PLANT CITY — Dinosaurs are still extinct, but the look of Dinosaur World is brand new.
The attraction on Wednesday opened a 12-acre expansion that includes a new museum, gift shop, playground area and lifelike dinosaurs that move.
The nearly $4 million project is the largest ever for the 13-year-old park founded by Swedish businessman Christer Svennson. Visitors who enjoyed the Florida kitsch experience before have considerably more to try out.
"We've always loved it because it's clean and shady, but this is incredible,'' said Angie Brunson, who attended opening day with her children Brodie, 5, and Bailey, 3. "The gift shop is so tempting.''
The park kept the 1-mile dinosaur walk through lush Florida landscape but revamped everything else, from the parking lot to the fossil dig.
It upped ticket prices about $2 — to $14.95 for adults, $11.95 for children 3 to 12 and $12.95 for seniors.
The changes start at the front gate, where five dinosaurs perched on a new archway greet guests. Visitors buy tickets at a new, 5,000-square-foot gift shop that sells everything from dinosaur toys and T-shirts to snow globes to polished stones.
The gift shop opens to a grassy courtyard with 25-foot-tall dinosaurs, two playgrounds and a covered picnic area with more than 20 tables. Moms will be happy to see the park bought several new tire swings. They were a hit in the old playground, and you don't see groupings of them around town.
The highlight of the expansion is the 22,000-square-foot Prehistoric Museum, clearly visible from Interstate 4. The museum displays authentic dinosaur artifacts, from a triceratops toe to a spinosaurus tooth. Large posters educate visitors on dino-facts.
Another change is the museum's five animatronic dinosaurs that move and roar. Lowry Park Zoo had similar creatures in a temporary exhibit last year, but they were larger and outdoors. The ones at Dinosaur World can still be scary to toddlers but are a huge hit among older kids, especially watchers of Nick Jr.'s Dino Dan.
The park moved and expanded the popular fossil dig and increased its herd of dinosaurs from 150 to about 200. It kept the movie cave and the boneyard area for uncovering skeletal remains hidden in the sand.
Eventually, the attraction wants to add a mammoth exhibit in the old playground area and convert the former gift shop into exhibit space.