When my son started displaying interest in dinosaurs just before he turned 3 years old, my heart skipped a beat. I didn’t play with the typical “girl” toys when I was a child. I hated Barbies and Cabbage Patch Dolls, really dolls of any kind. Except for Maxie, the rocker chick, who had a guitar and pink hair and size 10 shoes. She was cool.
Instead, I played with Legos, Micro Machines and dinosaurs. So many dinosaurs. There were a good 6 years when I wanted to be a paleontologist growing up. I built every dinosaur modeling kit money could buy. I had fossil dig sets. My parents took me — at my request — to the La Brea Tar Pits and the Natural History Museum instead of Disneyland when we lived in California.
Now, it seems I’ve passed the dino-geek gene along to my son. And inside I’m doing all sorts of happy dances (the running man, mostly). To get through his “threenager” phase, we started doing sticker reward charts. Whenever he does something after we ask the first time, is helpful without us having to ask, or cleans his plate at dinner, he gets a sticker. When the chart is full, he gets a big reward. This time, his reward was a trip to Dinosaur World in Plant City, FL.
As you can see, he was very excited about this trip!
5145 Harvey Tew Road
Plant City, FL 33565
Open daily 9:00am to 5:00pm
Distance from SRQ: 1 hour (easy drive via I-75 and I-4)
Time spent at the park: 2-4 hours, depending on how many activities you do. We did the fossil dig, cave show and playground, as well as the walking path, all in 2.5 hours.
Level of toddler satisfaction: A+
The Main Attraction:
Walking among 150 life-sized dinosaurs across 12 acres on a shaded, paved path. Most of the dinosaurs are positioned behind ropes, well into the foliage, out of reach of sticky little fingers. The dinosaurs don’t move, but that didn’t make them any less exciting to my son, who squealed with delight around each corner as a gigantic dinosaur, painted in life-like detail loomed overhead. Next to each dinosaur is a plaque with the name, phonetic spelling, and a short educational description. And there are a few stops where curious kiddos can climb on Woolly Mammoths, hop inside a T-Rex head or hatch out of a dinosaur egg.
Other Dino Activities:
Playground: There are 2 dino-themed playgrounds where kids can climb, slide and swing. The playgrounds aren’t shaded so the equipment can get hot later in the day. But shaded seating areas for parents and grandparents are located around the playground.
Fossil Dig: This 15-minute activity allows your child to dig for fossils in a stocked, shaded sand pit area that includes mostly sharks teeth, stingray barbs and if they’re lucky, a Mosasaur tooth. My husband asked where the fossils came from and the staff member said Morocco. Kids can dig up as much as they want, but can only pick three to take home. Fossil Dig tickets are included in the child admission price for ages 3-12. Anyone older than 12 or younger than 3 can purchase a ticket for $2.
Dino Gem Excavation: Purchase a bag or bucket of minerals, gems, dinosaur bones or coprolite (fossilized dino dung), take it over to the mining sluice and let the water wash over the dirt to reveal your treasures. Prices range from $8.00 – $39.50.
Geode Cracker: Purchase one of 4 sizes of geodes to crack open. Prices range from $5.95 to $16.95.
Exploration Cave Show: A paleontologist provides a 10-minute tour through a cave, dig site and paleontology workstation. Using humor and interactive questions, they demonstrate how to identify and properly excavate fossils. There are plenty of specimens and replicas inside for kids to touch as well.
Triviasaurus Rex Game Show: Kids can test their dino-knowledge with this trivia game show to win prizes.
Prehistoric Museum: This indoor area features an assortment of real and cast prehistoric fossils as well as an animatronic T-Rex, Brachiosaurus, Stegosaurus, Pterodactyl and Triceratops.
Know Before You Go:
- There’s absolutely NO food to purchase inside the park. Unless you count the jelly beans and chocolate coconut patties they sell inside the gift shop. Or the Pringles and soda from the vending machines inside the park. Seriously, mamas, that’s it. But you’re allowed to bring food, drinks and coolers into the park. We just ate lunch before our visit and brought water bottles and plenty of snacks.
- There’s plenty of room for strollers. If you have a baby or young toddler who likes to be pushed around, bring your stroller. The paved walkways are wide enough to accommodate strollers going in both directions.
- The park is dog-friendly. Bringing a dog plus a kid or two sounds like more stress than I could handle. But if you can do it, mama, more power to you. Friendly dogs on leashes are welcome.
- You have to pass through both the gift shop and the playground to get to the main dinosaur attractions. You enter through the 7,000-square-foot gift shop to purchase your tickets to the park. If your little ones are easily distracted by toys, you may want to prep them ahead of time that you’ll do your shopping on the way out. Once past that gauntlet of plastic teeth and claws, the first thing you’re greeted with is the playground. Letting your kid wear themselves out at the playground first thing might not leave them with enough energy to walk around the park. I also recommend doing this on the way out.
- The Carnivore Boardwalk gets graphic. If your child is young, or sensitive to violence, skip the Carnivore Boardwalk. The exhibits along that path show carnivores stalking and eating other dinosaurs. Some scenes get fierce and bloody.
- Check their website for discounts and reciprocal agreements. If you’re an annual pass holder to MOSI, Florida Aquarium, Great Explorations Children’s Museum, as well as others, you can get discounted admission. Those on active military duty receive FREE admission with their military ID and their dependents receive $1 off. Kids also get in FREE on their birthday. See the full of discounts list here.
- Have your child invite a buddy. Logan would have had a great time regardless, but he had even more fun because his friend Miles came along. They had such a blast running together from exhibit to exhibit, pointing out the various dinosaurs to each other and chattering in their little toddler talk.
So, if your kid knows the difference between an Apatosaurus and a Brachiosaurus, has watched every episode of Dinosaur Train or communicates entirely in Velociraptor squawks, this might just be the day trip for you.