Imagine a dusty dinosaur bone dig that has seen an old fashioned tourist trap grow up beside it -- that's the premise behind Dinoland, U.S.A.. Here the science behind real dinosaurs (the T-Rex fossil Dino-Sue was prepared here) meets the dinosaurs of roadside fantasy.
Dinosaur. Formerly known as Countdown To Extinction, the name of this attraction was changed to tie-in with the release of the animated feature film Dinosaur.
Welcome to the Dino Institute, where we are about to get the chance to study dinosaurs, not as dry bones and fossils, but alive in their natural habitat. It was planned as a safe, uneventful trip (as uneventful as time travel can be, anyway) -- but our technician has different plans. Overriding security protocols, he plans to use us to find and bring back a previously tagged iguanodon, snatching it alive from the Cretaceous just before a meteor shower hits and wipes the dinosaurs out for all time.
Our Time Rover vehicle is something like a big, supercharged SUV with a bad suspension, bouncing us this way and that as we careen across the landscape looking for our dino, dodging meteors and hungry carnivorous dinosaurs before they, and us, are made extinct. It can be a rough ride, although it was toned down somewhat from the intensity level it had when the park opened in order to lower the minimum height requirement from 48" to 40". Much of the ride takes place in the dark as we bounce from scene to scene. The entire trip lasts less than four minutes, once you are through the pre-show film and get to the vehicles.
Look for The Cosby Show's Phylicia Rashad and Wallace Langham from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in the pre-show.
The Boneyard. Junior paleontologists can dig for dinosaur bones and climb around in this play area just for kids.
Finding Nemo - The Musical. Nemo's not a dino, but he does have a show at the 1,500 seat, air-conditioned Theater in the Wild, tucked away between Dinoland and Asia. Remember all those great songs from the movie? Actually, there weren't any -- Disney commissioned Tony award winning composer Robert Lopez (Avenue Q) to write some new ones for this 30-minute musical featuring advanced puppetry, acrobatics, and dance to tell the story of one little lost fish and his friends.
Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama! The story goes that intrepid roadside tourism entrepreneurs Chester & Hester expanded their souvenir stand into a dino-themed midway including carny games and rides. Although an attempt is made to theme this area as a deliberately tacky, over-the-top roadside tourist trap, a few cool signs and roadway stripes on the pavement don't really make this on-the-cheap area seem to fit in a Disney theme park where the other areas are so richly themed. It's still a relatively unattractive expanse of hot asphalt littered with stock carnival games ready to take your money.
This area has two rather standard rides: TriceraTop Spin, a dinosaur themed hub-and-spoke, Dumbo style ride, and Primeval Whirl, a stock wild mouse style roller coaster with spinning cars (a similar coaster operates at Cypress Gardens just south of here). There are two tracks side by side for greater capacity.
Restaurantosaurus. Supposedly the camp hub for the paleontologists of the local dinosaur dig, stray bones, fossils, and class notes decorate the dining room. You can pay Disney prices for typical fast food including McDonalds fries, McNuggets, and Happy Meals.
Dino-Bite Snacks is a walk-up window offering ice cream, snacks, and drinks.
Dino Diner. This converted trailer in the midway area of Dino-rama offers hot dogs, snacks, and drinks.
PetriFries is a McDonalds fry stand.
Chester and Hester's Dinosaur Treasures. It's the ultimate in tacky tourist shops, a dinosaur country throwback to the roadside souvenir stands of the 1950's Route 66 or pre-Disney Florida. Dinosaur toys, T-shirts, and "gifts of extinction" are featured in an atmosphere of gleeful tackiness.
The Dino Institute Gift Shop at the exit of Dinosaur has plenty of dino items.
From Dinoland, U.S.A., you can cross the bridge back to Discovery Island or continue on directly to