I am a born and raised Floridian, and I’ve seen a whole lot of theme parks in my day. The only one in the state that I haven’t visited is surprisingly close to my hometown of Clearwater. Dinosaur World is located near Tampa, Florida, and some have called it a “slice of roadside Americana.” That is actually about the best description you can muster for it. When I drove to Los Angeles and back, I stopped at all sorts of cheesy roadside attractions, and Florida’s dinosaur world is along those same lines. It’s certainly not an amusement park like nearby Busch Gardens, Disney, or Universal. And it doesn’t try to be any of those parks. Dinosaur World was exactly what you would expect from a roadside attraction in Plant City, Florida. It was a relaxing, wholesome experience with just the right amount of Americana kitsch.
Dinosaur World is surprisingly low key; there’s not even a hint of the Disney World mania present there. My family and I mostly had the park to ourselves — no queues or rides. We meandered through the park at our own pace. It’s a small place, so there was plenty of time to let the kids go slowly and crawl all over some of the dinosaurs. They could pick out what they like and skip through the shady boardwalks until they found a dinosaur scene that struck their fancy.
We visited Dinosaur World trip for my five-year-old nephew Little Eric. It’s my last weekend in town and I am spending quality time with my family before I head out. So, even though we’ve all lived near Dinosaur world for 25+ years, this was our first visit. You see, Little E is at a stage where he adores all things dinosaur related. It’s his enthusiasm throughout the afternoon that made the trip worth it.
My nephew had a great time looking at the park’s many dinosaur replicas. And like any good five-year-old fan, he knew most of the dinos by name. He also regaled us with random dino facts, as well as spot-on dinosaur roars every time we happened across a T-Rex. The T-Rex is his favorite and in the pic you can see that he is pretending to creep up on his prey just like he imagines a T-Rex might.
Some of the replicas surprised me. At one point, we walked past a scene of carnivorous dinosaurs feasting on one of the slow-running guys. They had decked out the scene with fake intestines and blood — even my die-hard fan of a nephew was a bit taken aback by the gory details.
For other families in the area pondering a visit, if you need to fill an afternoon then it’s worth it. Dinosaur World is a cute park with huge shade trees, a completely family vibe, and tons of the much-promised dinos. The park is well landscaped too, and my dad was impressed by the variety of well-marked native Florida plants.
As cute as it is though, two hours is about all you need to wander through. Even Little Eric, with his deep love and fascination with dinosaurs knowing few bounds, was antsy by the time we left.
More than anything, it was nice to hang out with my parents for the day and get in some face time since they work all of next week. The time is ticking away — I take off on Saturday for Los Angeles, en route to Australia for the first days of my RTW trip!
How to Visit Florida’s Dinosaur World
Where: Located just north of Tampa, Florida. The Dinosaur world exit is well marked from I4 with a giant (and I do me huge) dinosaur at exit 17.
When: The park is open year-round and it’s very shady. This means it’s nice to visit year-round too, even in the hottest months there are breezy areas where you can eat a picnic lunch and enjoy.
How much: Check the website for the latest prices. Also, look for a coupon in the Entertainment Book if you’re a local. And locals may also receive a reciprocal discount if they have annual passes to a list of other local museums, zoos, and parks. Otherwise, check the kiosks in your hotel for a brochure and coupon, they usually have several deals floating around.