HELENA, Mont. – Dinosaurs may be Montana’s oldest tourist attraction, but they’re more popular than ever. Families across the country are building their vacations around dinosaur-themed attractions, and museums in communities across the state are welcoming them in record numbers.
The Montana Dinosaur Trail reported hosting a combined total of 333,151 visitors in 2016, an increase of 15 percent compared to 2015. More than one third of the visitors were from out of state.
"People have been fascinated with dinosaurs for generations,” said Trail Coordinator Victor Bjornberg. “Montana is fortunate to be one of few places where important dinosaur discoveries have been and are being made. The Montana Dinosaur Trail offers visitors a unique look and, in some cases, hands-on experiences in the world of dinosaurs and the science of paleontology. That's special. You can't find that opportunity in many other places of the world."
Montana dinosaurs are popular internationally too — especially in Japan, where the Montana Department of Commerce highlights dinosaur-themed attractions through its marketing. The Museum of the Rockies is a sister museum to Mifune Dinosaur Museum in Kumamoto, Japan.
The Montana Dinosaur Trail includes 14 dinosaur museums across the state, mostly located in northern and eastern Montana. The trail offers a “Prehistoric Passport” for visitors to stamp at each location, and prizes for those who visit all 14 stops.
The Montana Department of Commerce supports the trail through development and distribution of its brochure and map. Additionally, individual facilities have received financial assistance through Commerce’s Tourism Grant Program. Most recently, the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum in Malta received a $4,919 grant for construction of a new exhibit and preparation area.
In March, the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka won a Montana Tourism Award for its annual Dino Shindig event, in which paleontologists from around North America visit Ekalaka for lectures and public field dig experiences.
The Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development at the Montana Department of Commerce markets Montana’s spectacular unspoiled nature, vibrant and charming small towns, breathtaking experiences, relaxing hospitality, and competitive business climate to promote the state as a place to visit and do business.