Want a fun weekend trip? Believe it or not, there are at least two dinosaur-themed roadside attractions in the commonwealth of VA. Which is the best? I’ve created a guide to help you decide for yourself.
DINOSAUR LAND vs. DINOSAUR KINGDOM!
DINO BATTLE under the fold.
Awesomeness of Concept
Granted, the fact that these both exist puts them high on the list of all things awesome. But it is possible to take a nuanced look at which is–on the margin–slightly more awesome. (Editor’s note – You know, like a supermodel asking for your phone number, or a supermodel asking for your number while playing a flaming guitar.)
Both begin with a rock-lined hallway that suggests you’re literally walking back through the ages. Dinosaur Land is a place that time forgot since in the late 1960’s, full of cement statues crumbling apart but still incredible.
Dinosaur Kingdom is–and you might want to sit down for this–a civil-war re-enactment. The Blue Coats, with the help of some 19th century paleontologists, uncovered a hidden valley full of dinosaurs deep in the winding caves of the Shenandoah mountains. Those evil Northerners–yes my friends, the very barbarians who freed the slaves–tried to use the terrible lizards as “weapons of mass destruction” before the animals turned on their masters.
The fact that you’re even reading this section as a way to decide whether you should visit either park brings into question your ability to enjoy these amazing tributes to history and badassery. Why does it even matter? Get over yourself. But, here we are…. History and science buffs may find slight discrepancies to take issue with in both parks. For example (and we’re just going to ignore the minor anachronism of Dinosaur Kingdom’s conceit), both parks have King Kongs in or around them and include animals not typically labeled “dinosaurs.” But, if this stops you from seeing either park, you’re a damned, sad fool.
Nearby Attractions–As If Dinosaurs Weren’t Enough….
Both dinotractions have many auxiliary sites in proximity to round out your visit. At each, you’ll have easy access to quaint VA towns and the Shenandoah parks. Around Dinosaur Land you can see an enchanted mirror maze, Spelunker’s Drive-Thru, and caves containing incredibly rare crystalline formations. And the gift shop at Dinosaur Land is almost worth its own trip, really. Dinosaur Kingdom boasts “Foamhenge” (a scale recreation of Stonehenge but made of foam–pretty much exactly what the name implies), the Natural Bridge, a haunted house, and a Johnny Appleseed themed everything, everywhere.
Logistics, Locations, and History
Dinosaur Kingdom: history, web site (Really Dinosaur Kingdom? No web site? Come on….) and location. FYI, it’s about 3 hours away, and only open after Memorial Day. They also have poorly marked signs, so ask around when you get in the neighborhood.
So, as you can see, both are awesome and you should really just go to each one. Choosing one over the other would be like trying to decide which kid you love more.
And just to wrap up our little post here, a conclusive all-is-right-with-the-world-and-everything-is-connected tidbit from this Roadside America article: the creator of Dinosaur Kingdom–which is a relative newcomer to the Virginia dinosaur-themed tourism business–visited the older Dinosaur Land park as a child. Thus, his exposure to the original park inspired him to make his own little bit of Jurrasic heaven as an adult.