As a born and raised Floridian, I’ve visited a whole lot of theme parks in my day. The only one in the entire state that I hadn’t by the time I reached adulthood was surprisingly close to my hometown of Clearwater: Dinosaur World. This theme park actually has a few locations across the south, and until I visited with my nephew, I only knew it as the location off of I4 marked by an enormous, life-sized T-Rex visible from the highway. Now that I’ve visited, let’s dive into what it’s like, if you should visit, and tips on how to avoid paying full price.
What’s Dinosaur World Like?
Dinosaur World is not your average Florida theme park. Located near Tampa, Florida, some have called it a “slice of roadside Americana.” That’s actually about the best description you can muster for it because it’s unlike anything else in the state.
When I drove to Los Angeles and back, I stopped at all sorts of cheesy roadside attractions (Davy Crockett statue and “The Thing,” I’m looking at you!), and Florida’s Dinosaur World is along those same lines. It’s certainly not an amusement park like nearby Busch Gardens, Disney World, or Universal Studios. 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 along the shady boardwalks until they found a dinosaur scene that struck their fancy. It’s ideal if you want open space and few crowds—you can easily create distance between yourself and other families in the park.
We visited Dinosaur World trip for my five-year-old nephew Little Eric. It’s my last weekend in town before my round the world trip, 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.
Should You Visit Dinosaur World?
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. So yes, it’s worth a visit but this is not a Florida theme park where you pack a bag and plan to be gone for 12+ hours. If you’re road-tripping the state, or making the trek between Tampa and Orlando, then this is a good way to break up the drive for your kids.
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 world travels!
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 so you likely won’t have to pay full-price if you put a bit of effort into researching it ahead of time.
Read: Pick up a copy of Oddball Florida: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places; this guidebook is a true gem for anyone road-tripping the state in search of neat attractions and off-the-beaten path things to do.