Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dinosaur Land

My oldest son, Gabe, is obsessed with dinosaurs.  This obsession hasn't been one of those fleeting fascinations of childhood.  He started favoring dinosaurs over trains and cars at the age of three.  Now, at the age of seven, he has a laundry basket full of toy dinosaurs.  An easy third of our children's book library features dinosaurs.  His favorite activity is to sit drawing dinosaurs (sometimes with labels regarding when and where they lived and what they ate). 

Gabe is a walking dinosaur encyclopedia.

Two years ago, in some forgotten visitor's center, Gabe spotted a brochure for Dinosaur Land in White Post, Virginia (near Front Royal).  The colorful brochure portrayed life-sized models of dinosaurs in a shady park setting.  He carried that glossy paper around until it disintegrated. 

Even without the brochure, Gabe occasionally asked to visit the park, but I was intimidated by the two-hour drive in our old van.  Now, with a new car and kids who are veteran day trippers, I figured it was time.

We opted for the scenic route instead of the dreaded Capitol Beltway. It took us one hour and 45 minutes.  We played Auto Bingo and listened to the Beatles. We saw a train being pulled by four engines. We drove through Harper's Ferry (Matt wants to go back and hike to the top of the cliff on the Maryland side.  I may regret saying we could).

Just at the point we were all getting a little anxious and tired of being in the car, Dinosaur Land came into view.  It's a small park featuring 37 fiberglass dinosaurs built to various scale.  We paid our admission ($4 for children 2-10 years old, $5 for those 11 and older).

A quick glance at the creatures in the park (which include a giant shark, octopus, and King Kong) made me a little nervous.  Gabe sometimes refers to himself as a paleontologist. He has little patience when I mispronounce "Gigantosaurus" and can't pass the dino-related quizzes he gives me.  Here we were at Dinosaur Land and not all the creatures in the park were life-sized or all that accurately portrayed. Some needed a new coat of paint.

Not to fear.  He and his brother LOVED it.  We walked the path three times.

Each display had a sign providing the dinosaur's name and a little bit about them.  Gabe supplied us with any additional details he felt were needed.

Gabe's favorite dinosaur has always been T. Rex.  Matt prefers Triceratops because he ate plants. 

"I don't like dinosaurs who want to eat me."

A very good point.

Even following the lead of an obsessed, self-proclaimed paleontologist, we spent just over an hour at the park.  That included time in the impressive gift shop (more Auto Bingo cards!). Fortunately, in planning this trip, I called a friend who lives nearby and was forewarned of this possibility.  My friend recommended a nice community park in Front Royal where we had a picnic, played catch, and made use of an amazing playground.

We lost count of the brown park signs we passed on our drive and decided to do some exploring and maybe some camping in the future.  Matt and I did most of this future planning.

The paleontologist slept all the way home.

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