Reviewed by Marc Cheatham
My almost seven-year-old son Cam loves dinosaurs. Dare I say, outside of his family, dinosaurs are his first true love. Aided by the phenomenal Dino book series by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Barry Gott, my son can recognize and name popular dinosaurs, such as the T-rex, stegosaurus, and triceratops. And he often goes much deeper, pointing out lesser-known dino friends like diplodocus, allosaurus, troodon, and several other prehistoric reptiles that his dad cannot spell or correctly pronounce.
So you can only imagine the pure joy on his face when he was able to meet his dino friends in real life and from the comfort of our car. That is what The Jurassic Encounter drive-through exhibit now showing at Richmond International Raceway offers.
The mile-long route is a 20 to 30-minute escape into the world of dinosaurs. The drive-through tour is fast, fun, educational, and COVID-safe. It features more than fifty animatronic and static dinosaurs, and trust me, a few are of them are pretty life-like: even for a parent like me, who knows full-well that these dinosaurs are not real (right?).
What’s the back story on why these dinos are in Richmond? Paleo-biologist Dr. Jane Bone Diggity and Drake the Dino Wrangler relocated their dinosaur family from Paradise Ranch in Tasmania, Australia, to share their family and environment with us. The exhibit’s goal is to take visitors back to a prehistoric setting, where you can experience the roars of a variety of dinosaurs, visit a paleontological camp, and even see an erupting volcano.
The audio tour is narrated by Dr. Bone Diggity and her zany friend – a pterodactyl named Alfie. The tour is informative and funny. Their commentary makes the tour entertaining for all ages. But the ultimate judge in my home is Cam, and I could tell by his smile and the random fits of laughter that he loved it.
On the way out of the drive-through tour, we stopped by the walk-in gift shop. Cam uncovered some fossils in the sandpit and pick-up up the latest stuffed dinosaur in his ever-growing collection: a plesiosaurus he named Water. This is where he told me the brachiosaurus was his favorite, but he also really liked the raptors.
As a parent, I enjoyed the drive-through aspect of the tour. The pandemic has forced parents with children too young to be vaccinated to approach recreation differently. It was fantastic that our family could have a safe, family fun outing on a Saturday afternoon. I recommend The Jurassic Encounter for any family that loves dinosaurs as much as mine.
The Jurassic Encounter runs at the Richmond Raceway Complex through October 10. For more information and tickets, visit The Jurassic Encounter.
Keep up with The Jurassic Encounter on Facebook, too.