Where to Find Dinosaur Bones in Raleigh: North Carolina Museum of Natural Science

Location & Admission:

11 West Jones St.

Raleigh, NC 27601

919-707-9800

Admission: FREE


Where is Raleigh, North Carolina?

Raleigh, North Carolina, named after Sir Walter Raleigh, is located in the northeastern area of the state, north of Charlotte. After Charlotte, Raleigh is the largest city in North Carolina and the fastest growing. It is the state capital and has a population of over 400,000. Raleigh is also part of the Research Triangle that includes the three neighboring cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.

In the few blocks surrounding the capital there are many places to visit including the State Library of North Carolina, North Carolina Museum of History, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science. And, within the city limits is the Museum of Art and the Marbles Museum.

On a return trip from Michigan, my friend and I landed at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport in the early afternoon. Since we lived two hours drive from the airport and rarely go into the city of Raleigh, I suggested we visit the area before returning home. I had hoped to take in a few of the sites, however, we only had time to visit one. So, between the history and natural science museum, which were next to each other, I chose the latter, with the intention to return to the history museum another day.


Museum sign outside of the building
Museum sign outside of the building | Source

The museum:

The outside of the NC Museum of Natural Science
The outside of the NC Museum of Natural Science | Source

Dinosaur Museum in North Carolina:

5 stars for North Carolina Museum of Natural Science

Why I rated the museum a 5 Star

One of the main reasons I gave this museum a 5 star is that it is accessible to so many people, no matter what age or level of income. There is no admission fee, which is almost unheard of. When you think of what a museum has to offer in way of educational information, this is a real benefit.

It is also conveniently located within walking distance from the Greyhound bus station. Anyone who happens to come into town, via that method of transportation, can participate in an enjoyable activity.

Another reason I gave the high rating was for the displays they exhibited. There was plenty of room to move from station to station without bumping into anyone, there was several floors, and the displays were aesthetically positioned so one area flowed naturally into the other.

Additionally, it offered educational movies, interactive activities for young people, and a large area of the museum was dedicated to minerals, gems, plant and animal life that is native to North Carolina. I found that very interesting.

And, finally, I was impressed with the assistance in providing audio equipment, wheelchairs, and large bathroom facilities for the handicapped. This is something I am keenly observant of because when it is not available it eliminates a great portion of the population from enjoying the attractions.

Hours of Operation & Price:

Mon-Sat: 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.

Sunday: 12 pm - 5 p.m.

Admission: FREE

Birds at the Museum of Natural Sciences

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Carolina Parakeet-now extinct, used to live abundantly in NC swamps.Great Horned Owl-the largest owl in NCNorthern Saw-Whet Owl-the smallest owl in NCEastern Bluebird
Carolina Parakeet-now extinct, used to live abundantly in NC swamps.
Carolina Parakeet-now extinct, used to live abundantly in NC swamps. | Source
Great Horned Owl-the largest owl in NC
Great Horned Owl-the largest owl in NC | Source
Northern Saw-Whet Owl-the smallest owl in NC
Northern Saw-Whet Owl-the smallest owl in NC | Source
Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird | Source

Touring the Museum: Birds

We began our tour in an area that is devoted to natural inhabitants of North Carolina. The exhibits of birds, bats, and reptile were fascinating because each example was from somewhere native to our state.

It doesn't take much coaxing for me to look at displays of birds, but I was surprised to learn that the only native parrot to the United States once lived abundantly in the swamps of North Carolina. Sadly, the Carolina Parakeet is now extinct.

The largest owl in N.C. is the Great Horned Owl while the smallest is the Northern Saw-Whet Owl. A live display of the Great Horned Owl can be found at the Sylvan Heights Bird Sanctuary, in Scotland Neck, N.C.

One of my favorite birds is the Eastern Bluebird and I've been fortunate to spot one near my home only once. It was a beautiful flash of blue that caught my eye and the small size with orange crest helped me to distinguish it from a Bluejay.


Museum Facts:

This is the oldest museum in North Carolina.

Over half a million visitors tour here each year.

80% of the specimens come from N.C.; 20% from other states & countries.


Gigantic Teeth:

The jaws of a Great White Shark
The jaws of a Great White Shark | Source

Amazing First Floor Exhibits:

It's difficult to find the right words to describe my reaction when I observed two of the displays on the first floor: The jaws of a Great White Shark and the tooth of a Mastodon. Both were amazing to see up close. I feel fortunate to have opportunities like this to reflect on living creatures that once roamed the earth. We may not ever experience seeing them for ourselves, but with museums such as the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences we see evidence of their existence.

Prehistoric Tooth

Mastodon Tooth
Mastodon Tooth | Source

Treasures of North Carolina:

Click thumbnail to view full-size
(L) Gold nugget  (R) EmeraldScotch Bonnet seashellVenus Flytrap exhibitMale Red BatRecord breaking fish:  Red DrumSample of Carolina Pygmy Rattlesnake
(L) Gold nugget  (R) Emerald
(L) Gold nugget (R) Emerald | Source
Scotch Bonnet seashell
Scotch Bonnet seashell | Source
Venus Flytrap exhibit
Venus Flytrap exhibit | Source
Male Red Bat
Male Red Bat | Source
Record breaking fish:  Red Drum
Record breaking fish: Red Drum | Source
Sample of Carolina Pygmy Rattlesnake
Sample of Carolina Pygmy Rattlesnake | Source

North Carolina's Natural Treasures

The first floor of the museum is dedicated to those living and geological specimens which are native to North Carolina. Here are some of the facts that I learned from my visit:

1. North Carolina is the only place in the United States where emeralds are mined.

2. The official state seashell is the Scotch Bonnet.

3. Venus Flytraps live in the moist areas of Wilmington, NC.

4. The Red Bat is a common bat found in NC

5. The Red Drum is the NC state saltwater fish. In 1984 the world record was set with a fish caught at Avon Beach, NC weighing 94 # and 20 oz.

6. The state reptile is the Box Turtle.

7. One of the oldest trees in Eastern North America is the Bald Cypress Tree; over 1,000 years old.

8. The nation's first gold rush was NOT in California, but Cabarrus County, NC when gold was discovered in 1799.

9. The Carolina Pigmy Rattlesnake is the states smallest venomous snake.

Additionally, this floor also has an exhibit of the skeletons of five whales, including the 55 ton sperm whale, dubbed: Trouble, and a humpback whale. All of the information about these exquisite mammals can be found in a book and on various display boards.


Skeletons of sea creatures

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Blue MarlinWest Indian Manetee 'Trouble' the sperm whaleHumpback whale
Blue Marlin
Blue Marlin | Source
West Indian Manetee
West Indian Manetee | Source
'Trouble' the sperm whale
'Trouble' the sperm whale | Source
Humpback whale
Humpback whale | Source

Museum exhibits: Natural Habitat of Wildlife

On the second floor the exhibit: "Mountains to the Sea" has a wonderful example of the interactions between various wildlife species. In this simulated forest a deer stands to one side, while a fox is posed near a tree that holds a raccoon and woodpecker-all carefully crafted via taxidermy.

What is even more amazing is the 20 foot waterfall that flows continuously down from the upper level into a pool where fish and turtles swim. It is breathtaking and the 'picture perfect' idyllic setting of a pleasant walk through the woods.

This floor also holds a delightful exhibit of live snapping turtles and I had the opportunity to 'snap' the photo of one eager turtle with his mouth wide open.

The Discovery Room, a hands-on area for children, is also located on this floor, although we did not tour that room.

Pictures of Dinosaur Bones

Click thumbnail to view full-size
AcrocanthosaurusSculpture of a Tyrannosaurus RexA meal for the 'Terror of the South'
Source
Acrocanthosaurus
Acrocanthosaurus | Source
Sculpture of a Tyrannosaurus Rex
Sculpture of a Tyrannosaurus Rex | Source
Source
A meal for the 'Terror of the South'
A meal for the 'Terror of the South' | Source

Dinosaur Bones

No visit to a science museum is complete without seeing dinosaur bones and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences did not disappoint. The fierce, 'Terror of the South', the Acrocanthosaurus, is a theropod than means, "high spined lizard."

This is one of the largest predators that roamed the earth and weighs between 6-7 metric tons. It's length could reach 40 feet long. It was top of the food chain, in its time, and its diet was usually other reptiles, making this creature carnivorous.

Besides the usual display boards about the history of fossils in the area, there was a whole skeleton in a side room of the Acrocanthosaurus with winged pterosuars flying above. It is one of the best parts of the museum, in my opinion.

End of Tour

There was much more we could have seen, including the fourth floor exhibits which has a live tarantula and butterfly exhibit, but we ran out of time. Another visit is in the near future, because when we went in September, the Nature Resource Center, (NRC), had not yet opened. This is a wing of the museum where educational experiences include observing veterinarians working on live animals while onlookers watch from a windowed area.

The afternoon was a delightful experience, in general, and I would highly recommend this activity for anyone in the Raleigh, North Carolina area.

Please take this poll

Which type of museum do you prefer?

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  • History Museums
  • Museums of Natural Science
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  • I enjoy them all; no preference
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Raleigh, NC Museum of Natural Science

show route and directions
A marker11 West Jones St, Raleigh, NC -
11 W Jones St, Raleigh, NC 27601, USA
[get directions]

Museum of Natural Science

B marker121 W Jones St, Raleigh, NC -
121 W Jones St, Raleigh, NC 27603, USA
[get directions]

Natural Research Center (NRC)

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Comments 16 comments

aykianink profile image

aykianink 4 years ago

I'm a big animal person and I grew up loving dinosaurs. I'd be all over this one. Shocked that it's free. Will have to check it out at some point:-)


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

What a cool place! There is a big expedition in Seattle that I love to see from time to time. If I ever get to N.C. I'll make sure I visit this place. There are several "digs" in Wyoming and Utah that are fascinating to visit as well, and those I have seen.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

I really felt like taking this tour this morning Denise, thank you for opening the doors.. bless you :)


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi aykianink-I was also shocked that it was free. It's a fabulous 'freebie' for anyone looking for a days worth of activity. I wish we had more time to get to the fourth floor, however, the NRC had not opened yet, so I'm excited about having a return visit. Thanks for your comments. :)

Hi Bill-it was cool! I was so happy I insisted on spending the afternoon there instead of driving straight home. I think there are a few things in NC that you want to see now, so maybe a trip in the near future???

Hi Frank-glad you enjoyed the museum tour. It was a very interesting day. It had been years since I had been to a science museum. :)


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

I would love to visit NC. I enjoy museums. I was unaware of the emerald mining or gold being found there before CA. Thank's for the tour and history..


mpropp profile image

mpropp 4 years ago from Minnesota

This sounds like a very interesting museum to visit. And I had no idea that NC was the only place in the US where emeralds could be found...I don't know why, but that fact really caught my attention! Great photos, thorough review.


Lipnancy profile image

Lipnancy 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

I am fascinated by these place. They are so much fun for children and adults.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Ruby-I'd love for you to visit NC and see these cool places. I wasn't aware of the mining information before the museum tour. Thanks for your feedback.

Hi mpropp-I didn't know that about the emeralds either until the museum tour. Thanks for your comments.

Hi Nancy-a great place to take young kids. I really enjoyed it and hope to get back soon. :)


SandCastles 4 years ago

Good Hub Denise. I was blown away by the Great White Shark jaw.

I always visit my dinosaur museum; it's my favourite. I can't get over how big the t-rex is.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi SandCastles-Thanks for your comments. I know...that's exactly how I felt when I saw it. I felt just like an excited kid at Christmas! Dinosaur museums are so cool...


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Denise, I lived near here once and now I wish I would have taken time to visit. Great share. I love dinosaurs and learning about them. I imagine this is a great family place. Voted up.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Dianna, gosh, it's a shame that you didn't have an opportunity to visit this museum while you were in the area. It's a perfect 'family' activity. Thanks for your comments and vote. :)


Emanate Presence profile image

Emanate Presence 4 years ago from the Head to the Heart

Voted up and interesting! Neat hub.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks, Emanate Presence. I enjoyed touring it and can't wait to go back to visit the new wing. Thanks for the vote-glad you enjoyed it.


Janner53 profile image

Janner53 3 years ago from Devon, UK

Well Denise, I've come to your Hubpages for a second time as the first time was really just a glance over. That was over an hour ago and I'm still here. Great pages that stirred a few emotions, some I found sad, some I found inspiring, others interesting like this dinosaur one. You have a talent for this, keep them coming.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 3 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Janner, I'm glad you're enjoying my hubs. I love to walk through museums, so this visit took especially long. I had to stop and take notes and photos. Thanks so much for your comments.

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