Jurassic Fun: Dinosaur Park Days Out
Dinosaurs have fascinated our five-year-old daughter Poppy ever since she saw Andy’s Prehistoric Adventures on CBeebies. Her favourite magazine, Andy’s Amazing Adventures, is all about dinosaurs and she often sticks a family of Jurassic friends to her bedroom wall. She even takes ‘Chompy’ (a grabber dinosaur) with her whenever we travel. Luckily for us there are a wealth of dinosaur museums and prehistoric attractions in the UK. We take a look at 10 of the best and the must-not-miss attractions at each.
The Natural History Museum, London
The Natural History Museum is well renowned for its dinosaur collection and has a vast range of exhibits and specimens. The iconic Diplodocus skeleton always delights Poppy as it’s one of the longest dinosaurs and seemingly great to chat to. She loves learning what each of the dinosaurs is called, what size they were (how many humans high) and what they ate. There’s so much to take in and roaring en route is of course obligatory. Do try to make sure you see:
- The first Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil ever found
- The skull of a Triceratops
- An Oviraptor egg
- The World’s most complete Stegosaurus
- The first meat-eating dinosaur (the Archeopteryx) which has feathers
- One of the largest meat-eaters ever unearthed, the Baryonyx
There’s plenty to keep the whole family occupied at the National History Museum (it's not just a dinosaur museum) and admission is free. Some exhibitions, like Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and events such as the hugely popular Dino Snores are chargeable.
Dinosaur Adventure, Norfolk
The Dinosaur Trail at Dinosaur Adventure, with its life-size dinosaurs and sound effects, is always a hit. Poppy particularly enjoys the giraffe-like Brachiosaurus and the “small” Velociraptor who tends to get a pat on the head. Collecting stamps as she goes round while ‘helping’ the rangers locate the T-Rex’s is a nice touch. As well as the trail and the brilliant Lost World Maze, other attractions we like include:
- Racing quads and jeeps in the indoor Stone Age Road Race
- Pedalling for your life in the woodland Raptor Race
- Discovering 3 levels of fun in the Dinomite indoor play area. There are climbing nets, bridges and ball pools along with huge slides (and a dedicated area for the under 5’s).
- Exploring the whopping dinosaur-themed Adventure Play Area with Tiny Terrasaurus devoted to the under 7’s.
- Taking one of the slides at the Pterodactyl’s Treehouse
- Dashing around in Dippy’s Splash Zone with its 31 play features and rubberised floor.
Dino Park, Dumfries
We enjoy spotting the dinosaurs that peep out from between the trees at Dino Park - like the Parasaurolophus with its ‘duck head’, Stegosaurus and Pteranodon. Pretending to be a palaeontologist and searching for fossil bones at Dino Dig is popular too and the Dino Den is a great source of information. The Dino Mine is a great laugh too as you get to take a trip underground beneath a volcano where the dinosaurs lurk!
Dinosaur Isle, Isle of Wight
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Isle of Wight. It’s a wonderful place to explore and the richest area in Europe for dinosaur discoveries. Fossil walks are a great way to involve all the family and in ours, this encourages a little healthy competition! We also found ourselves visiting the nearby Isle of Wight Zoo before heading to Yaverland Beach (opposite). Poppy spent hours filling a bucket with sand, emptying it and filling it up again. As well as fossil walks, the Dinosaur Isle Museum offers:
- Over 1,000 of the best fossils from the Ice Age to the Cretaceous period
- Fascinating displays with real fossils and two animatronics
- A working laboratory and learning sessions
Land of the Living Dinosaurs at West Midland Safari Park, Worcestershire
West Midland Safari Park has a wealth of attractions on offer with dinosaurs, a drive-through safari and a theme park. Land of the Living Dinosaurs is by far Poppy’s favourite - there are 40 dinos to spot in all, which span the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. As they’re animatronic, sometimes she thinks they’re real, which let’s be honest is great for entertainment value. Other attractions at the West Midland Safari Park we suggest you check out include:
- The Drive-Through Safari where you can see a whole host of animals from Asia and Africa. Look out for the Southern White Rhino, giraffes and the Congo buffalo
- Don’t miss Penguin Cove, the Hippo Lakes and Meerkat Mayhem. The sea lion show is great as well
- The theme parks cater for all. Tiny Tots has 7 rides designed for little explorers whereas The Adventure Theme Park is for older children and adults with its Venom Tower Drop, Twister Coaster and Rhino Rollercoaster
Dan-yr-Ogof, The National Showcaves Centre for Wales, Swansea
We’ve visited some spectacular caves in our time and the National Showcaves Centre is the top attraction in Wales. Poppy tends to find caves mesmerising but the Dinosaur Park here, with its 200 life-size dinosaurs, is impressive too. There are lots of dinos she’s not come across before as well as the ever-popular Tyrannosaurus Rex. Tickets to the Dinosaur Park include access to all the caves too so make sure you check out the breathtaking underground formations. See if you can spot the ‘Rashers of Bacon’, ‘Angel’ and ‘Alabastar Pillar’. There’s also a Jurassic Karting Track and older children can explore tunnels, climb ropes and speed down slides in Barney’s Adventure Playground.
The Dinosaur Museum, Dorchester
At the gateway to the Jurassic Coast is Britain’s original and award-winning Dinosaur Museum. We like looking at the fossils and skeletons here although life-size dinosaur reconstructions, like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus and Triceratops, are what my daughter likes best. The multimedia displays tell the story of these prehistoric giants, providing a great source of information.
The Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park, Ilfracombe
Situated in a North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park showcases life-size animatronic dinosaurs and there’s a brilliant wildlife park as well. Poppy likes trying to try and name the dinosaurs in Dinosaur Valley and the Dinosaur Show is great too. Braver children can take the Dino Express Train, which resembles an earthquake. The Dinosaur Museum (where there’s a real dinosaur nest and Megalosaur skeleton) is a fun stop before heading to the wildlife park. The animals we like the best include the lions, meerkats and penguins plus of course the reptiles and sea lion show.
The Dinosaur Park Tenby, Pembrokeshire
Set amid the woods, the Dino Trail at the Dinosaur Park in Tenby about a mile long and you can walk (which is our preference) or grab a ride. There are about 30 dinosaurs to see in all including a Brachiosaurus, Stegosaurus and Deinonychus. Poppy likes that her knowledge can be tested at the end in a dino quiz. There are also a number of fun rides to enjoy, such as:
- Motorised tractors in the Dinosaur Hatchery
- The Astra Slide
- Disco Boats
- 4x4 Off Roaders
- Outdoor playground with old games
Gulliver’s Dinosaur and Farm Park, Milton Keynes
The Lost World of the Living Dinosaurs at Gulliver's has a whopping 32-animatronic dinos including a scary T-Rex! It’s a lot of fun and Poppy likes seeing the ‘living’ dinosaur that roams the park too. The ride-on dinosaur is an absolute must, as you can imagine. You can see the Lost World from the Jurassic River Ride and the Observation Tower has great views across the park. Poppy loves the Farm Park too. There are iguanas, snakes and geckos in the reptile and bug centre and she always likes a cuddle with the rabbits and guinea pigs. Feeding the animals always comes top after the dinosaurs.