Somewhere in the past few years, a farmer in the city my in-laws retired to, St. George, Utah, found a motherlode of super-detailed dinosaur tracks and fossils, and they built an entire museum around them. Just like that.
So we added the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm to the kid's itinerary [which is a roundabout way of saying we sent her off to see the dinosaurs with my wife's stepmother.] I'm sure it was great; the website makes it sound very important.
But what blew the kid away was some random little gift shop tchotchke: a dinosaur skeleton excavaction kit from a scientific tchotchke dealer called GeoCentral. It's basically a resin dinosaur skeleton buried in a block of mud-colored plaster; you have to dig out the pieces using the little wooden chisel and brush. Then you glue the thing together. She. was. thrilled. Dinosaurs, a project, a toy, and sanctioned mess-making, all in one. The fact that she broke a couple of bones while getting them out didn't matter at all; it made it more realistic.
GeoCentral seems to be a wholesale-only joint, and though it doesn't mention it, the price of the GeoCentral dinosaur excavation kits on Amazon make me think you get an entire case. The kid's single kit was $4.
There's at least one other excavation kit maker, though; the Dig It Up! mini excavation kit is actually much bigger than the GeoCentral and seems more scientifically accurate. But it's also rated for kids 8-12, while the GeoCentral says 5yo. You'd have to gauge how much digging your kid could handle before he tosses the brick in the trash.
Check out many GeoCentral excavation kits you get at Amazon for $63 [amazon]
Or buy the Dig it Up Mini Excavation Kit - Triceratops for $13, or 3 for $30 [mindwareonline.com]
St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm [sgcity.org]