Jurassic Kingdom – animated dinosaurs at Osterley Park
If you’d asked me five years ago what my favourite dinosaur was, I’d probably have looked at you blankly. And a bit suspiciously. Now, with a small daughter, I not only have a favourite (ankylosaurus), I can even give you reasons (spiky back, club like tail, enough said).
I don’t quite know why we grow out of that childhood love of dinosaurs which seems to fascinate all small kids: frankly, learning more about them as an adult, they’re even more intriguing than I remember.
So while we’ve seen a few models and plenty of fossils and recreated skeletons, not least Dippy the diplodocus at the Natural History Museum, the chance to see them come to life was hugely tempting – in the shape of the Jurassic Kingdom dinosaurs, a series of animatronic and model dinos starting their UK tour this month in London.
Even better, they were just down the road from us at Osterley House and Park, roaring, shrieking and fighting among the woods and grounds of the historic mansion. Delayed slightly by our holiday in Cape Verde, our first opportunity to visit came today although there’s still time to see Jurassic Kingdom there until April 17 when it moves on around the country, stopping in Birmingham, Manchester, Blackpool. Glasgow, Newcastle and Leeds over the next six months.
More than 30 animated dinosaurs, plus static models, mean you can spot brachiosaurus grazing on the trees overhead or Tyrannosaurus Rex roaring, threatening and outright munching on other less fortunate creatures. And the effects are pretty impressive: swaying tails, moving heads, even blinking eyes, not to mention those roars, shrieks, grunts and one which sounded uncannily like an elephant.
Each dino has an information board with facts, figures, background and trivia, so there’s plenty for all levels of interest, whether you’re more focused on the ones with 50 banana-sized razor sharp teeth or the palaeontologists who first discovered them. Jurassic Kingdom is also upfront about any liberties taken with historic periods, including dinosaurs which wouldn’t actually have lived at the same time (small children can be very particular about these things, including one small boy I overheard today!)
There are as many ferocious meat-eaters as huge plodding herbivores, tiny vicious raptors and even a baby emerging from an egg, not to mention the pterosaurs flapping overhead. Nothing is sugar-coated: more than one dinosaur comes to a painful end which left my daughter completely unphased and was a great way to bring them even more immediately to life.
With a single loop to follow, and dinosaurs at regular intervals, it was easy to keep kids moving through the bluebell-lined paths as well. In the centre, by the den building, was a play area – ride the dino (for £2 extra) or more excitingly, excavate your own fossil with ‘bones’ buried in the sandpit. I was impressed at the detail, as my daughter burrowed down, we found teeth as well as the skeleton. Helpfully there are also food stalls and toilets here, as well as at the entrance.
The rest of the models are less interactive with signs saying ‘don’t touch’ – sadly something which more than a few people ignored. When a few unexpectedly sprang to life, it was very satisying to see them jump as a result…
About the only section which didn’t work quite so well was the documentary in the education tent. It seemed interesting but with the buzz of excited chatter and the only seats left towards the back, I couldn’t really make out what was going on in any detail (let’s just say it ended badly for one dinosaur, more happily for a lot more hungry carnivores). Minnie seemed fascinated, even if she didn’t have much more idea what was going on so if you can get a better seat or a quieter day, do…
You can also hire virtual reality headsets in another area, although we skipped that as even 3D leaves Minnie a bit baffled: great for older kids though.
Because when the reality is so tempting, with triceratops and ankylosaurus (hurrah!) plus some less common dinosaurs tucked among the trees, a walk in the woods has never been so much fun.
Need to know
Tickets for the Osterley show cost £13.50 for adults if pre-booked, £11.50 for children (aged three to 16). Prices for the other six cities are £11.50 and £9.50. Prices on the gate are higher for all locations. Family tickets are also available.
Jurassic Kingdom is open daily from 10am to 6pm, with the last entry at 5pm, and you’re asked to select one of the hourly time slots. Once you’re inside you can stay as long as you want – we spent around two hours. Even on a busy day during the school holidays I saw a few people paying the higher price on the gate, although prebooking the earlier slots in the day would be ideal.
Each location in the six cities is different, including parks and botanical gardens, but it will only be closed for major weather issues so there are no refunds for rainy days unless it’s cancelled entirely.
We weren’t the only family to bring our own dinosaur along (Jamie the T-Rex…) resulting in various envious looks. There is also a merchandise stall by the entrance/exit if you don’t.
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Disclosure: We received free tickets for the purpose of review. All opinions and blood-thirsty four-year-olds are my own.
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