Aurora Fossil Museum, North Carolina
Your fossil hunt begins on the East Coast in the town of Aurora, N.C. Here, a nearby phosphate mining operation regularly unearths treasure troves of fossil-rich sediment from its draglines. Fortunately, instead of discarding this sediment, the mining company donates it to the Aurora Fossil Museum. Even more fortunate is the fact that the museum allows visitors to plunge their fossil-seeking hands into these piles (known as the Pit of the Pungo) to unearth whatever they can.
Being a coastal operation, the most typical fossils that you'll find here are giant shark and whale teeth from ancient species, along with corals and other long-forgotten sea life. The phosphate mine that donates to the museum is often considered one of the most important sources of Pliocene and Miocene fossils in the world, which means anything found here likely dates from between 1.8 and 24 million years ago [source: Aurora Fossil Museum].
The museum has a range of fossils on display and offers and underground look at fossils embedded in the Earth in its Mine Room. Even though you're allowed to keep what you find in the fossil piles, you can also purchase authentic shark teeth necklaces in the gift shop on your way out. Aurora also hosts an annual fossil festival with expert lectures, auctions and fossil fun for everyone.