Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Dinosaur Park

We were trying to keep our little vacation last weekend relatively cheap, but we wanted to do something besides just hang out at the resort.  The day before we left, I did some googling and came across The Dinosaur Park.   I wasn't super thrilled that Secora's ticket would cost the same as an adult's, but Josh pointed out it was a homegrown business and we decided it would be somewhat educational. 

The entrance is an unassuming little building in a gravel parking lot next to an RV park.  I've driven through Bastrop more times than I can count and I never had any clue this place existed.  Inside the building is a small gift shop that includes a nice range of toys and souvenirs.  There's nothing worse than dragging kids through a gift shop where everything is insanely expensive.  That wasn't a problem here though, we gave them each a $5 limit and they were all able to find something they wanted.  There are also really nice and clean restrooms available.  Large changing tables and enough space to take all your kids in with you if needed.  
Through the back door of the building, you enter an open space with a playground, picnic tables and fossil dig tables

There's also a T-rex head to take pictures with.  Sedona thought it was awesome to play with the teeth, Sierra was practicing her "I'm being swallowed by a T-rex" acting skills
At the edge of this clearing, the half mile trail starts.  When you pay for entrance, you're given a scavenger hunt sheet.  Throughout the trail, there are these rocks scattered about:
You look in the direction the toes point and find something hidden in the trees. Most of them are a bit more camouflaged and a little harder to find, but the first one is pretty easy:
As you continue down the trail, you get to combine nature walk with life-like dinosaurs in the trees

Each dino has an information plague similar to what you'd see in a zoo.  This tells you what it is, how to pronounce the name, and information about the dinosaur, such as which part of the world it lived in and information about how it may have lived.  This information is also available on their website.  The girls were particularly interested to see which dinosaurs would have lived in Texas.

While the dinosaurs are off limits for touching/climbing, there are some hands on things along the trail.  A stop at this replica of a dino footprint perfectly demonstrated the personality differences between the oldest girls:

They also enjoyed posing with this baby dino.  They stopped and pretended they were dino veterinarians for a while
The coolest thing was the size of the models.  It just so happened that Sedona was scheduled to do an activity mapping out the length of different dinosaurs on a long field the day after our vacation.  Instead, these models gave her a good idea of the size differences.  It was nearing lunchtime and she did keep talking about how much meat there would be in some of these dinosaurs and how tasty they would be and different ways you could go about cooking them.  Hey, when a girl's hungry, she's hungry, maybe she really could have eaten a triceratops.
Stegosaurus.  Sedona was talking about eating this one too.  Secora had recently fallen and scraped her knee, so she wasn't too into pictures at the moment
T-rex presented another great acting opportunity. 
While a nest of hatching dino eggs drew squeals of "awwwwwwwww!  How cuuuuuuuute!!"

Brachiosaurus did not disappoint with its impressive size

Spinosaurus was one of several dinosaurs I didn't know about before our visit.

This was definitely a fun stop.  We stayed for about an hour and a half.  The girls would have liked to play in the fossil dig longer or play on the playground, but it was past lunch time and we were all hungry.  I would estimate this is a 1-2 hour stop for most families. 

Fun fact, this park was opened in 2005 by a family whose kids (7 and under at the time) were obsessed with dinosaurs.  Talk about dedication to supporting your kids' passions!

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