box.
But that is not what brings me back to Dinosaur Journey every time I find myself driving from Colorado to Utah. Dinosaur Journey is not slick or fancy, and all the money it receives seems to go into funding more explorations, not the museum. But it has real dinosaur bones. There is something about seeing how fragile the bones truly are as opposed to the hardened casts. There is a sense of history you don’t get when you see reconstructed dinosaurs.
There are reconstructed dinosaurs, as well, but their focus is on body parts, not the whole dinosaur. So you get to stand next to a Supersaurus’s shoulder blade and a T-rex’s back leg. You get to crawl inside a Brontosaurus’s heart. You get to feel small.
The museum has not been updated in a long time and looks more like the basement of a paleontologist department at a local college. There are bones lying everywhere, faded photos of famous paleontologists, newspaper clippings, and even a framed photo of a hot air balloon in the shape of a T-rex. It is a mix-mash of paleontology, a thrift store, where everything is full of history and has a story.
The thrift shop is hilarious. It would look like the last ditch efforts of a fading business except for the feeling of love that permeated the tiny shop. Toys you can buy at any store line the shelves. Stuffed animals. T-shirts with dinosaurs on them but not the name of the museum. A hilarious photo of a T-rex unable to reach the toilet paper on the toilet that wasn’t for sale. Poorly screen printed blankets. Posters faded from being rolled up too long.
Dinosaur Journey is not just a museum of a time gone by, but a museum gone by as well. Not only do the artifacts have history, but so does the museum. If thrift stores and historic places fill your heart with warmth and your head with memories, Dinosaur Journey is a must stop if you are close.
The admission is $9 for adults, which is too much. But there are Groupons for a group of six people for $10 total.