The museum is very new – it opened only a little more than a year ago – but has already won accolades.
Its location is perfect for two reasons. The park is about halfway between Munich and Nuremberg and only 2km from the A9 exit. This makes it an easy way to break up a long trip (such as on the way back from Italy) but is still close enough for those living or holidaying in Munich or Nuremberg to visit.
In addition, the Altmühl valley, where the museum is located, is a veritable hotspot of Jurassic fossils. Few regions in the world have yielded so many well-preserved fossils from the Jurassic period.
Some of the most important fossils were found in the valley. These include fossils of the Archaeopteryx or ‘first bird’, the first fossil found with evidence of feathers. Palaeontologists have also found numerous marine reptiles and a pterodactyl, which is on display in the Naturkunde Museum in Berlin together with the archaeopteryx.
The museum houses other dinosaurs from the area. These include the oldest archaeopteryx and the largest killer turtle from the Jurassic period.
Yet is is two other fossils which steal the show.
The museum is where the real fossils of “Rocky” reside. Rocky is the only teenage Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found. Even as a teenager, he is still quite impressive. He is four metres high and ten metres long, but experts say he still had a lot of growing to do.
Rocky has his own area in the museum, where a short video also explains how they transported him to Germany.
The other highlight is “Dracula” the Quetzalcoatlus – the largest ever animal to fly. He is huge! Standing, he is as big as a giraffe and his wingspan was at least 12 metres. You can find an article with a link to a short video about it (in German) here.
After visiting the museum hall (which is the more traditional part of the museum) we took a walk in the forest to discover the other exhibits of the Dino Museum in Altmühltal.
A 1.5 km track winds through the trees, passing through various time periods as it does. It starts with the first amphibians to crawl up on land, moves on to the dinosaurs of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods to the meteor strike that lead to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Finally, the path looks at the Ice Age and mammoths and the Anthropocene era.
The nice thing about the trek is that the kids can get close up to some of their favourite dinosaurs. Miss M cuddled up to a brachiosaurus, patted a baby triceratops and sat on the back of a Maiasaurus.
All of the signage in the museum hall and along the forest track is in English and German. The museum is also located close to the Czech border and there were a number of Czech visitors when we were there. I would not be surprised if the museum soon changes the signs to include Czech.
Food and play
About halfway along the trail, there’s a “forest beer garden” and a large playground, with something for young and old. We only grabbed drinks, so I can’t comment on the food, but the prices looked fair.
Both playgrounds are dinosaur-themed. The see-saws, climbing apparatus, etc. have all been shaped or painted to resemble dinosaurs. Miss M loved climbing over the brachiosaurus and sliding down its tail.
We didn’t have enough time to see one, but the Museum also holds two hands-on ‘shows’ each day to explain various topics, with numerous artefacts.
The Dino Museum is unique in that it has dinosaur experts on staff, such as trained palaeontologists. These staff members assist with school visits and also with the shows. That way, you can ensure that the person running the show really knows what they are talking about. They are not just someone who is reading from a script.
The dig pits
One of the highlights for Miss M was the dig pits.
For just a couple extra euro, Miss M had a wonderful time looking for gemstones, small fossils and shark teeth that are millions of years old. And she got to take them home.
At other stations (that we didn’t have time to try) you can split stone slabs or geodes or dig for fossils.
Of all the museums and parks that we have visited so far (and we have seen a few), this Museum has the museum shop by far. If you live in the area and need a present for a little dinosaur aficionado, the shop is definitely worth checking out.
At EUR 19.50 for adults and EUR 9.50 for children (aged 4-14), park entry is a little expensive. It is comparable to many of the big zoos but is near twice the price of the dinosaur park in Zwolle.
The Dino Museum in Altmühltal: our verdict
In contrast to the Dutch Dinopark, this Dino Museum was still a museum, with a playground, and not a playground with dinosaurs.
The Dino Museum in Altmühltal is still very new – and it shows – but it has a fantastic foundation to build on.
All in all, we gave the Dino Museum in Altmühltal 5 thumbs up.