A real life Jurassic Park…sort of

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Are you eagerly awaiting next week’s theatrical release of Jurassic World? In Kiddieland, we love larger than life dinosaurs too, and we’ve been visiting dinosaur parks long before it was the focus of this summer’s big blockbuster! The Jurassic Park films imagine an attraction with life sized living, breathing dinosaurs, but did you know you can visit such a place today!…except for well-OK so they don’t move or breath-But trust us, it is still a pretty incredible sight to behold!

You won’t believe your eyes when you step back 200 million years into Dinosaur Kingdom! Opened in 2003 in Cave City Kentucky off Route 65, this park harkens back to earlier roadside attractions like Dinosaur Land in VA. Classically designed billboards and giant highway adjacent dinosaurs call out to drivers encouraging them to stop. The park takes the best of the old roadside and updates it as a fun self-paced walk-through under lush and shady trees. (A welcome refuge in the KY summer heat!)

Although this attraction is less than 15 years old, The entrance feels like a movie set attempting to recreate the look and feel of a 1960s attraction and reminded me of something out of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure! Something is so perfect and clean about it, yet it is reminiscent of ballyhoo entertainment from a bygone era.  It looks like a place you might see in an old postcard at a vintage shop, but you can actually step inside.

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Once you enter, you’ll see dinosaurs doing all sorts of odd jobs. Some point visitors to the gift shop is, some double as playground equipment, and others take on the very dirty job of cleaning up the smoking section.
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Don’t be fooled by these silly characters though, once inside you will see breathtaking views of life-sized, realistically portrayed prehistoric creatures; many of them taller than the large trees that cover the property.

The concrete walkways on the self-guided “Dinosaur Walk” include benches, so I recommend taking it slow on your visit to this 20 acre park. There are over 150 dinosaurs, so take breaks and enjoy it, and be sure to take plenty of photos! Aside from other passing families, my time spent here was very serene and peaceful. I almost wish I’d brought a book or a picnic lunch (encouraged by the park since there are no food stands). Small children can take time to learn about each dinosaur on educational plaques near the display, while mom and dad can take pictures of these giant creatures along the way.

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Take a little time extra time to appreciate the exceptional attention to detail and lifelike features of some of these charismatic characters. Look at their faces long enough, and you could almost swear that they’re alive!

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Aside from the main walk, The park also features a Boneyard where visitors can uncover a 27 foot dinosaur under the sand. There’s a Skeleton Garden, and a Fossil Dig too. There is also a dedicated picnic area and of course, a Gift shop! We found all sorts of vintage trinkets hiding in corners of the shop.

There are plenty of other nearby attractions to make the trip worthwhile, but we’re sad to report that the longstanding Guntown Mountain and its famous “Haunted Hotel” which was once across thguntowncovere street has recently closed. The silver lining is that it looks like some folks are working on preserving and revitalizing the old park and it is soon to be re-opened as “Funtown Mountain” later this month. We’ll be watching this, as Guntown Mountain was closed for the day by the time we left Dinosaur World and I never got to go inside…roadside regrets.

The park is open daily (Except Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM and is absolutely worth the stop! Check it out the next time you’re travelling down Route 65, or visiting Mammoth Cave. You can’t miss it, just look for the giant Dinosaurs beckoning you from the side of the road.

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Dino-Mite! Dinosaur Land in White Post, VA

Sometimes you find to those parks and they just feel like stepping in to another time. Oh, you thought I meant prehistoric times, oh my, no! I meant 1960s roadside America. When mom, dad, and the kids would pile in the station wagon and stop at places like this on their way to their Aunt’s house. The kind of middle of nowhere attraction that predates cell phones and handheld video games.  When you needed to break up that long trip to Aunt Edna’s this was just the place! Best of all, you can still visit it today-this is Dinosaur Land!

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Dinosaur Land is the kind of place we might see in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, but if you are travelling through the Shenandoah Valley, you should swing on in for a retro good time.  The park opened in the 1960s and is still well maintained today, without losing any of it’s vintage charm. Guests can take a self guided walking tour through the wooded park and where you’ll encounter many dinosaurs-some scary, and some downright silly.  Aside from the expected Dinos, you’ll also find a giant Shark, a huge Octopus, a massive mantis,  larger than life snakes, and several other prehistoric beasts!

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And no trip to Dinosaur Land is complete without  climbing the stairs to King Kong’s hand and getting a photo in his palm! DinosaurLand3

 

Nineteen of the exhibits here were made by Mark Cline and some depict gory battles and death scenes of desperate-eyed dinosaurs caught in the teeth of a larger predator. Cline credits this park with inspiring to sculpt, and he later went on to open his own dinosaur park, Dinosaur Kingdom.

We visited on the 4th of July last year and although it was a hot balmy day in Virginia, we were cool and shaded under the trees. There were plenty of benches to rest along the walk and lots of shade to relax in. Take a slow walk back through time and check this place out. Of course there was a great gift shop with everything from sewing kits, to coin purses and leather goods. I bought anything that looked like it had been sitting here since 1960! Mod Betty took some great photos of the gift shop on her Retro Roadmap blog, which were an excellent scouting tool for seeking out those vintage goodies!

If you are looking to make a day of it, you can make the drive to Harper’s Ferry in about 40 minutes, where you can see the extraordinarily creepy John Brown Wax Museum! Hey kids, do you want to see a wax corpse hanging in a creaky old house built in the 1800s? Then this place is for you! The museum opened in 1963, and even the bravest among you will be looking over your shoulder the entire time you are there. Have fun road-trippers!