Originally published on Stroller Full of Fun:
There hasn’t been one trip driving east or west on Florida’s Interstate 4 that we haven’t waved at the dinosaurs in Plant City, wondering what it’s like. So this summer, we finally went to Dinosaur World for some prehistoric fun.
Wearing a t-shirt he chose himself, my five-year old son was ready to see dinosaurs! I spent the entire hour-long drive explaining that dinosaurs “were” real – but that they no longer exist. We were excited!
The massive gift shop is 7,000 square feet. There are dinosaur dolls, books, puzzles, puppets, play sets, ponchos, and even party favors. After getting our admission tickets and armbands, we set out on an expedition.
Unfortunately, natives of the Sunshine State know all too well that summer weather can be predictably, unpredictable. We entered the park under dreary skies. Unlike these dinosaurs, radar isn’t extinct – so I should have looked at it. Our first outdoor activity was free with admission – and under cover.
Welcome to the Fossil Dig, a 15-minute guided activity that allows kids to dig to fossils – and parents to squish around giant sand tables trying to capture the perfect photo. Little explorers get to take home three fossils – mostly sharks teeth, and other relics. This activity is only open at specific times, which are indicated on a colorful map you’re given upon entering the park.
Sorry honey, when you’re time is up — you’ve got to go! Employees literally told us that we had to leave the covered area during a lightning storm. “I’m sorry, we have to go back to the Gift Shop,” a teenage girl said.
Two things were going through my head: the first, that I had several umbrellas… in the car; and second, at least she was nice about it.
So… we ran to the next available shelter (a very small shelter), Dino Gem Excavation. That’s where you can buy a bag or bucket of dirt (in search of gems), or pay to crack open your own Geode (a rock lined with crystals or other mineral matter.) The friendly employee who helped us pick out our $6 rock did an excellent job! He suggested that we choose one that felt hollow versus heavy. Here’s how it works: visitors get to crank the machine themselves, which applies pressure, and breaks the rock in half. Sizes and prices vary.
Shortly after retrieving our umbrella from the car in the pouring rain, we entered what can only be described as Jurassic Park. Boardwalks winding through the woods – with dinosaurs around each turn. This part was so much more than I imagined. Those giant roadside dinosaurs on I-4 are protecting a secret land within centuries-old oak trees.
It sounds corny, but our time within the park was magical. We learned, he laughed, and I cried (after discovering my nearly brand new “Ice Cream” flats from Nordstrom Rack came unglued) Ugh, ruined!
The self-guided tour at Dinosaur Land is entertaining. Signs offer pronunciations and locations where the species of dinosaurs and other creatures were last known to be living. However, several of the life-sized scenes may be too mature for little audiences (see photo above). Poor Dicynodon (die-SIN-oh-don).
We also took a tour with a Paleontologist through a cave, a dig site, and a work station at the Exploration Cave Show.
There are plenty of vibrant photo opportunities throughout Dinosaur World. Among my son’s favorites were two parrot-looking creatures. I also took home a valuable life lesson. Never lose sight of what’s important… maps. I couldn’t read the map to save my life – and we circled some of those dinosaurs three times. It’s an easy place to get lost – but fun, nonetheless.
Our last stop was the Prehistoric Museum. It’s indoors and dry, I said; it will be great, I said. Beware. If your child suffers from “Scared-of-the-Dark-and-Loud-Noises-itis,” TURN AROUND!
This dark building is interesting because of the fossils on display – but after turning the corner to see Animatronic dinosaurs – there was a very, very loud roar. My five-year old ran right out of his Crocs! We were also alone in the museum, which amplified his sensitivity x 10.
Despite our weather woes, we had a great time at Dinosaur World – and we’ll be back! They have a fantastic playground, and I think it’s a great birthday party location for your little ones.
Two other locations are located in Cave City, Kentucky; and Glen Rose, Texas.