Martinsville, Virginia


Two-day dinosaur extravaganza is this Friday and Saturday!

Crowds roaring into the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Friday, July 21 and Saturday, July 22 for the museum’s Dino Festival will be greeted by the largest display of dinosaurs the museum has ever offered. The event, formerly known as Dino Day, takes place Friday, July 21 from 3 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, July 22 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will feature life-size cast dinosaur skeletons, real dinosaur fossils, presentations by renowned paleontologists, as well as dino-themed activities and crafts. Admission is $10 per adult, $8 for ages 3-18 and seniors ages 60+, and FREE for museum members and members of ASTC participating museums. Admission is valid for both days of the festival.

Download the Dino Festival schedule of events here!

New dino displays!

One of the festival's highlights includes the debut of the life-size cast skeleton of Stegosaurus (right), which was gifted to the museum by the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History last year.

"This will mark the first time a Stegosaurus cast skeleton has been displayed at the Virginia Museum of Natural History since the museum opened the doors to its current facility in 2007," said Dr. Alex Hastings, assistant curator of paleontology at VMNH. "This particular skeleton was re-casted from the original that had been on display at the Smithsonian from 1907 to the early 2000's. It's a phenomenal cast and one that more accurately depicts a life-like stance of Stegosaurus, with its tail positioned higher off the ground as opposed to dragging on the ground."

In addition to Stegosaurus, the museum is unveiling a Triceratops cast skeleton that is far bigger than any it has ever displayed.
"This is probably the largest Triceratops cast skeleton I have ever seen anywhere," said Hastings. "It's a spectacular display that will truly give visitors an appreciation of the size and grandeur of these giants."

Life-size cast skeletons and skulls!

Life-size cast skeletons and skulls that will be displayed at the festival include:

A large, plant-eating dinosaur distinguishable by its large frill and three horns that lived during the Late Cretaceous period, from approximately 68 to 66 million years ago

A large, plant-eating dinosaur distinguishable by two rows of bony plates on its back that lived during the Late Jurassic period, from approximately 155 to 150 million years ago 

A massive, carnivorous, theropod dinosaur that existed in what is now North America during the Early Cretaceous period, from approximately 125 million to 100 million years ago

A speedy and vicious carnivore of the Early Cretaceous period, with large, retractable, hunting claws on its feet that it used to subdue and kill its prey, from approximately 115 to 108 million years ago

A large, carnivorous, theropod dinosaur of the Late Jurassic period, from approximately 155 to 150 million years ago

Tyrannosaurus rex (skull)
A large, carnivorous, theropod dinosaur that roamed in what is now western North America during the Late Cretaceous period, from approximately 68 to 66 million years ago

Appalachiosaurus (skull)
A large, carnivorous predator that roamed what is now eastern North America during the Late Cretaceous period, from approximately 77 million years ago

Diplodocus (skull)
A massive, long-necked herbivore that lived in what is now western North America during the Late Jurassic period, from approximately 154 to 152 million years ago

A dino fossil smorgasbord!

Beyond the spectacular displays, the festival will boast an abundance of dinosaur fossils, including the world-debut of the only fossil evidence that Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops engaged in battle.

"This is a really important specimen that has been well known within scientific circles throughout the world, but has never been on public exhibit before," said Hastings. "There has been fossil evidence before that indicates T. rex fed on Triceratops, based on tooth marks, but the fact that this particular fossil shows clear indications of healing allows us to safely conclude that the bite occurred while this Triceratops was alive and that it survived the battle.”

Hastings went on to say that the museum has been tempted to put the specimen on display before, but ultimately decided to highlight it during its Dino Festival.

"We had a television documentary crew from Japan come to the museum last spring to highlight the specimen and we were very tempted to put the fossil on public exhibit at that point, but decided that exhibiting it during the next Dino Festival would be the most appropriate public debut."

Fossils of many other dinosaurs will be on display throughout the festival, including specimens of some of the most well known dinosaurs, such as Stegosaurus (above).

"Being able to see real dinosaur fossils is an exciting experience for visitors, especially children," said Hastings. "There are plenty of movies and books that highlight dinosaurs, but there are very few places you can go to see the real thing."

Fossils that will be on display will largely be specimens not otherwise available for public exhibit and come from the collections of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, the Schiele Museum, Appalachian State University, Lynchburg College, and others.

Festivities abound!

A Jurassic Park themed virtual reality experience presented by U.S. Cellular, a dino dig pit, costumed dinosaurs, dino parade, face painting, henna, and a host of dino-themed children's activities and crafts will take place both days of the event. Additionally, Saturday only, the festival will host presentations by the museum's assistant curator of paleontology, Dr. Alex Hastings, and Appalachian State University professor, Dr. Andrew Heckert, who specializes in vertebrate paleontology, dinosaurs, lithostratigraphy and biostratigraphy.

Dr. Heckert will present "Tales of Triceratops: How do we know that dinosaurs fought?" at 10 a.m. and Dr. Hastings will present “Dinosaur Hunters: The Search for Ancient Giants” at 2 p.m. Each presentation is 20-30 minutes, including time for audiences to ask the experts questions.

No bone left unturned!

T. rex gleefully helped us paint dino foot tracks on the road leading to the museum as part of our final preparations for the big event! Whether you are a dinosaur lover or simply seeking a new adventure, we know you will find what you're looking for at the Dino Festival on Friday, July 21 from 3 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, July 22 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.! Admission is good for both days and only costs $10 per adult and $8 for ages 3 to 18 and seniors 60+. As always, museum members enter for free. Special thanks to our Dino Festival sponsors for their generous support of the event!


Special thanks to all of our Dino Festival Sponsors and Supporters!