I suspect juvenile dino models cost less than full grown adults.I suspect juvenile dino models cost less than full grown adults.

One of the many juvenile dinosaurs on display at Canada's Wonderland. Photo by Jody Moon

I’m a sucker for dinosaurs and so are my kids. So when we were at Canada’s Wonderland on the weekend, I was more than happy to fork over the extra five bucks a head to see the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit.

This exhibit is staged by Dinosaurs Unearthed, the same company that was at the Toronto Zoo five years ago. The two main differences are that there were quite a few more of the animatronic dinos on exhibit at Wonderland (26 different species and in many cases there were multiples of each) and the exhibit was set up outdoors instead of in a dome, as it was at the zoo. Outdoors is definitely the way to go and gives a lot more freedom to set up interesting displays with the various dinos. On the downside, because this is outdoors at Canada’s largest amusement park, there’s the incongruity of seeing a full-scale T-Rex prowling the woods with the loops of a roller coaster in the background.

So, how were the dinosaurs? For the most part, I’d say that they were a pretty decent effort. The models are animatronic, but with limited motion (several are set up with push button controls to let kids trigger key movements). Not quite photo realistic, but they still gave a good showing. The rubberized skin was realistic enough and there were no visible joints or seams to spoil things. The one thing that became a bit of a running joke between my wife and myself, though, were the juvenile dinos. Yes, I realize that that a large percentage of the dinosaurs alive at any given time were juveniles. But that being said, having a large percentage of the life-sized dinosaurs in an exhibit be juveniles seemed a bit like a cost-saving measure.

I recognize the limits of the models and the economics of realism, but I was also a little disappointed that the info displays didn’t always match the models: Eotyrannus, for example, was illustrated with feathers but the model was regular reptilian skin. I don’t pretend to know which portrayal was the correct one, but they should have been consistent. Quibbling aside, there were some very impressive specimens throughout the trail and especially toward the end, including a 42-foot-tall Ruyangosaurus and 60-foot-long Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Is Dinosaurs Alive! worth the $5 each for admission ($6 if you go for the accompanying movie)? If you or your kids like dinosaurs, then it’s a no-brainer. And even if you’re just looking at it as another 15-minute attraction, when you’re paying $56.99 per person for park admission, $15 for parking and $3 for a bottle of water, then $5 is nothing. So if you’re in the Toronto area this summer and happen to be planning a visit to Canada’s Wonderland, consider springing for Dinosaurs Alive!

We stayed in the city after closing out Wonderland and spent the following day at the Royal Ontario Museum, checking out the real thing — or at least the remains of the real thing. If you have the time to swing it, the two together make for a nice combination.

T-Rex lurking in the background of the swan boats at Wonderland.T-Rex lurking in the background of the swan boats at Wonderland.

Umm, what happened to the line-up at the swan boats? Photo by Jody Moon

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