PHOTOS: The Best and Weirdest Roadside Dinosaurs

The concrete and plastic dinosaurs beside America’s highways can be strange and beautiful. Tell us which one you think is the best

colorado-triceratops.jpg
Brian Switek

Cowboy-Meets-Dino, Natural Bridge, Virginia

Cowboy-Meets-Dino
(Kathy Krein)
A regular favorite of Dinosaur Tracking readers is the truly strange Dinosaur Kingdom in Natural Bridge, Virginia. Suggested as a top choice for weird dinosaurs by reader Laura Wilson, this tourist trap features a peculiar southern mash-up of dinosaurs and the Civil War—Union Soldiers are chomped on and terrorized by Mesozoic monstrosities. This particular shot, sent in last year by Kathy Krein, features a rather surprised looking cowboy who looks as if he’s only just begun to realize that riding a deinonychosaur was a horrible decision.

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Triceratops Randy, Hanksville, Utah

Triceratops Randy
(Kelly Enright)
While this automotive Triceratops—we think?—from Hanksville, Utah does win some bonus points for recycling, our first thought when opening the image was “Oh geez! Kill it with fire!” This dinosaur is a junkyard nightmare, and surely a top contender for the worst roadside dinosaur ever.

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"Trixie" Triceratops Topiary, Valencia Street, San Francisco, California

Trixie Triceratops Topiary
(Reader, 'deep)
This is a Dinosaur Sighting first: One of the photos we shared on this blog inspired the creation of another public dinosaur.

While mulling over what kind of topiary he wanted in his parklet, reader ‘deep saw a photo of a snow Triceratops I posted two years ago. “Boom! Immediate win!!” he thought—the “serious cuteness” of Triceratops made the dinosaur the top pick for the garden sculpture. The process from clay model to finished dinosaur took about three weeks, and while Triceratops were not composed of lots of tiny plants, ‘deep is right that the sculpture is technically a “real, live dinosaur.” You can see the dinosaur—named “Trixie”—along Valencia Street in San Francisco, California.

For the whole story, including photos of the process, see ‘deep’s blog. Many thanks to ‘deep for this huge compliment to Dinosaur Tracking!

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Goony Golf, New York

Goony Golf
(Kelly Enright)
Reader Kelly Enright sent in a set of several dinosaurian abominations from around the country. This one, complete with glowing eyes, stands guard over Goony Golf in New York. / Photo by Kelly Enright.

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T-rex Teeing Off, Oshkosh, Wisconsin

T-rex Teeing Off
(Joe Peterson)

Dinosaurs and mini-golf: The two complement each other. Granted, dinosaurs probably wouldn’t have been very good at the pastime—imagine how hard it would be for Carnotaurusto use a putter—but they make for excellent fairway decor. And in some places, the dinosaurs remain even after the mini-golf course has closed. Paleontologist Joe Peterson sent in this example: a Tyrannosaurus standing over a closed course in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Maybe it’s just the position of the hands, but the tyrant seems to be begging. “MOAR TASTY TOURISTS, PLZ?”

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Long-snouted Triceratops, Dinosaur, Colorado

Long-snouted Triceratops
(Brian Switek)
Dinosaur, Colorado's bizarre, long-snouted Triceratops.

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Dinos Down, abandoned Spreepark, Berlin

Dinos Down
(Flickr user davidrush)
In an abandoned Berlin amusement park, dinosaurs are slowly suffering a second extinction. The creatures, attractions at what was once the German Democratic Republic’s Kulturpark Plänterwald, have toppled over, are decorated with graffiti and are slowly rotting away in a setting perfect for a Scooby-Doo episodeor another tedious found-footage horror film (your choice).

Kuriositas laid out the park’s backstory. When the static dinosaurs were put in place, Kulturpark Plänterwald was in Soviet-controlled East Berlin. The theme park was the only one on the communist side of the Berlin Wall. But when East and West Germany reunited in 1989, the park quickly collapsed. / Photo by Flickr user davidrush.

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Dilapidated Dino, Stewart's Petrified Wood near Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Dilapidated Dino
(David Williams)
One sad, roughshod theropod is poised to chomp down on a poor mannequin, and a model in a shock wig rides a dilapidated sauropod surrounded by icicle lights. One of many strange sights at Stewart's Petrified Wood near Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona / Photo by David Williams.

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Tyrannosaurus, Kentucky’s Dinosaur World

Tyrannosaurus
(Kelly Enright)

While not the absolute worst dinosaur I have ever seen, this Tyrannosaurus at the entrance to Kentucky’s Dinosaur World is one of the creepiest. So if the head is up there, and the legs are on either side, what part of the dinosaur am I walking into, exactly?/ Photo by Kelly Enright.

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Mosasaur-Out-of-Water, Kentucky

Mosasaur-Out-of-Water
(Kelly Enright)
While not actually a dinosaur, this boxy mosasaur outside Big Mike’s Rocks & Gifts in Kentucky deserves an honorable mention, especially since the poor thing is stranded hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean./ Photo by Kelly Enright.

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Decaying Dino, Interstate 15, Victorville, California

Decaying Dino
(Mark Ryan)

Reader Mark Ryan sent in this sad, decaying dinosaur that stands near Interstate 15 in the vicinity of Victorville, California. No wonder the dinosaur needs those metal rods to support itself—its legs look like they’re made of cooked noodles./ Photo by Mark Ryan.

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Dinah, the Pink Sauropod, Vernal, Utah

Dinah
(Brian Switek)

The stretch of Highway 40 that cuts through downtown Vernal, Utah is dotted with dinosaurs. Many of them take the form of Dinah, the town’s pink sauropod mascot. Of the many incarnations of the cartoon, one stands out as my favorite.

Right along the eastbound side of the road there is a version of Dinah in a polka dot bikini, and the platform she stands on exclaims “Let’s swim!” The sign makes me smile every time. Forgetting for a moment exactly why a dinosaur would need a swimsuit—and a bikini at that!—the sign was made during a time when the massive sauropod dinosaurs were thought to spend most of their time in the water. They didn’t so much swim as wallow in all those restorations, but having a “Brontosaurus” encourage tourists to go for a swim was fitting. We now know differently. Sauropods were not only dedicated land-lubbers, but as found by paleontologist Donald Henderson, complex air-filled pockets inside their bodies would have made them buoyant and unstable in the water. If Dinah went into the pool for a dip, she’d have an easier time just floating than swimming.

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Wrinklesaurus, Jurupa, California

Wrinkles, Jurupa, California
(Troy Britain)

This strange wrinklesaurus stands outside the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center in Jurupa, California. If you put the dinosaur through the wash, I’m sure those wrinkles will come right out.

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A Cheerful Diplodocus, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah

A Cheerful Diplodocus, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah
(Flickr user yahakum)
If you are on your way to Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, keep your eye out for dinosaurs by the side of the road. There are plenty of them, and one of the most prominent is a large Diplodocus that stands outside a gift shop just before the entrance to the park./ Photo by Flickr user yahakum.

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Star-Spangled Theropod, Beloit, Wisconsin

Star-Spangled Theropod, Beloit, Wisconsin
(David Rice)
This star-spangled theropod dinosaur perches in the vicinity of Beloit, Wisconsin. While the top half of the dinosaur is reminiscent of a tyrannosaur, the feet have weird lumps which look like the sickle claws of the “raptors;” maybe it is some kind of patriotic hybrid.

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Quebecois Theropod

Quebecois Theropod
(Ashley Rosenfeld)
While on her way to the Festival d’été de Québec in Canada, a reader happened upon a row of shoddy-looking dinosaur sculptures. With missing arms or with necks snapped backwards, many of these dinosaurs have seen better days—the theropod in this photo was one of the few that still looked halfway decent.

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Colorful Stegosaurus, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah

Colorful Stegosaurus, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah
(Brian Switek)
The parking lot of Dinosaur National Monument is guarded by a rather imposing figure, a strikingly-colored Stegosaurus. Just what color this dinosaur would be in real life is open to discussion, but I had never seen one with this color pattern before.

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Wire Spinosaurus, Granger, Washington

Wire Spinosaurus, Granger, Washington
(Marc Shecter)
1993 the town of Granger, Washington decided to build a number of steel, chickenwire, and cement dinosaurs to attract tourists. The first dinosaur (a “Brontosaurus”) was unveiled the following year, followed by Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, and a number of other famous dinosaurs.

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Crocosaurus, Jensen, Utah

Crocosaurus, Jensen, Utah
(Brian Switek)

While driving along Interstate 40 toward eastern Utah’s Dinosaur National Monument, you can’t miss the roadside dinosaurs. They’re all over the place. Many are concentrated in Vernal, about a 20-minute drive to the west of the national park, but a few stand near the highway in the small town of Jensen. One of my favorites is this fellow—an old, cracked dinosaur that could probably be called “Crocosaurus.” The thing looks more like an alligator doing a dinosaur impression than a real dinosaur, yet there is something unmistakably dinosaurian about it. I’ve been wondering about why this should be. Is it just the upright posture, or is there something else that clearly makes the model a dinosaur? As crude as it is, this restoration always makes me think about what—in the cultural realm, at least—makes a dinosaur.

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A Stegosaurus of a Different Color

A Stegosaurus of a Different Color
(courtesy David Schey)
There are plenty of roadside dinosaurs dotting the American West, and most of them come in muted shades of green and brown. There are a few exceptions to the rule, though, like this hot pink Stegosaurus spotted by reader David Schey at the Dinosaur Ridge visitors center in Morrison, Colorado. “Is this what paleontologists see after having one too many?” David wonders.

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Wall Drug T. rex, Wall, South Dakota

Wall Drug T. rex, Wall, South Dakota
(Laura Helmuth)
Wall Drug in South Dakota is the ultimate roadside attraction. It’s advertised on goofy billboards all along Interstate 90, features a camel-size jackalope, sells all kinds of trinkets, has a gold-panning operation for kids and is decorated in full high-country kitsch. If you make it past the animatronic cowboy singers and the ice cream parlor and the teepee and the Western wear shop, be sure to stop and admire the T. rex looming out of a patch of palm fronds. Every ten minutes or so, the T. rex comes to life: It shakes its head, snaps its jaws menacingly and roars (or, as commenter Belle put it best, RAWRs) as dry-ice steam spews from the display.

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Spinosaurus Scoop, Gilroy, California

Spinosaurus Scoop, Gilroy, California
(Larry Miller)
Spinosaurus may not be as popular as Tyrannosaurus, but sculptures and models of the sail-backed predatory dinosaur are fairly common along America’s roadsides. This one was spotted outside the Garlic Ice Cream Stand near Gilroy, California. It makes me wonder what sort of ice cream a Spinosaurus would have preferred. Would the crocodile-snouted dinosaur have liked a cone of rocky road, or would it have preferred something a little more attuned to its natural tastes, like a scoop based on its possible fishy prey Lepidotes? I guess we’ll never know.

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Blanding Brontosaurus, Blanding, Utah

Blanding Brontosaurus, Blanding, Utah
(Brian Switek)
Dinosaurs are a common sight along Utah’s roadways. Sinclair stations still display their iconic “Brontosaurus” on signs, and a rarer few have a little dinosaur sculpture out front. And one aged station in Blanding, Utah created its own version of the dinosaurian mascot.

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Tyrannosaurus Asks "Paper or Plastic?," Drumheller, Alberta, Canada

Paper or Plastic
(reader Cameron)
This Tyrannosaurus is popping out of an IGA grocery store wall in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada. The dinosaur may look mean, but I’m sure he’s just enthusiastic about helping shoppers take bags to their cars. Too bad he’s got such tiny arms…. / Photo by Cameron.

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Mrs. Hadrosaur, Nashville, Tennessee

Mrs Hadrosaur, Nashville, Tennessee
(Susan Adcoc)
In 2004, a traveling dinosaur exhibit came to visit Nashville, Tennessee’s Cheekwood botanical gardens, and during that time the garden hosted its annual Swan Ball. I don’t think any dinosaurs were invited, but as this photo shows, at least one dinosaur got dressed up in the hopes of attending the one-night-only event. I can only imagine how many tubes of lipstick that hadrosaur had to go through…

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Polka-Dot Triceratops, Jordan, Montana

Polka-Dot Triceratops,  Jordan, Montana
(Vladimír Socha)
This Triceratops looks as if a clown exploded all over it. This clearly bewildered dinosaur resides in Jordan, Montana—a sparsely populated place the dinosaur must have escaped to out of embarrassment.

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South of the Border Dinosaur, North Carolina-South Carolina State Line

South of the Border Dinosaur
(Brian Wolly)
Anyone who has driven I-95 over the North Carolina/South Carolina state line is familiar with the tourist trap South of the Border (the numerous billboards advertising it make it hard to miss), but unless you look carefully you might miss the dinosaur there. Wearing a sky-blue sombrero, the almost nauseatingly-colored dinosaur grins at patrons of the gas station, though it does not look very much like any of the dinosaurs discovered in Mexico.

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Spike and Company, Holbrook, Arizona

Spike and Company, Holbrook, Arizona
(Erik Washam)
These two stand outside of the Crystal Forest Museum Gift Shop in Holbrook, Arizona. They look a little worn down, but that adds a little something to their appeal.

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Tyrannosaurus Loves Wood Furniture, Ontario, Canada

Tyrannosaurus Loves Wood Furniture, Ontario, Canada
(Karin and Tegan)

This Tyrannosaurus was spotted along Hwy 11 in Ontario, Canada, looming over the wooden chairs at the Woodmill of Muskoka furniture store. Just why the store has the dinosaur on-guard outside isn’t clear, but it certainly seems to attract attention!

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I-65's Top Predator, Kentucky

I-65s Top Predator, Kentucky
(Callan Bentley)
Sometimes, while driving down the highway, I imagine what it would be like if dinosaurs came back to life. Would drivers have to watch out for Hadrosaurus and Dryptosaurus in addition to deer, raccoons, and opossums? Of course we will never know (and that’s probably a good thing), but a sculpture towering over the trees along I-65 in Kentucky might make drivers look twice in their rear view mirrors. Not far from Mammoth Cave National Park, an enormous fiberglass Tyrannosaurus stares over the trees at interstate travelers, announcing the presence of the local attraction Dinosaur World. It is one of three similar parks established in Kentucky, Texas, and Florida.

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Mr. Rex, Cabazon, California

Mr. Rex, Cabazon, California
(courtesy of Flickr user lumierefl)

This 100-ton T.Rex was created in 1981 by sculptor Claude K. Bell to draw visitors to his Wheel Inn Cafe. At one time, a slide was built into the Tyrannosaurs' tail, but it was later filled in with concrete. Mr. Rex, sits beside a similarly sized Apatosaurus, named Dinny. The two stand guard over Interstate 10, near the Cabazon exit. / Photo courtesy of Flickr user lumierefl.

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Minne the Lake Monster, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minne the Lake Monster, Minneapolis, Minnesota
(Mark Ryan)
Named Minne, the prehistoric creature in this photo has popped up in several lakes over the past few years, although it is difficult to say exactly what Minne is. Minne’s official website simply says that she is a “lake creature”, and the fact that she is entirely aquatic means that she can’t be one of the land-dwelling sauropod dinosaurs. Some kind of long-necked plesiosaur would be a better bet, though I would want a look at the rest of Minne before saying for sure. This one was spotted in Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis.

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A Superior Dinosaur, Duluth, Minnesota

A Superior Dinosaur, Duluth, Minnesota
(Mark Ryan)
Of all the places I would expect to find a dinosaur sculpture, the north shore of Lake Superior just outside of Duluth, Minnesota would be one of the last on the list. There are definitely dinosaurs there, however. Among the group of stylized metal skeletons is a Stegosaurus, Allosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus (pictured here).

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