Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Our Hike With The Dinosaurs

All my nieces and nephews who are around the same age as my kids were in town over the Fourth of July weekend so we decided to take them all over to the Detroit Zoo to go for a hike through the dinosaur exhibit.  No not real dinosaurs or a display of fossils but rather through a 5 acre trail lined with lifelike animatronic prehistoric creatures.

The DINOSAURIA exhibit is open through Labor Day from 9:30 to 5pm (until 8pm on Wednesday nights) and you need to purchase tickets for an additional expense beyond the price of admission to the zoo to be able to hike with the dinosaurs.  You can purchase Dinosauria tickets at the zoo entrance or at the exhibit itself for $5 per person for anyone older than 2 years old.  Though if you have an annual zoo membership and ask at the Members Entrance you can purchase a four pack of Dinosauria tickets for $12 letting you get a slight discount so you'd be paying $3 per person.  Hey it adds up that discount ended up saving us $24 dollars for our our group that day.

Walk through the fossilized remains of a dinosaur and through the mists of time to find yourself transported back to prehistoric times.  The mist is actually water so be prepared to get a little wet as you venture through the dinosaur rib cage plus watch your step as it can be muddy and slippery in some spots.

The dinosaurs are created by Billings Productions which has created a niche for themselves in producing high quality aninmatronic dinosaurs and marketing them to zoos across the country to provide an enhanced experience for their visitors plus some extra revenue generation for the parks hosting the displays. CLICK HERE for a list of zoos that host displays featuring Billings Productions dinosaurs to see if there is one near you.  The company also produces a line of giant bug animatronics that I haven't personally seen myself but look really impressive on their website that you may also want to keep an eye out for when visiting a zoo or theme park hosting a Billings Productions display.

My kids love the movie WALKING WITH DINOSAURS so were thrilled to see a realistic looking Pachyrhinosaurus with babies standing right in front of them.

They also had a blast running around the trail discovering new dinosaurs around every twist and curve of the path.  WARNING! Two things to watch out for! First, two of the dinosaurs spit at you. I'm not going to say which ones so you'll enjoy being surprised if you visit but my nephew wasn't paying attention and got blasted right in the face.  He was fine but really embarrassed.  Secondly, there is a somewhat explicit scene of a predator eating its kill.  As the kids ran up on that scene in front of our group of adults in the group we didn't have a chance to screen them for that.  The kids weren't phased at all though and seemed to understand that animals get eaten in the wild.  My nephew blurted out it was like seeing a lion eating a gazelle.  So it obviously wasn't a big deal for our family but I understand it could be for others so I thought I'd give it a mention.

If you want to expand upon the educational aspect of your visit, there is also an augmented reality app you can download and use on your smart phone while hiking with the dinosaurs.  It is available for Android and Apple devices and takes about 5 to 7 minutes to download so you may want to load it onto your phone before you head over to the zoo.  When you arrive at the dinosaur exhibit open the app and in the drop down menu look at the specific zoo you are visiting and select that location.  Then using the camera on your phone zoom in on the various informational signs posted around the exhibit.  Wow! virtual dinosaurs will appear on your phone's screen through the augmented reality app that you can interact with.  The app also provides you additional information on the dinosaurs to help you turn this entertaining experience into an expanded educational opportunity.

I have to say that the dinosaurs created by Billings Productions are impressive.  The adults and children alike in our group had a fun and enjoyable time during our hike with the dinosaurs. From a parenting perspective the scariest thing I wanted to run away from during our visit was the gift shop you are dumped into at the end of the trail which results in children swarming you yelling out "gimme gimme" and grasping at you for your wallet. Oh the horror!

Seriously though younger children may be frightened by the shear size of the dinosaurs ... and their teeth ... that also roar at you, but we had a 3 year old, 4 year old, two 6 year olds and a 7 year old in our group and none of them were scared of anything we saw during our visit.  Speaking of teeth I wonder if it is ok to feed a dinosaur a twinkie?

Because it combines entertaining and educational elements to promote an interest in learning, the Detroit Zoo's Dinosauria gets A Geek Daddy nod of approval.  Plus those dinosaur robots are just darn cool!

Oh and the baby dinosaurs are pretty adorable too!

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