I am all about kitschy attractions. The quirkier they are, the more likely I will check it out. Whenever our family heads to Skyline Drive, we pass the roadside forest affectionately known as Dinosaur Land. I finally caved to letting my daughter go because she has developed a fascination with dinosaurs. I have no idea where this interest came from. My inner child immediately thought of the 70’s TV show, Land of the Lost. Enter the age of the dinosaur.
“Wow” was the first word out of my five year old’s mouth when we pulled into the parking lot. She couldn’t wait to see and touch the over 40 behemoth creatures. The outdoor Jurassic park was built in 1963 by sculptors James Q. Sidwell and Mark Cline. I’ve seen Cline’s work at Clarks Elioak Farm and his version of Foamhenge, that’s right, I said Foamhenge.
All of the animals are made of fiberglass and paint. While the dinos are dated and weathered, they provide an educational look at the first animals who roamed the earth. Each dinosaur is labeled with its name and interesting facts like when it lived and what it ate. My husband and I were surprised to discover that we only knew a handful of the dinosaurs listed here.
Walk under the wings of a Pteranodon or measure your height against dinosaurs which range in height from 3 to 90 feet. If you ever watched The Flinstones growing up, you would have heard of the Stegosaurus and chances are your children know the difference between a Triceratops and a T-Rex. You may be surprised to know that some dinosaurs ate other dinosaur eggs and that the Saltoposuchus was believed to be the grandfather of the dinosaurs.
You will encounter two bloody scenes of survival including the Megalosaurus versus the Brontosaurus and a battle between the T-Rex and Titanosaurus. These particular exhibits are literally larger than life showing the animals’ exact sizes. The details are not very gruesome and did not scare the young children present at the park the day of our visit.
Even though it’s called Dinosaur Land, you will also see an octopus, saber tooth tiger, wooly mammoth, sloth, praying mantis, and a giant cobra. Believe it or not, snakes were plentiful during the pre-historic period. Climb inside the mouth of a 60 foot shark. Clearly created just for fun is a 30 foot tall King Kong where you can sit in his giant paw. The shark and King Kong are the only two beasts you are permitted to climb on.
What I love most about Dinosaur Land is the lack of advertisements. Set in a rural Virginia location, between Front Royal and Winchester, this prehistoric forest is known mainly through word of mouth. The attraction is simply realistic fiberglass models of extinct creatures. There are no animation or sound effects like that of a box office movie. Dinosaur Land is all about using your imagination.
To enter Dinosaur Land, you pay your admission in the gift shop. The price is $5 for children and $6 for adults. You walk down a few steps through a cavern-like entrance. There are many signs posted to stay on the path and that they are not responsible for accidents. There are rough patches on the gravel path so if using a stroller, bring an all-terrain one. Bathrooms are small and do not have changing facilities. The gift shop is full of everything a dinosaur lover could dream of in the form of dinosaur figures, stuffed toys, eggs, educational books, posters and souvenir t-shirts. They sell an eclectic collection of collectibles and other oddities along with reasonably priced Minnetonka moccasins. Crank out a souvenir penny of your visit.
Dinosaur Land is closed January and February, open March to May from 9:30am to 5:30pm and during the summer until 6 pm. From September to December they are open 9:30am to 5pm, but closed Thursdays. Being that it’s a rural area, there aren’t any places in the area for food. There is a 7-Eleven located across the street, which also has a gas station with prices a little cheaper than that of the DC metro area.
We spent a little over an hour here and considered the trip from northern Virginia worth the experience. While dinosaurs are extinct, they are remembered at Dinosaur Land.