If you think you’ve seen one traveling anatomical dinosaur exhibit, you’ve seen them all, think again. My husband and I took our three young sons to see the Jurassic Encounter walk-through this week and I got a crash course in how much fun these attractions can be when you’re actually able to get up close and personal with the more than 40 different kinds of dinosaurs on display.
I took my oldest son to a similar exhibit last winter, but it was at the height of COVID and had to be drive-through only. We never got out of the car. While I so appreciated actually having somewhere to take a child besides school and Target, driving around a parking lot looking at dinosaurs was not the same experience as the “Dinos At 11 Walking Tour.”
Getting out and exploring on the grassy expanse of Ballantyne Backyard – formerly a golf hole – was so much better. We had room to roam, and my three sons ages 4, 4 and 5, could walk right up to the life-size animatronic and static dinosaurs and check them out! They weren’t supposed to touch the dinosaurs but that didn’t stop the boys from sticking their little hands and faces “dangerously” close to giant jaws full of teeth.
They weren’t intimidated by the “Roar” many of the dinosaurs made and spent more than an hour roaring themselves as they roamed from one cluster of dinosaurs to the next.
For hands-on experiences, they got to “dig for fossils” and etch dinosaur skeletons onto paper. At the end of the exhibit, we timed it just right to get to meet “Tiny,” an anatomical T Rex who could do tricks at the behest of a staff member. The staffer let a group of children join him in getting “Tiny” to move in certain directions by mimicking his hand motions.
There’s an app you can download on your phone to listen to recordings about each dinosaur at your own pace as you approach each exhibit. While it often took some time for the signal on my husband’s phone to catch up, the technology is so cool, and it helped us keep track of getting to each and every dinosaur on display.
After finishing the exhibit, you could eat lunch from a food truck, bounce in a bouncy house and buy some dinosaur swag.
A few more gritty details….it was nice being outdoors so you didn’t have to worry about masking everybody up or trying to be socially distant from other people. And even though it was chilly Wednesday morning, by the time we got there around 10:30 a.m., it wasn’t bad. We wound up in the sun 95 percent of the time, plus you’re moving around which keeps you warmer. By the end, we all took our coats off!
The Jurassic Encounter is here in Charlotte at the Ballantyne Backyard through Sunday. It’s open from 2-6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I highly recommend!