If you grew up in the 1980s or 1990s, you probably have fond memories of The Land Before Time (before it had a dozen or so sequels). It’s not a Disney film, I know, but when I think of dinosaurs, that’s one of the two movies that come to mind. The other is, of course, Jurassic Park. Between these two movies, we have the two popular images of dinosaurs: cute, gentle giants or man-eating monsters. Both perspectives are found in Walt Disney World, from the friendly triceratops in TriceraTop Spin to the roaring Carnotaurus in DINOSAUR.
Whichever way you prefer to imagine dinosaurs, here are seven things to do in Walt Disney World if you love dinosaurs.
1. Dinoland, U.S.A.
While it’s the obvious first stop for dinosaur devotees, Dinoland, U.S.A. at first seems a bit out of place in Animal Kingdom. It all looks so cheesy, but it’s actually meant to be that way. Dinoland, U.S.A. has an elaborate backstory involving a discovery of fossils, which caused scientists and tourists to flock to the site, which explains both The Dino Institute and the roadside attractions. Take a ride on TriceraTop Spin (Dumbo with dinos), and if you’re braver, Primeval Whirl, and if you’re braver still, DINOSAUR. Dino-loving kids will enjoy digging up bones in (where else?) The Boneyard, and you can grab a bite to eat at Restaurantosaurus.
2. T-REX Café
I’ve not yet had a chance to eat at this dinosaur-themed restaurant in Downtown Disney, but it seems pretty similar to Rainforest Café but with dinosaurs. You can see photos over at the DIS and the menu on AllEars.Net. If your child is the one who’s into dinosaurs, they might enjoy picking out their own dinosaur at Build-A-Dino by Build-A-Bear Workshop in the restaurant’s gift shop.
3. Ellen’s Energy Adventure
This 45-minute attraction at Epcot is often skipped or used as an air-conditioned place for a nap, but if you like dinosaurs, it could be one of your favorites. When you get to the primeval diorama portion, you can see a wide variety of dinosaur species in animatronic form, including Edaphosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Stegosaurus, Megalosaurus, Trachodon, Ornithomimus, Elasmosaurus, and Pteranodon. During the rest of the attraction, you can entertain yourself by trying to find Michael Richards (Kramer from Seinfeld) as a caveman in one of the films.
4. Dinosaur Gertie’s Ice Cream of Extinction
One of the more random sights in Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a giant green dinosaur by Echo Lake. It’s an example of the “California Crazy” architecture style, and the name is a reference to an early animated short, Gertie the Dinosaur. The menu isn’t distinctly dinosaurish (they serve ice cream cups, cones, bars, and sandwiches), but it makes for a good photo op.
5. Rex at All Star Movies Resort
You’ll find another opportunity to take a photo of yourself with a dinosaur over at All Star Movies Resort. As I mentioned in my post on Toy Story, you can find giant-sized characters here, including everyone’s favorite nervous dinosaur toy, Rex. While you can find Rex in the Toy Story-themed attractions in Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, All Star Movies is where you can get the best photo with him. Hop a bus there from any park. Just don’t bring any other dinosaurs with you. Rex couldn’t take that kind of rejection.
6. Brachiosaurus in the Electric Water Pageant
Here’s where we get even more obscure. I have to credit my roommate for remembering this one: one of the floats of the Electric Water Pageant is a dinosaur. According to buildabettermousetrip.com (click the link for a video), it’s a brachiosaurus. I love how it’s chewing and looks just like one of the animatronic dinosaurs Disney made for the 1964 World’s Fair (they’re now in a diorama seen from the railroad in Disneyland).
7. Dinosaur Skeleton in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Here’s one last photo op that may be a little difficult to capture, because you’re moving along at a rather brisk pace. During one scene in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, you ride through a dinosaur’s skeleton. (This prop actually turns into a plot point in The Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark by Ridley Pearson.) It’s not much, but it’s the only dino reference I can think of in Magic Kingdom. (Can you think of any others?)
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This dino-themed day is a bit challenging, involving all four parks and Downtown Disney. The logical place to begin is Dinoland, U.S.A. Arrive 15-30 minutes before opening to maximize your time, as it will probably take a couple hours for dinosaur devotees to get their fill there. After Animal Kingdom, take a bus to All Star Movies for your photo with Rex. From there, take a bus to the next closest park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, for your photo with Gertie (and maybe an ice cream). Then head (via boat or bus) to Epcot. Once you’ve experienced Ellen’s Energy Adventure, it should be getting close to dinner time, so head over to Downtown Disney to eat at T-REX Café (make sure to get advanced dining reservations). From there, head to Magic Kingdom to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and watch the Electric Water Pageant (from outside the Magic Kingdom gates).
So what’s your take on Dinoland, U.S.A.? How does knowing the backstory affect your experience there?