National Fossil Day!: San Diego’s Most Unique/Popular Spots for Discovering Our Past


Mammoths, Dinos, and Shells – Oh My! 



Happy National Fossil Day!  Oh, wait, did we miss it?!  Oh, the shame!

It’s OK. Not a lot of people had this on their radar, (October 12th, 2016) and I don’t blame them.  Outside of an archaeologist, who really gets excited over fossils?  By the way, don’t feel bad if you missed the actual day of celebration.  It’s changed several times over the years. The only main reason I remember it is because last year my son was born on the actual day it was celebrated, and well, I’m a geek.  Like, a big one, and you should be too! 

San Diego is one of the most abundant areas for fossil finds!  Did you know Chula Vista once had camels and rhinos roaming around the area?  Yes, camels and rhinos!  But don’t take the history lesson from me.  

Although dated, the Los Angeles Times wrote a very interesting article breaking down certain areas of San Diego County and the unique discoveries of past species that once dwelled here.  And, considering this article was written in the 1980’s, you can imagine the many other discoveries that have been recorded since.  (Can we say, “Horton Plaza Pleistocene Epoch Mammoth’s Mandible” five times fast?)

But, seriously, don’t take too much time searching for recent (or past) articles on the interwebs about San Diego’s overflowing supply in evidence of our past.  Go right to the source – San Diego’s Natural History Museum (theNAT)!  Of course, we won’t be able to see the countless pieces that are archived, but we can definitely scratch the surface of their treasure trove that’s on display!

TheNAT has an ongoing interactive display, Fossil Mysteries, with TONS of information and fossil pieces that date as far back as the Ice Ages, and coming February 2017, they’ll have Ultimate Dinosaurs.  A new exhibition that takes you deeper into the world of dinosaurs by introducing 16 NEW species that have been discovered and are displayed in real-life forms for the guests to get a good idea of how big and bad these guys were!   (BTW, the inner geek in me just squeaked with joy a few times!) 

General admission is $19 for adults, $17 for seniors, $12 youth and free for children 2 years and under.  I know for a family, say, of four, that tab can look a little steep. BUT, rest assured that aside from the numerous exhibits that are on display for you at theNAT, if you time your family outing on a Tuesday, you’ll be getting more “bang for your buck” as several surrounding museums rotate on being FREE to the public. Yes, free!  For more information on that, you can refer to Balboa Park’s website to see which museums are open that day and also score some coupons for theNAT!  (Psst – don’t forget, through the month of October, children 11 years and under get in to the San Diego Zoo for free too, FREE!)

My husband and I enjoying all the unique features of the park.

Outside of museums, if you’re more of a hands-on type of explorer, Anza Borrego is just a quick 2-hour jaunt east into the desert.  With plenty of places to camp overnight, or just day-visit, Anza state park offers MANY opportunities to find your own fossils!  Even if you don’t find a fossil on your visit, the hikes alone are worth the trip!

If you’re feeling a little extra itchy to get out and make it a full day trip, you can take the long way back from Anza Borrego to visit the Cabazon Dinosaurs for some fun photo opts.  They have a few huge, and recognizable, dinosaur sculptures along with a a tiny museum on the same property.  If you can get past the quirks for the museum itself, $10 gets you inside to see more dino-displays along with an interactive “fossil dig” that gets you a cool prize at the end of your visit.  

It’s definitely a trek, but did I mention fun photo ops?!


If you haven’t yet, I challenge you to take advantage of this nice fall weather while you can, and get up and go make some of your own family discoveries!

What hot spots do you love to take your family to for exploring and fun?


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