Trip to Cabazon Dinosaurs

Written By: Megan McClain

Sometimes it might seem that it's hard to come up with things to entertain the kids when we reach this point of the summer.

One recent morning I told my kids to put on sneakers and grab water bottles, because we were going on an adventure.



We started into unfamiliar territory as we headed through Beaumont and beyond, the cities dwindling away and the San Bernardino Forest giving way to desert rocks and a dramatic shot of the Morongo Casino in the distance. But that wasn't our destination.

Just east of the casino, past the bowling lanes and gas station with pretty rad prices, they suddenly saw a ferocious tyrannical lizard with itty-bitty arms and a prehistoric jelly belly rising up past a Burger King and a forest of wind turbines in the background.

Did you know Cabazon was also a "Jurassic Park" of sorts?



The Cabazon Dinosaurs were first created to attract hungry drivers to the Wheel Inn Restaurant, owned by Claude Bell, an artist for Knott’s Berry Farm who created the dinosaurs "Mr. Rex the Tyrannosaurus Rex" and "Dinny the Apatosaurus" (and the random turtle thing) before his death in 1988.

The Cabazon Dinosaurs have a fresh coat a paint (a surprise to us when we arrived, just before it was announced). They look really good, with Mr. Rex’s smile as shiny white as it was for "Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure." The shiny red interior of Mr. Rex did deter my two little ones from entering to get a view from his mouth.



Dinny is a gift shop area with patio tables underneath, good for a snack and stretching legs on a road trip. (Note - Dinny is not fully accessible for all visitors.)




A visit to inside Mr. Rex and the dinosaur garden requires a ticket to the back area. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for kids 3 and older and $7 for seniors.




We spent an hour digging for rocks with dinosaur names on them before washing our hands in the panning activity across the way. You get to keep what you “mine,” and my son found a rock with fossilized snail shells in it. There is a sign nearby with examples of rocks and fossils, but we found a lot of tumbled stones (a.k.a. dinosaur eggs to my boys) and some glittery gravel.



If you find a rock with a name on it in the sand pit, go back to the ticketed entrance’s gift shop for a cute little prize. There’s also a dinosaur ride inside the gift shop area.



Whether or not you go inside the attraction, the kitsch appeal of giant dinosaurs on the side of the freeway is sure to entertain on a trip to Palm Springs or the beginning of a road trip with the family.

The Cabazon Dinosaurs are located at 50770 Seminole Drive, Cabazon, Calif., 92230. Exit the 10 freeway at Main Street. Summer hours for the Dinosaurs is 9 a.m.–8 p.m. daily. Contact (951) 922-8700 or for winter hour schedule or other information.

Note from the writer: After Bell’s death, the site was sold to a group that has since influenced some of the site’s décor, including lions with the dinosaurs in the garden. Regardless of your personal beliefs, use your own judgement while visiting.