Friday, July 20, 2018

DINOSAUR ROAD TRIP


Dinosaurs are always a surefire way to capture my son's attention and get him excited.  So when we decided to go on a dinosaur themed father - son road trip, to say he was enthusiastic about our adventure was an understatement. So we headed off on a weekend getaway to Pittsburgh for our dinosaur expedition.



CARNEGIE SCIENCE CENTER

First stop was the Carnegie Science Center in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  This four floor museum is full of interactive exhibits meant to ignite people's imagination and interest regarding science.  We went though to see a Tyrannosaurus rex made out of LEGO bricks.

On temporary exhibit at the science center from June 16, 2018 through January 7, 2019 is "The Art of the Brick." Described as the world's largest exhibition of LEGO art, the sculptures by artist Nathan Sawaya on display are made exclusively from one of the most recognizable toys in the world: the LEGO brick. In addition to an amazing T-Rex dinosaur, "The Art of the Brick" also includes re-imagined versions of  some of the world’s most famous art masterpieces, including Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, as well as other original artwork crafted by Sawaya. Anyone who has ever unleashed their imagination playing with LEGO toys will find themselves spellbound looking around this art collection.



Later during our weekend in Pittsburgh we returned to see JURASSIC WORLD 2: FALLEN KINGDOM on a giant movie screen.  The Rangos Giant Cinema is 70 feet wide by 38 feet tall so the dinosaurs on the screen definitely looked big.  Plus they popped out at us in crisp 3D thanks to the theaters 4K Christie Laser Projectors.  And with more than 45 speakers providing surround sound it really is an immersive movie watching experience.



Though our hotel, CAMBRiA Hotel Pittsburgh, was located across town from the science center it was really easy and convenient to get between the two thanks to the city's nice mass transit system. A subway station was just a 10 minute walk from our hotel and the train ride dropped us off literally at the front door of Carnegie Science Center. Plus riding the subway is always FREE with no fares to pay when traveling between its downtown stations! The cars and stations felt safe, were very clean, it was easy to get to where we needed to be, and you can't beat riding for free.


CHILDREN'S MUSEUM OF PITTSBURGH

We dropped by the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh as we continued our search for dinosaurs.  This museum aspires to inspire joy, creativity and curiosity through educational and entertaining activities and exhibits.  My son had a fun time making a miniature dinosaur habitat in the museum's MAKESHOP arts and crafts area.  He took a lot of pride in his completed project!



CARNEGIE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

If you are looking to see dinosaur fossils, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History is one of the top places to go within the United States.  It has the world's largest collection of dinosaur fossils from the Jurassic period of the Mesozoic Era of our planet's history. The museum also has the third largest display of mounted dinosaur skeletons within the country behind Washington DC's Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and New York City's American Museum of Natural History.

Several of the dinosaurs you will see on display at this museum—including the iconic Apatosaurus louisae, Diplodocus carnegii, and Tyrannosaurus rex —are holotypes, which means they are original skeletons that were the first to be discovered and put together to define a species.  This really is an impressive and prestigious display that anyone who has an enthusiasm for learning about dinosaurs should absolutely make an effort to visit sometime.


So we found our dinosaurs! My son was so excited as he wandered through the exhibit galleries taking everything in. I could tell he wanted to reach out and touch them but of course that is off limits. After all these fossils are millions of years old. A docent though unlocked a cabinet for us and pulled out an authentic fossil of a dinosaur bone that we could hold and touch. Wow! What a wonderful experience!


In addition to its dinosaur displays, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History continues to study fossils for insight into the creatures and habitats from prehistoric times. A portion of their labs are windowed so visitors can watch them at work. We spent some time watching a paleontologist examining a fossil under a microscope.  It was neat that what he was seeing under the microscope was also projected onto a television screen so we could see as well.


Before leaving the museum, we popped into the gift shop to look at their souvenirs.  Standing guard over the store was a T-Rex.  One last dinosaur to see on the way out.

PITTSBURGH ZOO

Our dinosaur expedition wrapped up with a visit to the Pittsburgh Zoo to see a special summer exhibition.  We took a dinosaur trek walking along a path that had a number of life-like animatronic versions of these prehistoric creatures along it.  These robotic dinosaurs move and bellow to provide the impression you've walked back in time to the Jurassic period. My son ran up and down the trail excited to see what we would come up next along the path.


Hey! We just saw this guy's skeleton at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History! Actually they had quite a few fossil skeletons of many of these same dinosaurs on display.  It was really interesting to view those fossils then turn around and see these reproductions of what they would have looked like while alive.


Adding some STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) to Dinosaurs at the Zoo, there is a Deinonychus whose interior mechanics have been exposed with a control box so that people can direct the robot's motions. We may have spent more time enjoying this interactive display than we did walking through the rest of the exhibit … and we spent a lot of time walking with the dinosaurs! You have to admit combining robots with dinosaurs is an AWESOME duet.


When thinking of dinosaurs, Pittsburgh may not be the first place that comes to mind but I have to say it was the perfect destination for our themed road trip. My son and I had an incredible time!  With so many family-friendly places to go and things to do no wonder they are calling the place Kidsburgh. This city has earned A Geek Daddy nod of approval as being a great place to vacation with kids. Whether just for a weekend getaway or spending an entire week there, I guarantee you will have an enjoyable stay with lots of fun stuff to do.


For more information about planning your own trip to Pittsburgh, head over to visitpittsburgh.com, the website for the official tourism promotion agency of Alleghany County. Thanks Visit Pittsburgh for sponsoring our visit. While this was a hosted trip please note that the views and opinions expressed are honest and my own.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

IMPRESSION 5 AMAZING DINOSAURS EXHIBIT

Amazing Dinoaurs
We went on a road trip to Michigan's capital city over the weekend to explore a special traveling exhibit called "Amazing Dinosaurs!" that is making a stop at the IMPRESSION 5 SCIENCE CENTER.  On display at the science center through January 13, 2019, families can learn about these amazing creatures in an entertaining way that will capture the interest and imagination of kids and parents alike.  Take a trek back in time by walking through this interactive exhibit that features replicas of prehistoric relics, dinosaur themed props and models, and real fossils that you can actually touch.

Start off your dinosaur expedition with a Tyrannosaurus Rex encounter. A reproduction of a T-Rex skull greets visitors as they enter "Amazing Dinosaurs!" What a welcoming smile! Perfect for taking a photograph with.

Impression 5 Science Center


Then take a few more steps into the exhibit gallery to find yourself face-to-face with a life size scale model recreating what a living T-Rex's head would look like. Whoa!!! As the dinosaur stares down contemplating whether or not the people in the room will be its next meal, don't be scared to get closer to it.  On a panel below the dinosaur are two buttons. One makes the T-Rex roar and the other produces the sound it would make stomping across the ground.

Next to the buttons is a funnel that people are encouraged to holler into.  How does your roar compare to that of a T-Rex? Also incorporated into this Tyrannosaurus Rex display is a fossil of a portion of one of these dinosaur's femur bones that was found in South Dakota during 2013.  T-Rex had 320 bones for their skeleton and the femur which connects the hips to knees was the strongest of them. How exciting to be able to look over and touch a fossil that was part of a living animal from 67 millions years ago!

Impression 5 Science Center


Beside the femur bone is a cast take from a full fossil of a T-Rex femur bone.  Compare the replica to the actual fossil next to it. Try to determine what the difference is between the full femur bone and the partial one on display.  A plaque also explains how blood vessels interfaced with the dinosaur's femur and encourages you to look for openings in both the replica and the real fossil that show where these would have passed through the bone. A subtle reminder that the dinosaurs these bones belonged to were once flesh and blood just like us.

Speaking of T-Rex legs … how would you stand up against one?  Measure how tall you are versus the height of a Tyrannosaurus Rex leg.  There is a display where you can do that while visiting "Amazing Dinosaurs" at Impression 5.

amazing dinosaurs traveling exhibit

Then see how your footprint would compare to that of a T-Rex.  Those dinosaurs sure had huge feet! Even people who wear size 14 shoes will feel as if they have dainty feet in comparison to a Tyrannosaurs Rex footprint. My daughter got a real kick out of this!

amazing dinosaurs exhibit


A highlight of this exhibit for my son was getting a close up view of a real T-Rex tooth and getting the chance to touch it.  What kid isn't familiar with the toothy snarl of these dinosaurs. He was wowed by the opportunity to check out one of these menacing teeth up close.

fossil tooth
amazing dinosaurs exhibit review
amazing dinosaur exhibit

In fact, there are numerous hands-on opportunities to examine reproductions as well as original fossils throughout the "Amazing Dinosaurs!" exhibit.  A nice touch is that there are stools set up at many of the display areas to provide kids great views and assist them in being able touch many of the things being showcased. Dinosaur claws, bones, eggs, skulls and teeth are a few examples of things that are there to see and feel.

amazing dinosaurs exhibit
lansing science center
lansing science center

One of my son's favorite movies is Walking with Dinosaurs.  He was thrilled to see a fossil of a bird called an Alexornis that played a major role in the film on display as he walked through this gallery of dinosaurs. Delving into what the world of the dinosaurs was like, the exhibit also includes some other species, like the Alexornis, to give some insight into habitats of this time period. I'm not going to give away all of the dinosaurs and other creatures highlighted in the exhibit though so that there are some surprises for when you go to see it yourself. If you are going to be in the Lansing area, take some time for a family road trip to the Impression 5 Science Center to check out the "Amazing Dinosaurs!" exhibit for yourself before it leaves town for its next destination.

Impression 5

What really stood out about "Amazing Dinosaurs" for me was the ability to really get up close and examine fossils.  They weren't cordoned off behind barriers or enclosed within thick glass cases. Whether they were reproductions or originals, the fossils were all out there right in front of you.  That is why "Amazing Dinosaurs" at the Impression 5 Science Center earned A Geek Daddy nod of approval. Both of my kids as well as my self had an amazing time on this dinosaur expedition.

Impression 5 Science Center is located in downtown Lansing, Michigan along the Grand River. Housed within a historic wagon works factory, the space now focusses on educating children about science and technology. The science center was named Impression 5 because incorporating the use of the five senses to stimulate learning through its educational activities and exhibits has been a longstanding priority for the organization. For more information about the "Amazing Dinosaurs!" traveling exhibit or the science center, head over to impression5.org

Science Center

Saturday, July 14, 2018

JURASSIC WORLD ALIVE


dinosaurs

My son and I headed over to the neighborhood park to have some fun playing with dinosaurs using the JURASSIC WORLD ALIVE app.  Taking a cue from the popular Pokémon GO game for mobile devices, this app lets you search your surroundings by tying into Google Maps' digital platform and GPS technology to discover and collect virtual dinosaurs.  There are more than 100 types of dinosaurs in all you can discover ranging from relatively easy to come across common ones to elusive hard to find rare breeds.



Hunt dinosaurs looking for them on a map that represents your real-time surroundings.  The maps are fairly accurate regarding providing an outline of buildings and streets but don't provide a realistic photographic view of the areas you are searching.  Still they get the job done and are detailed enough to make searching around for dinosaurs entertaining.  You may occasionally find a dinosaur walking down the street or in someone's backyard but the best places to hunt them are in parks and other public spaces where JURASSIC WORLD ALIVE tends to have them congregate. You also want to look for supply boxes that allow you to stay stocked with darts for hunting dinosaurs and credits for upgrading the creatures you've found.

dinosaurs


JURASSIC WORLD ALIVE is FREE to play with in-app purchases available to enhance game play.  We've found the game enjoyable to play without spending any money.  Our trick is to keep an eye out for supply boxes whenever taking the dog out for a walk in the neighborhood and tend to regularly find enough of them to give us plenty of resources to progress utilizing the app's features unhindered.  Note you need to be within a few yards of the geo-tagged supply boxes to open them so hoping to just sit around your house to play the game isn't very practical or as enjoyable as being out and about immersing yourself in this Jurassic World themed experience.

There is a bit more leeway when it comes to hunting dinos.  You can get within the distance of the equivalent of few blocks to be able to go after a target.  Launch a drone in a video game style segment which has you shoot darts at a dinosaur as it attempts to elude you.  Some have thick armor and have to be hit in spots with pinpoint accuracy while others are really fast runners and the drone needs to be guided into just the right spot to get a good shot.  Score enough points and a dinosaur is added to your collection.

Jurassic World game

Once you've hunted down four dinosaurs, the battle arena opens. Challenge other JURASSIC WORLD ALIVE users from around the world in gladiatorial matches pitting your dinosaurs against their collection.  A nice aspect of these bouts is that you don't have to go to a specific location to activate this feature.  The Battle Arena game is accessible wherever you have an Internet connection. So it is as easy to fight a match from a nature trail while you are searching for dinos as it is from the comfort of your living room couch...that is if you have a strong cell signal for your mobile device.

By gaining resources from supply boxes and winning Battle Arena matches, dinosaurs abilities and attributes can be increased to make them more competitive in bouts. Also as you gain more dinosaurs, their dna can be mixed and matched to create hybrid beasts that can be battled versus online opponents.  Rare dinosaurs also have better Battle Arena fighting skills then the common variety so that provides some incentive to go out looking for them.

dinosaur battle mode


Another great feature of JURASSIC WORLD ALIVE is its augmented reality capability.  Once you've added a dinosaur to your collection it can be included in pictures and videos.  The app connects with your camera so you can see dinosaurs in the world around you through it.  We've been having a lot of fun using the augmented reality to take a close up look at dinosaur around us.  You can circle a dinosaur you've brought to life to see it from different perspectives.  Touch it on the screen and the dinosaur will interact with you with special sound and visual effects.

augmented reality


My son has really gotten into this game! It is nice that he's been wanting to go on father-son walks together to hunt dinosaurs.  I've appreciated him wanting to spend some time with his good ole dad enjoying an activity together and getting some exercise as we walk around looking for dinosaurs. It is also nice that the app's developers steer you towards parks and open areas versus businesses and residential areas to search for dinos.  You have to admit Pokémon GO players crowding in front of a house or storefront can be annoying and this isn't as much of a factor when it comes to JURASSIC WORLD ALIVE.

dinosaurs


This app also provides educational information about the dinosaurs you collect. My son gets so excited when we discover a brand new dinosaur and enjoys scrolling through the ones we've collected reading facts and trivia about them. So it is nice to see him learning while being entertained at the same time with this app.

dinosaurs


Add in the Battle Arena game aspect of this app and you can see we've had a whole lot of fun playing with it. As I mentioned earlier, we've been able to enjoy the app for FREE without feeling the need to make in-app purchases which is another plus. Based upon my family's experience, JURASSIC WORLD ALIVE has earned A Geek Daddy nod of approval.

JURASSIC WORLD ALIVE is available for Android and Apple phones and tablets. For more information, head over to www.ludia.com/en/games/jurassic-world-alive

augmented reality

FANTASTIC DINOSAUR DECORATIONS AND COLLECTIBLES

dinosaur statues
Are you or someone you know fascinated with dinosaurs? If so you'll want to take a look at the collection of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World items available from Sideshow Collectibles. They have some fantastic dinosaur busts, statues and replica movie props that make incredible for incredible bedroom, game room, office, and home theater decorations.

dinosaur egg


Wow! Who wouldn't want to hold a baby dinosaur?! This replica movie prop from the original Jurassic Park movie recreates the remarkable on-screen moment when a baby dinosaur hatched from an egg into the hands of park creator John Hammond. This life size scale dinosaur egg and baby raptor collectible piece are a perfect size to fit on a desk and is sure to give someone bragging rights for having one of the coolest office or home decorations ever.  These are going to be a limited edition production so make sure to order one while they are available!

This prop replica will be 11" high x 6" wide. Find out more about it: Jurassic Park Hatching Baby Raptor Jurassic Park Prop Replica

Dinosaurs


We all know velociraptors are deadly predators, but who knew they could be so cute! This eye catching diorama of baby raptors playing is amazing! These dinosaur statues are displayed in a life size scale format. Very impressive!

Movie visual effects artist Mark “Crash” McCreery played an influential role in designing the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. He rendered hundreds of concept art drawings for the Jurassic Park production team. Once filming began, McCreery brought a number of the movie's dinosaurs to life through puppetry. He even wore a full-size Raptor suit for scenes in Jurassic Park.

This diorama is based on concept art by McCreery that was never used in the film. The drawing of the baby raptors playing together shortly after hatching from their incubated eggs wasn't included in the movie because it was thought their cuteness factor would take away from scariness of the raptors later on in the film. What do you think? I do know these baby raptors really are adorable!

Buy one here: Jurassic Park Crash McCreerys Baby Raptors Jurassic Park Diorama

Dinosaur Collectibles


For those who like the scary version of raptors, there is also a life size bust of one's head available from Sideshow Collectibles. This incredibly detailed bust stands roughly 30” tall and spans 28” from the back of his head to the front of his jaws. The life-size dimensions of this spectacular bust make it the ideal centerpiece for any dinosaur collection. This attention getting piece is sure to get attention.   Don't be surprise if people want to get their pictures taken with it.

This bust is 30" high, 10" wide, 28" long and weights 65 pounds Learn more about it: Jurassic Park Male Raptor Jurassic Park Life-Size Bust

Baby Blue Raptor

For me Baby Blue was the star of Jurassic World 2: Fallen Kingdom and the scenes featuring this baby raptor were my favorite part of the movie.  Now you can bring a life size Baby Blue home with this impressive raptor statue.  Having saved the day in both Jurassic World movies, this statue of Blue the velociraptor is a great collectible for fans of the movie to have. Baby Blue was made using the same digital files from Industrial Light & Magic used in producing Jurassic World 2 in the film, so this is one of the most screen-accurate reproductions of Baby Blue you will be able to get your hands on.

Baby Blue is 24" high, 13" wide and 37.5" long. Take a closer look: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Baby Blue Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Statue

Jurassic World


A nice representation of the velociraptor Blue and her trainer Owen Grady.  This ninth scale statue was crafted in consultation with Universal Pictures and Industrial Light & Magic.  Jurassic World fans are sure to appreciate this!

The Owen & Blue Statue is 8.5" high, 12" wide and 8.5" long. More info here: Jurassic World Owen and Blue Jurassic World Statue

Jurassic Park


The raptors get a lot of attention in the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies but Tyrannosaurus Rex remains king of the dinosaurs. These hand-numbered limited edition faux bronze Tyrannosaurus Rex statues are a perfect addition to any dinosaur themed collection. Modeled after Stan Winston concept art used for Jurassic Park, this polyresin statue feature a roaring T- Rex standing on a smooth black base.

10" high, 9" wide and 24" long. Reserve yours now here: Jurassic Park Bronze T-Rex Jurassic Park Statue

Friday, July 13, 2018

SLINKY DOG DASH


Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World Resort lets guests at its Hollywood Studios theme park have a wonderful playtime pretending they are toys.  The area themed after the popular PIXAR animated movies is decorated by Disney Imagineers so that people feel like they are toy-sized and walking through the backyard of the boy whose collection of playthings are the main characters in the Toy Story films.  A highlight of Toy Story Land is its roller coaster that features one of those toys from the movies as the star of the attraction … SLINKY DOG.

Slinky Dog Dash is a roller coaster playset that you as an honorary toy can ride when visiting Andy's backyard. It was assembled by Andy from his Dash & Dodge Mega Coaster Kit with one big alteration. He picked everyone’s favorite floppy-eared dachshund with a stretching coil body – Slinky Dog – and dropped it onto the coaster track to use as the roller coaster vehicle instead of the one that came with the kit. Remember, you are toy-sized and immersed among Andy's playthings while visiting Toy Story Land.

A Geek Daddy had the chance to ride Slinky Dog Dash during the Toy Story Land grand opening festivities and can say it is a very impressive ride.  Slinky Dog Dash is Disney World's first double launch roller coaster that incorporates a power booster so riders are shot off twice at different points on the track. When your Slinky Dog hits the midway point of the ride, the coaster stops, reverses a few yards, then shoots through multiple rings pulsing with sounds, spinners and flashing lights as it launches riders into the second act of the ride experience.



One of the really fun details about the ride is when approaching the boarding area you will notice Andy’s construction plans sketched out in Crayola crayon on notebook paper hung up to see. Glue bottles, empty toy boxes and stray coaster parts and pieces are also strewn all about the queue area. There are lots of great elements like these sprinkled all throughout Toy Story Land that are really exciting and entertaining to discover. Plus these touches help you feel as if you are a Toy Story toy yourself while exploring Andy's backyard.

Slinky Dog Dash


My 9 year old twins were so excited to be some of the first kids to be able to ride the Slinky Dog Dash during a special pre-opening event.  They LOVED it !!!!  In fact, both of them agreed that this roller coaster is now their favorite ride at Disney World. High praise indeed! Especially from kids who really aren't much of roller coaster enthusiasts.

While the speed and swoops of Slinky Dog Dash will absolutely get some butterflies fluttering in your stomach it isn't a scary ride at all.  The Slinky Dog theme provides a light hearted, unintimidating vibe to the roller coaster. Most people who meet the ride's 38 inch height requirement should have a good time on it.

Slinky Dog Dash Roller Coaster


With that in mind,  Slinky Dog Dash has earned A Geek Daddy nod of approval because it is an excellent ride for parents and children to enjoy together for some family fun.  My wife and I took a ride on Slinky Dog Dash with our kids and everyone was all smiles throughout it.  That may have been the most memorable family moment of this Walt Disney World Resort trip.



As you are soaring around the track, keep an eye out for Toy Story details surrounding the roller coaster.  For example, Andy built the Dash & Dodge Mega Coaster Kit around his Jenga game set. As the coaster swoops around, you'll notice Rex, the toy dinosaur, is precariously perched atop the unstable Jenga stack. He is trying to decorate a toy block city Andy also within the roller coaster's course by stringing up colored Christmas lights. A daunting task when you’re a dinosaur with short front arms but fortunately you will also see Jessie comes to his rescue helping to untangle and set up the lighting. By the way these lights actually illuminate Slinky Dog Dash at night and it is an impressive experience to ride the roller coaster when it is aglow in the dark.

Slinky Dog Roller Coaster

Slinky Dog Roller Coaster


Andy has also placed a special treat for his coaster’s finale. Wheezy, the squeaky toy penguin from the Toy Story films, serenades coaster riders with a rendition of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” This Audio-Animatronics figure of Wheezy created especially for Slinky Dog Dash is unique among all the Disney Parks located around the world. Completing the scene is a backdrop that includes a remote control car box, a Pick-Up Snakes game cannister and toy wooden blocks spelling out F-U-N – along with a towering book, Mr. Pricklepants’ “Songs for Singing,” compiled by the huggable hedgehog from Toy Story 3.

Wheezer


To wrap up, the Slinky Dog Dash at Toy Story Land in my opinion is the ultimate family-friendly roller coaster because it will delight kids + kids-at-heart. It has the speed and twists to be exhilarating yet isn't frightening. One of the smoothest riding roller coasters you'll find anywhere!