Editor’s Note: During this period of social distancing, Group Tour magazine will continue to provide group travel inspiration. Many attractions and destinations are closed at this time; please contact them directly for updated information.
When thinking about North American history, the imagination typically recalls images of Revolutionary War battles, centuries-old plantations or covered wagons venturing west.
Yet, the natural and geological history of the continent stretches back millions of years and holds stories of extinct species, massive creatures and magnificent formations.
Sites across the United States and Canada are sharing the prehistoric narrative of planet Earth while also preserving its natural integrity. Take the group to active dig sites, quarries and pits while also enjoying the surrounding beauty. See how paleontologists and geologists work to preserve an ancient and fascinating heritage.
Dinosaur Provincial Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dinosaur Provincial Park allows groups to explore fossil beds from the Late Cretaceous period and discover the beauty of the Canadian Badlands. Take an interpretive tour program to get stunning views of the landscape from a tour bus or take a half-day hike through rugged terrain. The Centrosaurus Quarry Hike takes groups to a former dig site and challenges individuals to come up with their own theory to explain their extinction.
La Brea Tar Pits and Museum
Los Angeles, California
Experience the ice age in an urban setting at La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. The attraction sits beside a bubbling pit left over from asphalt mining operations. Over 3.5 million fossils have been excavated from the Tar Pits and are on display in the museum. See ground sloths, mammoths, saber-tooth cats and more. Watch excavators at work and take a guided tour to experience the process of finding fossils and preserving them.
Dinosaur National Monument
The remains of dinosaurs are still visible and embedded in rock at Dinosaur National Monument. Quarry Exhibit Hall allows groups to view the bones of many dinosaur species including Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Diplodocusand others. In addition, take a hike around the site to find both petroglyphs and pictographs created by the Fremont people about 1,000 years ago. River rafting, camping and ranger-led programs are available.
Since its opening in 1894, the Field Museum has grown to include nearly 40 million artifacts and specimens pertaining to natural history and science. See the 90%-complete fossil skeleton of SUE the T-Rex and even smell her carnivorous breath. Adventure through the Nature Walk & Messages from the Wilderness exhibit to discover habitats in from the Midwest and across the Americas. Special rates are available for groups.
Ghost Ranch and Museum of Paleontology
Abiquiu, New Mexico
Ghost Ranch is home to two museums, one being The Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology, which focuses on the fossils of the late Triassic Period. Groups will see fossils of dinosaurs that are more than 200 million years old and experience the environment they lived in. Tours of the ranch take groups to the original quarry site — with breathtaking views of the rugged landscape.
Natural Bridge State Park
Natural Bridge, Virginia
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 215-foot-tall Natural Bridge is a sight groups need to see. The park has more than just the bridge; lush forests and meadows showcase the area’s terrain, and vistas of surrounding mountains and the James River Valley display nature’s beauty. Groups can access these via 6 miles of hiking trails, including the Cedar Creek Trail that leads from the bridge to the Monacan Indian Village and Lace Falls with its 30-foot cascade.
The Mammoth Site
Hot Springs, South Dakota
Boasting the largest concentration of Columbian mammoths in the world, The Mammoth Site gives groups the opportunity to tour an indoor active dig site and examine Ice Age fossils. Guided tours are offered, and visitors can explore The Mammoth Site Bonebed, a sinkhole where fauna is recovered from its sediments, including mammoths, prairie dogs, mollusks, camel and giant short-faced bear.