You don’t expect to travel around the Appalachian Mountains of Northeast Tennessee and have your children beg you to go see the shovel-tusked elephants, semi-aquatic pot-bellied rhinos, saber-toothed cats, giant alligators, and camel without humps. Kids are fascinated with the extinct animals that used to inhabit the area in which Jonesborough his now located, and the Natural History Museum at Gray Fossil Site is the place to go to experience these fossilized remains first hand. The Gray Fossil site has some great experiences for children with the “Dig Pit” full of fossil finds and the guided tour of the actual excavation site. You can also check out their Eco-School Survivor and Dig For A Day summer camps that are terrific youth programs. It may have taken four million years to get ready for your visit, but the “open” sign is now lit and they are waiting for you seven days a week at the Gray Fossil Site.
The Museum is open daily, Tuesday - Saturday from 9 am to 5:00 pm. Self-guided tours of the permanent exhibit area are open to the public on a donation basis. Guided tours are available for a charge, and they begin on the hour starting at 9:00 am with the last tour beginning at 4:00 pm.
The All-Access Pass tour includes the Miocene Exhibit, actual fossil dig site, upstairs art and activity area, lab and collections area, and the traveling temporary exhibit. For the kids, there are interactive computer exhibits, a dig pit full of fossil finds, and 3-D lab puzzles and games. Costs are $10 adults, $9 seniors, and $7 for children 5-12 years old. The Traveling Temporary Exhibits are available for visitation for approximately a four month period each, changing three times a year.
The Miocene tour is less expensive and includes the Miocene Exhibit, Fossil Site, and lab and collection area only. Costs are $5 for Adults, $4 for seniors, and $3 for kids 3-12 years of age.
Advance tickets purchase is not necessary.
From downtown Jonesborough, take Boone Street and travel past the Historic Jonesborough Visitor Center and Jonesborough Town Hall to traffic signal at US-11E. Travel straight through signaled intersection onto SR-354 and travel approximately 6 miles to I-26. Go up entrance ramp to the left onto I-26 going northwest toward Gray/Kingsport. Turn off at next exit, Exit 13-Gray, and take a left at end of exit ramp onto SR-75. Travel southeast on SR-75 for 1.8 miles to Gray Fossil Site on left. Return to Jonesborough by getting back on I-26 turning right or east towards Johnson City. Take next Exit 17, turning right on SR-354 which goes back into Jonesborough.