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Dinosaurs are stomping through the Tampa Bay area this fall

Three new exhibits of realistic-looking dinosaurs are on the way, giving us four Jurassic encounters in the area.
Visitors at Largo Central Park will find close to 70 dinosaurs set up in a walk-through display Oct. 14-23 called the Jurassic Encounter. It includes interactive encounters, shown here at a recent display in Virginia, as well as a dino dig and bouncy houses.
Visitors at Largo Central Park will find close to 70 dinosaurs set up in a walk-through display Oct. 14-23 called the Jurassic Encounter. It includes interactive encounters, shown here at a recent display in Virginia, as well as a dino dig and bouncy houses. [ Jurassic Encounter ]
Published Oct. 5|Updated Oct. 7

Dinosaurs are having a moment in the Tampa Bay area. A total of four different dino exhibits are coming soon to give fossil fans a realistic-looking walk among the “terrible lizards.”

This month brings a 10-day Jurassic Encounter to Largo Central Park and a six-month stint at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for Dino Rescue, modeled to look like the extinct animals are under the care of the marine hospital.

Those two exhibits come on the heels of Dinosaurs Around the World, which was announced at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry this summer. The animatronics were so popular, MOSI has extended the run through Jan. 1. And in December, a fourth prehistoric encounter called Dinosaurs & Dragons will stalk near downtown New Port Richey for two months.

Having this many ways to come face to fang with a dinosaur doesn’t surprise Cheri Garr, co-owner and scene designer for the Virginia-based company Jurassic Encounter, which is coming to Largo.

“Dinosaurs are timeless and they are attractive to all ages,” said Garr, who started the company with her husband four years ago. Theirs was one of the few entertainment options that was able to weather the pandemic by converting to a drive-thru version with their cast of dinosaurs.

“You would think the people coming to our show would all be little kids who love dinosaurs — and they do — but we’ve also noticed that people loved dinosaurs when they were children and so we have seniors coming,” Garr said.

Grab a safari hat and watch out for the sound of heavy stomping behind you. Here’s where you can go dinosaur hunting in the Tampa Bay area this season:

Jurassic Encounter

Update: This event has been postponed. Stay tuned for further details.

The walk-through experience will stock Largo Central park with dozens of dinosaurs, some animatronic and some puppets to interact with the visitors.

The 10-day event, running Oct. 14 through Oct. 23, is the first of its kind at the park, bringing close to 70 dinos for up-close encounters and adjacent activities such as a dino dig, bouncy houses and games.

The experience runs 2-7 p.m. Oct. 14 and then 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily through Oct. 23 at the park at 101 Central Park Drive, Largo. Admission is $19 for ages 2 and up. Upgrade packages and family packs can be purchased at feeltheroar.com or call 800-830-3976.

Visitors at Largo Central Park will find close to 70 dinosaurs set up in a walk-thru display Oct. 14-23 called the Jurassic Encounter. It includes huge displays like this one at a recent display in Virginia, as well as a dino dig and bouncy houses.
Visitors at Largo Central Park will find close to 70 dinosaurs set up in a walk-thru display Oct. 14-23 called the Jurassic Encounter. It includes huge displays like this one at a recent display in Virginia, as well as a dino dig and bouncy houses. [ Jurassic Encounter ]

Dino Rescue

A longer-term exhibit called Dino Rescue opens Oct. 15 at Clearwater Marine Aquarium and will remain on display through April 15. As guests walk throughout CMA, they will encounter the dinosaurs, which move and roar, as they “rehabilitate” from various ailments today’s animals face, like habitat loss and entanglement.

“Each dinosaur will have a medical patient workup chart with their backstory on display,” said Lisa Oliver, CMA’s chief operating officer. “We hope that by applying these real-life challenges to the dinosaurs in a fun, satirical fashion, it will bring to light the severity of these ailments, which can lead to the very real extinction of an entire species.”

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The Dino Rescue display comes from the mind of Don Lessem, a paleontologist and Tampa Bay resident who was a dinosaur consultant on the “Jurassic Park” movies.

“We’ve gone to great lengths to ensure these are the most accurate dinosaur robots in the world, and dinosaur fans are going to love them,” Lessem said.

The dinosaurs are set up around the CMA facility, which in 2020 opened an $80-million expansion that gave it five times more space. The exhibit is included with admission: $35.95, $26.95 age 3-12. 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater. cmaquarium.org.

A maiasaura dinosaur and its eggs are among the new "residents" when Dino Rescue opens Oct. 15 at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The dinosaurs will remain in display through April 15.
A maiasaura dinosaur and its eggs are among the new "residents" when Dino Rescue opens Oct. 15 at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The dinosaurs will remain in display through April 15. [ Clearwater Marine Aquarium ]

Dinosaurs & Dragons

Nearly 100 dinosaurs, along with a few dragons, are taking over New Port Richey Dec. 9-Feb. 6, on the field at the Harry Schwettman Education Center near downtown.

“Think Jurassic Park with an educational twist,” organizers said of the international traveling exhibit that has never been seen east of Mississippi.

Why New Port Richey? Because of the Museum of Archaeology, Paleontology and Science , a nonprofit natural history museum located in New Port Richey, and one of Pasco County’s best-kept secrets. This museum and its more than 10,000-piece collection of artifacts needs a new home because it is bursting at the seams at its current location on the Wendell Krinn Technical High School campus. Dinos & Dragons doubles as a fundraiser to get them that new home.

Nearly 100 life-size dinosaurs plus dragons will be on display, along with hands-on labs, shows, rides and more. Visitors will walk through the Dinosaur Land and Mystical World to experience what the earth was like 65 million years ago. Roving dinosaurs and dino petting will also take place on your journey.

Other show highlights include a triceratops laying eggs (and you get to keep the egg), a battle of wits with the dangerous velociraptors and a dinosaur-infested maze where visitors are on a mission to find the path to escape.

The attraction will be open six days a week — closed on Mondays — and times will vary depending on dates. Tickets are date and time specific in order to regulate the flow of the crowds. Daily capacity will be limited.

Admission is $20 and up, age 3 and younger free, at dinoanddragonsnpr.com. The event will be at the Schwettman Education Center starting Dec. 9 at 5520 Grand Blvd., New Port Richey.

This Herrerasaurus dinosaur, first discovered in fossils in South America, is among the Dinosaurs Around the World running through Jan. 1 at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry.
This Herrerasaurus dinosaur, first discovered in fossils in South America, is among the Dinosaurs Around the World running through Jan. 1 at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry. [ Imagine Exhibitions ]

Dinosaurs Around the World

The traveling exhibit at MOSI features animatronic dinosaurs that offer a paleontological journey back in time. It opened May 14 and was supposed to end Labor Day weekend, but it has been so popular it has been extended through Jan. 1.

Dinosaur fossils have been found on all continents on Earth, including Antarctica, so this exhibit aims to show how they adapted to many different environments. Visitors will find out how continental drift, sea level fluctuations and volcanic activity allowed dinosaurs to disperse to all corners of the globe. They can also touch fossil casts and find out about modern-day dinosaurs.

The maker space in the museum’s Idea Zone also has themed activities like fossil casting and dino digs.

It is included with admission at MOSI: $12.95, $10.95 seniors, $7.95 age 2-12. Parking is free. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. 813-987-6000. mosi.org.

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