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On a dinosaur hunt? You’ll find great specimens at these museums

T-Rex looms over visitors at the Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, Mont.
T-Rex looms over visitors at the Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, Mont. TNS

Whoa, these dinosaurs look like they could just eat you up.

They would have, too, if you’d been running around 65 million years ago in Montana.

With one of the largest collections of dinosaur bones in the U.S., the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. Mont., is a feast of excitement for dino fans – especially for those who adore the frilled Triceratops, the fierce T-Rex and the poignant, bird-like spectacle of dinosaur eggs in nests.

The Museum of the Rockies, next to the Montana State University football stadium, has other exhibits. But its claim to fame is the Siebel Dinosaur Complex.

Elevated to popularity by Jack Horner, the charismatic curator who also was a consultant on the “Jurassic Park” movies, the dinosaur collection is introduced rather slowly, with a quiet section for families and a window where you can watch paleontologists work on specimens.

The second room is a moody and slightly dark exploration of dinosaur evolution, punctuated by a model of a sly raptor, Deinonychus Antirrhopus, in full feathered, garish glory as it attacks a Tenontosaurus.

Then, pow. Turn a couple corners and you walk into a giant room full of gorgeously astounding dinosaur skeletons, the famous ones, the sexy ones.

There is a whole row of Triceratops, from small juveniles to heavy adults. Some of the frills – hair, feathers or bony projections around the neck of the animals – are as big as the hood of a car. Walk past a bunch of terrifying T-Rex heads, with teeth as long and sharp as ginsu knives. The centerpiece T-Rex on display here is “Montana Rex.” It was installed in 2015.

I loved the exhibits about dinosaurs’ ties to present-day birds. Horner was one of the first paleontologists to discover nests of dinosaur eggs and speculate that dinosaurs were social animals and definitely an avian ancestor.

In front of the museum is an Allosaurus (replica) skeleton named Big Mike. He is happy to be in your selfies.

If you are in Bozeman, this museum is a roaring good time.

OTHER DINO SPOTS

I very much liked the Museum of the Rockies, but if your family loves dinosaurs, here are a few other museums that will knock your socks off.

Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller, Alberta (near Calgary). Unbelievable collection of prehistoric treats, set amid the wide, oily fields of Drumheller. In addition to 40 dinosaur skeletons it has a world-famous collection of trilobites (Paleozoic marine arthropods) and other fossils that were ancient when dinosaurs were babies.

“Sue” at the Field Museum, Chicago. Possibly the most famous dinosaur in the U.S., Sue is the centerpiece in the lobby of the Field Museum. A near-complete T-Rex. It may be just me, but she looks like she’s smiling.

Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. I like the displays at this museum. Lots of natural light show off dinosaur bones better than the dim lighting in some other museums.

What about the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.? No dice. Its dinosaur hall closed in 2014 for five years of renovation.

However, it is due to reopen in 2019 with a glossy renovated hall full of great exhibits. Its fearsome new centerpiece T-Rex? It will be on loan from the Army Corps of Engineers, who had it previously on display for more than a decade at – you guessed it – the Museum of the Rockies.

IF YOU GO

Museum of the Rockies: 600 W. Kagy Blvd., just south of downtown Bozeman, Mont.; $14.50 adults, $9.50 ages 5-17, museumoftherockies.org, 406-994-2251.

Royal Tyrrell Museum: 1500 North Dinosaur Trail, Drumheller, Alberta, near Calgary, Canada; $18 adults, $11 ages 7-17. www.tyrrellmuseum.com. 888-440-4240.

Field Museum: 1400 S. Lakeshore, Chicago, www.fieldmuseum.org, 312-922-9410.

Royal Ontario Museum: 100 Queen’s Park, Toronto; $17 adults, $14 ages 4-14, www.rom.on.ca, 416-586-8000.

National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.: National Fossil Hall closed until 2019, naturalhistory.si.edu/fossil-hall/.

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