The Discover the Dinosaurs exhibit touring the country is $20 for adults and $25 for children. To a cheapskate like me, that's pricey, especially if you are thinking in terms of a 4 person family! Luckily, I won tickets from a local tv station.
What the kids get with the exhibit plus band:
* 8-10 dinosaur scenes with animatronic and static figures
* a piece of paper with scavenger hunt questions
* a plastic, gumball machine-style prize for turning in scavenger hunt paper
* access to a dig pit
* access to movie tent
* access to mini golf station
* baby/toddler padded play area
* access to bounce house
* access to dinosaur ride
On paper, that sounded like a fair price for an educational look at dinosaurs and all the activities.
Upon entering, we were directed to stand against a wall a pretend a dinosaur was coming toward us so they could take a photo to try to sell to us. A creepy, battered mannequin that looked like it was bought from a department store foreclosure auction sat by the fold out table that held the stack of scavenger hunt papers.
The dinosaur scenes were dimly lit and very attractive. The dinosaurs were human-sized or larger. There were animatronic creatures that wiggled their hand or "chewed" at a potted plant lamely. I couldn't help but think the movement paled in comparison to Chuck E. Cheese and his band. There were placards giving facts about the dinosaurs, and then within a few minutes, the exhibit part was over. You have the option to buy "exhibit only" tickets at the door for about $13. I advise you not to. You can see things along these lines from your local natural history museum for free or very cheap.
The scavenger hunt redemption stand and the photo center were next. Photos were small, with the option to buy a regular for $15 an a 3D photo for $20. Obviously, I passed.
Then, we passed through folding tables piled with VERY over-priced toys, like dinosaur plushes and water guns. I was beginning to get the idea that this was not an educational event so much as a carnival. My daughter began the begging and pleading. "Can I have this? This one? What about this dinosaur tote?It's only $20!"
We made it past the toy trap to the activity floor. My daughter took one look at the dinosaur ride, which was like one of those machines in front of groceries stores that wiggle a little when you drop your coins in it, and decided she was far past the age group that would find that thrilling.
The bounce houses were very nice. There were separate bounce houses for school aged children and toddlers.The line to the bounce houses was quite long on this particular day, about a 20 minute wait, but my my daughter enjoyed her 5 minutes of play before the whistle.
Tickets for mining, panning and face painting were $2 each or $20 for 12. I am not immune to begging, and my child finally wore me down. My daughter panned a 3lb sack of gems to the equivalent of $8. The activity only lasted a minute, but she got some cool gems to take home and a card with which to identify them. I felt satisfied with that.
Face painting is a fixture of almost every kids event, and I have always discouraged my daughter from getting one. The lines are long, the price is high, and it's such a temporary thing. I am a great face painter. I paint her face at home, but she says it's not the same so I finally relented. We waited over an hour in the face painting line. The $16 piece was done in a few seconds with a few quick swipes of a brush and a dash of glitter. (It did look pretty though.Probably better than I could do!)
I was too worn out for mini golf or another wait in the bounce house line. I found the affair cheap and over-priced like a roadside attraction. It was not a good value for the price, but my daughter felt differently. She referred to it as "the fair" and wanted to stay and spend money for hours longer. She didn't give a flip about the dinosaurs and had nearly forgotten we'd seen them at all.
As a frugal person, I recommend visiting a nearby children's museum, which would be twice the entertainment for half the price, instead of Discover the Dinosaurs. But here's my seven year old's opinion: "it was so fun. I loved it.
. " (She typed that herself)