The mighty Tyrannosaurus rex…the “tyrant lizard king,” was certainly one of the largest and deadliest carnivores from the entire dinosaur era. T. rex has it all: the devastating combination of overwhelming size, frightening weaponry and a vivid, evocative name. It is no wonder Tyrannosaurus has become such a media star, likely the most widely known dinosaur of all. So where can someone go to see this mighty ancient beast in all her glory? Fortunately, there are a number of great places in North America to get up close. Here are Allosaurus Roar’s top dozen:
(12) Museum of North American Treasures, Wichita, KS
A large tyrannosaur nicknamed “Ivan” can be found in the main exhibit area of the Museum of World Treasures. While this fossil was collected by a commercial fossil company and appears to be one of the few most complete tyrannosaurs ever discovered, it has yet to be published in a scientific journal. There is currently an effort to do so and the expectation is that “Ivan” is indeed a T. rex. One of the nice things about the “Ivan” display is that nearby is a rare fossil of a Daspletosaurus, nicknamed “Cutie”, a remarklably complete fossil of one of T. Rex’s likely relatives from about ten million years prior.
(11) Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN
“Bucky” is the name of the teenage T. rex on display in the Dinosphere at the world’s largest children’s museum, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. He is a very important fossil in helping scientists better understand the growth stages of tyrannosaurs. In the exhibit “Bucky” is seen chasing a Triceratops while another T. rex approaches from the other direction. The Dinosphere adds some unique elements: flashing lightning and the sound of thunder in the sky above the display makes for a big impression, particularly on some of the younger visitors (which of course is this great museum’s specialty).
(10) Museum at the Black Hills Institute, Hill City, SD
If you want to see Tyrannosaurus, it doesn’t get much better than the Museum at the Black Hills Institute. Peter Larson and his team have been part of numerous T. rex discoveries, and the beautiful fossil T. rex “Stan” can be found here in Hill City. Thanks to the federal courts, the T. rex “Sue” was taken from the Black Hills Institute and put up for auction (and now resides in Chicago), but as famous as “Sue” is, it is likely that “Stan” has been viewed more than any other Tyrannosaurus–casts of him have been sold to museums all over the world and his distinctive skull is easy to spot. To the T. rex fan, he is a rare wonder in his own right. In addition to “Stan”, also on display are the skulls of several other T. rex. It is a small museum, but it’s absolutely packed with great fossils. If you are in the Black Hills area, it is very much worth your time to hike over to Hill City and see this treasure trove.
(9) American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY
The first museum to display a T. rex, the holotype that the AMNH owned was later sold to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. But the T. rex that is currently on display at this world-class museum is a larger and more complete specimen that was also discovered by famed paleontologist Barnum Brown. The AMNH fossil represents the first discovery of a complete skull of a T. rex, and while it is not quite as large as “Sue”, the AMNH T. rex is very large and a great looking dinosaur.
(8) Burpee Museum of Natural History, Rockford, IL
One of the most beautiful tyrannosaurs on display anywhere is “Jane” at the Burpee Museum in Rockford, Illinois. Most often considered a juvenile T. rex, Jane’s skull is very similar to the skull of a dinosaur at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History that has been the subject of much debate in paleontology. Does the Cleveland skull belong to a juvenile T. rex, or an adult dinosaur of a smaller tyrannosaur species named Nanotyrannus? Most paleontologists have come down on the side that considers “Jane” and the Cleveland skull to be juvenile T. rex, but the debate is ongoing and will probably not be settle conclusively for some time. Whichever side you fall on, what is not up for debate is that the Jane fossil is a spectacular one, and the exhibit at the Burpee Museum really highlights the dinosaur well and contains a lot of great information around the display.
(7) T. rex Discovery Centre, Eastend, Saskatchewan
One of the most complete T. rex skeletons in the world can be found at the T. rex Discovery Centre in Eastend, Saskatchewan, part of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. “Scotty” was discovered in 1991 and excavated in 1994, and the Royal Saskatchewan Museum created a dedicated space in Eastend, SK to display not only “Scotty” but other Cretaceous fossils as well. Eastend is located in the southwest corner of the province, about 40 or 50 km south of Highway 1. In the past few years, some researchers concluded that the “Scotty” fossil may have been slightly longer and heavier than “Sue” at the Field Museum in Chicago. Although it is hard to accurately estimate size and length of long-extinct creatures, the T. rex in Eastend is certainly a marvel and worth a trip to Saskatchewan.
(6) Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, PA
The Carnegie Museum is one of the great dinosaur museums in the world, and its T. rex display is certainly a big reason: “Dinosaurs in Their Time” was one of the first museum exhibits to arrange dinosaurs chronologically, and display them with other flora and fauna that lived alongside each other. In the Cretaceous era exhibit, two very large tyrannosaurs warily eye each other as they stand over the carcass of a large hadrosaur. One of the fossils is a cast of the T. rex “Stan”, described below, but the other is a very important fossil–the holotype Tyrannosaurus rex. Discovered by Barnum Brown of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, this fossil was sold to the Carnegie in the early years of World War II, with speculation that the museum wanted to make sure the fossil was safe from possible attack on the eastern seaboard. I’m not sure how true that story is, but either way it is a very important fossil–much of the public fascination with the T. rex (not to mention much of the historic paleoart) comes from this fossil. Seeing it up close in Pittsburgh is a beautiful way to spend a day!
(5) Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL
Every T. rex enthusiast knows about “Sue”, and to see her amazing display in person you will want to go to Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. Formerly exhibited in the great hall, “Sue” now has her own display room on the 2nd floor in the Evolving Planet exhibit. It’s a fantastic fossil, as good as you might expect for such a well-known dinosaur. While “Sue” may not be the largest T. rex yet discovered, it is still the most complete with a remarkable 90% of it’s bones having been recovered. Among the many dinosaurs in this great collection is a beautiful tyrannosaurid Daspletosaurus, posed snacking on the carcass of an unfortunate hadrosaur.
(4) Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC.
The centerpiece display in the newly renovated dinosaur hall at the Smithsonian features the “Nation’s T. rex,” a nickname given to the fossil that was formerly known as the “Wankel” rex. Previously held at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, MT (a sculpture based on this dinosaur stands out front of that museum still), it is now part of an amazing display that also features the first mounted Triceratops fossil (nicknamed “Hatcher”).
(3) Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA
One of the best T. rex displays in the world can now be found at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. It is the only display the features three separate T. rex specimens, one adult, one juvenile, one two-year old. All three fossils are shown together circling some food. An adult T. rex has always captured the imagination of people throughout the world, but the juvenile and young T. rex are just as interesting. As far as I know, the youngest T. rex in the display is also the youngest T. rex on display anywhere. As you can see from the photo, even a two-year-old would not make a great pet! This is a wonderful exhibit and the highlight of the newly renovated dinosaur hall in Los Angeles.
(2) Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, MT
The Museum of the Rockies has long been an important stop for T. rex enthusiasts. A spellbinding bronze cast of “Big Mike” stands out front of the museum, and although the “Wankel Rex” from which it was created has been removed, in April 2015 a new specimen called “Montana Rex” was put on display, and it is a beautiful Tyrannosaurus rex indeed. Very large and full of interesting details, “Montana Rex” is now the centerpiece of this great dinosaur museum. In addition, a glass case nearby holds the fossil skulls from at least four other T. rex, and is among the one or two museums in the world where so many T. rex skulls of different sizes are on display, including the largest T. rex skull ever found. A trip to the Museum of the Rockies will not disapppoint.
(1) Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller, Alberta
The Royal Tyrrell Museum is perhaps the greatest dinosaur museum in North America, and their collection of tyrannosaurs is nothing short of amazing. Shortly after you enter, you see the T. rex relative Albertosaurus in a lifelike display where they appear to be pack hunting. In the first fossil room resides one of the most beautiful Tyrannosaurus rex fossils anywhere, nicknamed “Black Beauty” due to the dark color of the minerals in the fossilization process. There is another wonderful T. rex skeleton on display later in the museum. In addition, there are numerous T. rex relatives on display, including Albertosaurus, Daspletosaurus, and Gorgosaurus. If you love Tyrannosaurus, you will love the Royal Tyrrell Museum.