Located in the small town of Ossineke on Michigan’s Lake Huron shoreline you can step way back in time. A time when dinosaurs roamed the forests, early man hunted mammoths, and tourists played mini golf while enjoying frozen yogurt….. Whoa, hold on! Let’s back up a bit. Dinosaur Gardens isn’t a new museum, nor will you find any archaeologists here, but it is a significant piece of roadside history. It’s also a lot of fun that you wouldn’t expect to find in rural Michigan. This amazing attraction will please kids of all ages, as well as fans of old highway Americana.
Dating back to the 1930s, Dinosaur Gardens began as the vision of Paul Domke. Mr. Domke initially built a gas station and rental cabins on the land. A few years later, he used his experience in art and love of nature to begin constructing dinosaurs out of a special cement mixture. Using research available at the time, he set out to create realistic dinosaurs out in the forest. The area is full of large ferns and hemlocks, which feels much different to the typical maple and pine woodlands of which many visitors are familiar.
Paul Domke worked on creating over two dozen dinosaurs from 1935 to 1967. All but one of the dinosaurs in the park were created by him. The current owners, who purchased the property in 2013, have been dedicated to preserving his work and adding new features to appeal to tourists. Today, visitors can enjoy walking along a half mile path lined with lush vegetation and dinosaurs. While some may look a bit odd to us, the statues are very detailed for their day and easily stand the test of time. Guests can also enjoy a mini golf course, mining sluice, and there is a frozen yogurt bar in the gift shop. Whether you’re a lover of old roadside Americana, like myself, or just looking for a bit of fun for the kids, Dinosaur Gardens is truly a unique attraction.
UPDATES: A new parking lot has been added in 2018 to better accommodate visitors. Construction is also underway on a new retail shop and, my favorite news, tree houses are being built in the back area of the dinosaur walk. Expected to open sometime in 2019, the 12 tree houses will each have a dinosaur theme, sleep 4 in loft bunks, and feature a screened porch. Bathroom and shower facilities, as well as a pool, are being installed as part of the project.
What to See and Do at Dinosaur Gardens
Dinosaur Walk – Half mile stroll through the woods with dinosaur statues placed at intervals. Each display has a sign with accurate information about the dinosaurs and other animals. The dirt path was well maintained and easy to walk. Be aware it will be muddy after rain. The walk is dog friendly. Allows 45-60 minutes to tour.
Miner’s Sluice – The sluice is a channel of water where guests can sift a gravel mix to find minerals, etc. We bought he most expensive bag for our daughter and she found a huge piece of amethyst, several fossils, a few arrowheads, and pother minerals. Easily worth the $20. There is also a fossil dig in a sand box in case you don’t want the kids to get wet.
Putt-Putt Golf – The course is somewhat basic, but fun. Each hole is shaped with a dinosaur theme, but lacks any of the usual fun structures you find at most mini golf courses. The setting is right next to the stream and wooded, which adds to the experience. A decent value.
Gift Shop – The retail building has a good selection of dinosaur themed items including, stuffed animals, books, toys, etc. There is also a frozen yogurt bar and other snacks and drinks may be available. A bathroom is located in the back of the shop, plus there is another bathroom building just outside.
Dinosaur Gardens Prices
Dinosaur Walk: Kids 0-2 are free. Ages 3-15 $8, ages 16-59 $10, 60+ and veterans $9. Guided tours may also be available.
Putt-Putt Golf: Kids 0-2 free. Ages 3-15 $4, ages 16-59 $6, 60+ and veterans $5.
Miner’s Sluice: Bags of sand/gravel which may contain minerals, gems, fossils, and arrow heads range from $7 to $20. The price chart gives a break down of what will be in the bag of mix. Each mix bag also comes with a detailed identification card and a plastic bag to carry home your treasures.
Dinosaur Gardens Discounts: I did not run across any Dinosaur Gardens coupons, but some discounts are available. Seniors and veterans get a $1 discount on most activities. Visitors can save a few dollars on package deals. For example, buy a dinosaur walk and putt-putt golf combo and save $2. Sign up for their newsletter and specials may come up.
Dinosaur Gardens Hours and Dates
Dinosaur Gardens is open seasonally. Memorial Day through Labor Day the park is open seven days/week. Hours vary depending on summer traffic, typically opening between 9:00am and 10:00am and closing between 4:00pm and 6:00pm.
Directions to Dinosaur Gardens
Dinosaur Gardens is located right off highway US23 in Ossineke, Michigan. Roughly 10 miles south of Alpena and 50 miles north of Tawas. There are now two parking lots; the one directly in front of the building is a bit small so use the one to the south.
Dinosaur Gardens Address
Ossineke, MI 49766
Full tour of the Dinosaur Gardens