On my way to Plant City, on the north side of I-4 a dinosaur was watching traffic blast past. I took that exit since I took this as a monumental hint that there’s much more to see inside Dinosaur World.
Let me put your fears to rest: If your parents took you to a cut-rate “dinosaur park” when you were a kid, Dinosaur World is not that park. I give credit to Swedish businessman Christer Svensson and his staff for creating an excellent attraction for today’s travelers.
From the entrance to the far reaches of the park, even with a few touches of kitsch, everything was beyond expectation; clean, entertaining, and educational. Not only that, while you’d think the park would appeal only to the dinosaur-loving six-and-under set, in my two-hour visit I learned more about dinosaurs than I ever knew before (and I’m older than six). Parents and their kids seemed to be having a good time.
For me, a few of the highlights were:
• Just inside the park, a mini-museum is very well presented and displayed. From fossilized dinosaur eggs, raptor claws, and mastodon teeth to the 65-million year old foot of an allosaurus, the museum provided an instant education in the timeline of the dinosaurs, with signs answering basic questions about what they were, what they ate, how they moved, and what prompted their extinction.
• Several neat picnic areas for families and all visitors, as well as a creatively-designed playground and shaded areas where kids can dig for ‘fossils’.
• A wide variety of dinosaurs (including ones I actually knew). Placards explaining where they came from and when they lived were an eye-opener. Not only that, the cypress-rich setting gives Dinosaur World a prehistoric look that’s great for photographs.
• The easy-to-follow walkway that eventually leads you past each exhibit.
As I was wrapping up my visit, what I didn’t expect – and what impressed me greatly – was a towering structure about 25 feet tall. What was it? The leg of a Ultrasuarus. I mean, a 25-foot-tall leg!
Another plus was that, having an instinct to proofread everything from menus to toaster oven warranties, on every short and well-written dino-description I was aching to find one typo – just one. But there wasn’t a misspelling to be found. Not only that, each description contains a phonetic hint for pronouncing the dinosaur’s name (that was fun!) and was easy to read and understand.
Even after a slow and educational walk through the park; even after Dinosaur World surpassed my expectations, they did it again. In the gift shop was a range of items from dino-related gifts for pre-schoolers to actual fossils that are hundreds of millions of years old. While I bet you’ve seen folks wearing shark-tooth necklaces, I think you’ll have ‘em beat.
For $29.95 you can own a 145-million-year-old dinosaur tooth!
If You Go...
Hours: 9-6 daily
Prices: $14.95 adults, $11.95 60 and over, $12.95 ages 3-12, friendly dogs on leashes free
Contact: (813) 717-9865