Ask my daughter for her review of The Dinosaur Place at Nature's Art, and she'll tell you: "It's cool. I liked everything but the volcano."
She's right: We wasted time during our May 2010 visit waiting for the volcano to erupt, and it was pretty much a dud. But otherwise, this family attraction in southeastern Connecticut delivers a fun variety of interactive experiences that kids—especially 4- to 8-year-olds—really love. From mining for gems to playing paleontologist to walking trails lined with learning stations and life-like, life-sized dinosaurs, the complex offers plenty to occupy a family for an entire day, as you'll see in this Dinosaur Place photo gallery.
Here's where a parent's perspective diverges: Each activity at The Dinosaur Place has a separate fee, and upcharges loom everywhere. Sure, your kid can venture into Jackpot Mine for a 10-minute gem-hunting stint for $12.99 (as of 2013), but what are the chances you won't be talked into the deluxe option, which includes a helmet, the chance to mine in the dark and additional digging time? Price tag: $25.99. Add admission to the Dino Trails--$14.99 in the off-season or $19.99 during the summer when the Splashpad is included--and you've already spent more than it costs to take a kid to Six Flags New England for the day.
There are no combination tickets or multi-child discounts to help make a visit affordable for a typical family (unless you've planned ahead and checked the offers page on the Dinosaur Place Web site for a coupon or special deal). The Dinosaur Place is truly one of the worst family entertainment values in New England.
Still, you should consider a visit to The Dinosaur Place if...
- your kids are truly obsessed with dinosaurs;
- it's raining for the third straight day of you Connecticut shore vacation;
- you're willing to lay it on the line before you leave home that your kids can only choose one activity or two;
- skies are blue, and photos of your offspring cavorting with extinct beasts will delight their grandparents;
- you're in the fortunate position of never having to think twice about reaching for your credit card.
Here's one other reason to visit: The Shops at Nature's Art feature 10,000 square feet of retail delights, ranging from ancient fossils to geodes to dinosaur toys to a glittering array of beads. And, admission to the gift shop is free.
If you're going... The Dinosaur Place at Nature's Art is located at 1650 Hartford-New London Turnpike (Route 85) in Oakdale, Connecticut. Hours and activities vary seasonally. The Dino Trails are open early April through late November. Check current admission prices at The Dinosaur Place Web site or by calling 860-443-4367.