Dinosaur World: A Modern Retro Roadside Attraction in Plant City, Florida

Lisa Fritscher December 1, 2014 No Comments

Dinosaur Replica

The life-size dinosaur models are impressive!

Dad and I love roadside attractions. From Arizona’s legendary “The Thing” to the pile of rocks in North Carolina titled “Rock Garden of America,” we make it a mission to seek out the strange and unusual. Dinosaur World might be a modern attraction, but it perfectly encapsulates the feeling of roadside Americana. We visited the Plant City, Florida, location to see what it had to offer.

About Dinosaur World
Opened in 1998, the Plant City location was the first. Swedish carnival owner Christer Svensson had a small dinosaur park on the side, and had long dreamed of opening one in the United States. He and his wife regularly vacationed in Florida, and when the opportunity presented itself, he jumped on it. Svensson chose Plant City, closer to Tampa than to the Orlando theme parks, because of land prices. He was able to purchase the land outright, and sank $2.5 million dollars into developing the park. The family-run business has expanded twice, opening a location in Cave City, Kentucky, in 2003 and one in Glen Rose, Texas, in 2008.

Roadside Americana is arguably the secret to Dinosaur World’s success. Svensson needed to let the passing motorists on Interstate 4 know his park existed, so he installed two 40-foot T Rexes and a nearly 30-foot Brachiosaurus outside the gates, overlooking the interstate. Advertising is almost nonexistent, but the dinosaurs lure people in.

Dinosaur World in Plant City opens daily at 9 a.m. Closing hours vary by season, and the park is closed for some holidays. Check the website for details before your visit. As of 2014, admission is $16.95 for adults, $14.95 for seniors 60 and over, and $11.95 for kids ages 3-12. Those under age 3 are free. The Fossil Dig is free for children, and costs $2 for those over 12 or under 3. The Dino Gem Excavation and Geode Cracker are priced according to size. Annual passes are available for the cost of two days’ admission, and include reciprocal discount arrangements with other local attractions.

Our Experience

Hidden Dinosaurs

Hiding the dinosaurs among the foliage definitely upped the realism.

Dinosaur World met most of my expectations for a roadside attraction. Upon entering the gates, the first thing we saw was a sort of picnic area/communal space filled with large plastic and fiberglass dinosaur replicas. Although they were well-crafted, the location and positioning made them look obviously fake to adults, though probably highly inviting for children. A dinosaur-themed playground was also located in this area.

After we swung through the gift shop, though, things definitely improved. The rest of the main collection is a walk through the native Florida flora and fauna, with dinosaurs strategically placed throughout in more lifelike positions. By the time we completed the Carnivore Boardwalk, with some lessons on survival of the fittest, Dinosaur World had won me over.

Well-written and informative signage was placed at each dinosaur display, adding an educational overlay that was very much appreciated. The signs communicate essential information in a friendly “fun facts” way that avoids being preachy or dry. Enough information is provided to keep adults interested, while the bite-size nature of each fact keeps kids from getting bored.

A small indoor museum was set up more traditionally, with artifacts housed in glass cases. It was a welcome reprieve from the Florida heat, and an interesting place to learn more. But Dinosaur World saved the best for last. At the back of the museum was a highly detailed display featuring audio-animatronic dinosaurs. These were the only moving dinosaurs at Dinosaur World, and they definitely added a layer of realism!

Tips for Parents

Animatronic Dinosaurs

The audio-animatronic dinosaurs were our favorites.

Dinosaur World is definitely geared toward children, but there is enough scientific content to make it worthwhile for adults as well. We were particularly impressed by the immaculate cleanliness and maintenance, which made Dinosaur World feel higher quality than the average roadside attraction. The staff is small, but is both friendly and knowledgeable.

There is no restaurant onsite, but visitors are welcome to bring a picnic lunch. You can even have a pizza delivered! Well-behaved dogs on leashes are welcome, and water stations are available.

With more than 200 dinosaur replicas on display, Dinosaur World is easily a half-day adventure. If you take a leisurely pace and spend time on the extras such as the Fossil Dig, you could spend a full day. Note that except for the gift shop and museum, the entire attraction is outdoors. Use sunscreen, carry water, and plan to visit on a day when rain is not in the forecast.

avatarAbout the Author:

Lisa is a full-time travel writer. She lives in an RV with her disabled father and writes about their experiences. Although she has no children of her own, Lisa loves being an Aunt to her own relatives and the children of all her friends. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Travel Confessions.

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