"Me neither," Mary Frances replied with a shrug. "I know it's not real."
No sooner had the words left her mouth than the dinosaur turned, lunged towards the girls, and roared. They both jumped back and squeaked.
"It totally got you!" Jimmy yelled from the other side of the walkway. "You were scared!"
No sooner had the words left his mouth than a dinosaur behind him came to life. And then it was his turn to flinch as the beady, life-like eyes of a triceratops stared at him.
The animatronic dinosaurs at Carowinds' new Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit have a way of fooling you into believing they're real.
The 32 life-sized models of dinosaurs spring to life -- twisting, reaching, roaring, rumbling and honking. Some of them even seem to breathe and eat. For most, their movements are triggered by motion sensors, so the dinosaurs come to life as you pass by. Even more fun for the kids were the dinosaurs whose movements they could control from kiosks on the walkway that winds through the exhibit.
The exhibit is like a dinosaur zoo. The dinosaurs are set up in scenes that recreate their prehistoric world. Some are sinking in tar pits, some are eating, and the hands-down favorite of the three kids I was with, a big dinosaur is being attacked by a pack of little ones. Visitors walk their way through the scenes on a walkway.
Some signs and diagrams along the path explain what kinds of dinosaurs you're looking at, and give a great overview of how the world was millions of years ago. Other signs are there for giggles -- warning of dinosaurs eating children and dinosaurs making stinks ahead.
About halfway through the exhibit is a big sandpit where kids can practice their paleontology skills. They can dig up buried bones and try to identify them, while their parents take a rest on the benches surrounding the sandpit. The girls loved this, and probably would have happily dug for an hour, by Jimmy was anxious to see what was up ahead.
He wasn't disappointed Just past the dig, we came across the most striking dinosaurs yet -- the massive Tyrannosaurus rex and triceratops. They made me really grateful that dinosaurs don't live today. I wouldn't want to see a living T. Rex when walking the dogs. The scale of the thing's head and jaws is amazing.
Dinosaurs Alive! is a dream-come-true for kids who love dinosaurs. It's also fun for everyone else.
On the way home from Carowinds that evening, Mary Frances wondered out loud how hard it might be to find dinosaur fossils in the backyard. I just asked that she double check with me before she started digging up the lawn.
Dinosaurs Alive! is an exhibit within Carowinds. The $5 entry fee for Dinosaurs Alive! is not included in the admission fee to the park; it can be paid at the entry to the exhibit. Click here for park hours and directions. Carowinds is located at 300 Carowinds Blvd., Fort Mill, right on the South Carolina/North Carolina line.
Insider Tip: Make sure you prepare younger children before you enter the exhibit. These models are lifelike and intimidating. The exhibit can also be loud with roaring. Make sure little ones realize that its just make-believe. I could imagine their imaginations getting away from them.