T-Rex at Tanger: Fossil museum expands at new location


Andy McLean

Inside the Appalachian Fossil Museum. The attraction recently moved from Mystery Hill to the Tanger Outlets in Blowing Rock, taking advantage of the larger space to showcase more exhibits.

Ansley Puckett, Reporter

Amid Blowing Rock’s Tanger Outlets, customers will notice a change of pace from the usual dining options and clothing stores. In the recently-opened attraction, patrons can find a real tyrannosaurus rex skull, a rare agatized seabird egg turned gemstone and a North Carolina emerald collection. 

These exhibits are just a few among the many at the Appalachian Fossil Museum, which opened at its space in January. The museum is the largest private collection of fossils, gemstones and minerals in North Carolina and seeks to promote basic geology. 

Previously located at Mystery Hill, the museum grew too large for the location, and after its lease ended, owner Randy McCoy, or “Doc” as he’s been coined, decided to move his private collection to a larger space. 

“That was a nightmare because we decided to (move) about September 12th and we had to be out by October 1st,” McCoy said. “It is a lot to move, so we have a wonderful staff.”

The new location and larger space allows the employees to give customers a better experience when they visit the attraction, said Abigail Turner, an employee at the fossil museum and Doc’s Rocks. 

“It’s really nice to be able to have more people in this location,” Turner said.  “We really feel like with the larger room we have, we’re able to interact with customers a little bit better, keep an eye on everyone and really be able to give everybody that family feel.”  

The Appalachian Fossil Museum, which moved with its gem mining counterpart, Doc’s Rocks, boasts a large collection of dinosaur fossils, uranium and attractions that McCoy has been collecting since he was 6 years old. 

“Some of this stuff is dangerous to show, like uranium,” McCoy said. “I had to go through all kinds of certifications just to get that and make sure I was going to show it where it’s safe to the public.” 

The uranium is locked in a case so that visitors can view the chemical element while keeping themselves safe. 

McCoy said private collections like the Appalachian Fossil Museum don’t have the same limitations as large museums, which works to their benefit. 

“We try to show what you don’t see in normal museums,” McCoy said. “Being a private collection museum allows us to show you stuff that normally big museums can’t show you.”

Although the museum is new to the shopping center, McCoy opened his private fossil collection museum in 2007. 

Jasmin McFayden, a visitor at the attraction, said she hadn’t visited the fossil museum until it moved, noting that it was much closer to where she lived. 

“They got a lot for everybody here,” McFayden said. “It’s approved by my 3-year-old, which is a ringing endorsement.”

The museum’s grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on April 9 at 11 a.m. Until then, as the staff prepares the collections, the museum will operate with limited hours of Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.