The Delightful Dinosaurs of Disney World

Dinosaur at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Every child loves dinosaurs. Scratch that. Every person loves dinosaurs. I don’t care about your race, religion, gender, yada yada yada. Dinosaurs speak to the inner badass that exists in us all. What Bald Eagles represent to America, dinosaurs represent to the world.

They bring us all together in a shared sense of awe, wonder, and promise of a better tomorrow. I believe that whatever hope we have in achieving world peace lies with the noble scientist(s) who are making it their life’s work to turn chickens into dinosaurs. It’s no surprise that so many kids become dinosaur-obsessed (for others it’s pirates, princesses, dogs, trucks, superheroes, etc.), and will want to do everything dinosaur-related they can while on vacation.

I can’t count the number of times someone has said to me, “Yo Tom, where can I find those delightful dinosaurs at Walt Disney World? I want to inspire my children to dream big!” I cannot count the number, since this has, sadly, never happened. I’m going to chalk it up to a sense of embarrassment. You’re fearful that I will make fun of you for not learning about all the dino hot spots at Walt Disney World before you ever booked your trip.

To help you save face, I’ve put together maybe 3 sentences of useful material buried in a collection of lame jokes this incredibly helpful post covering all of the places you can find dinosaurs at Walt Disney World. You’re welcome. Estás bienvenido. どういたしまして. 0ei uho nocsemo. (That last one is Saurian, the language of the Dinosaur Planet.)

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T-REX Cafe – Located in Disney Springs, T-REX Cafe is a dinosaur-centric restaurant that is a must-do for families of dinosaur-obsessed children. It’s by the same group as Rainforest Cafe, and as such, my expectations for it were low. As I reported in my review, the experience and food far exceeded my expectations. The decor is nicely done and has some depth, and the food is above average. It’s definitely not the best restaurant at Disney Springs from a cuisine perspective, but it ranks very highly overall for families.

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Dinosaur – Moving to the parks now, we’ll start with Dinoland in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which is an entire area devoted to dinosaurs (with a sub-land in it called Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama). The next few entries are all in this area, which is anchored by the E-Ticket attraction, Dinosaur. This inevitably draws comparisons to Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland (with which it shares a ride system), leading Dinosaur to attain “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” status with many Disney fans.

The thing is, when viewed on its own merits, it’s a pretty good attraction. The pre-show is humorous and quotable, the time travel sequence interesting, and the prehistoric land of dinosaurs well done. Unlike Universe of Energy, which feels more like animated dioramas, Dinosaur immerses you in the experience. It’s certainly not a perfect attraction (all of that effort to travel back to capture a dinosaur, and we go for a lame Iguanodon?!), but it’s far better than its reputation among fans would suggest.

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The Boneyard – Dreading your child will pursue a liberal arts degree, leading them down a tragic path of becoming a Disney blogger writing nonsense about dinosaurs? Do as all good parents do…meddle! Nudge them towards a respectable career in paleontology during their formidable years by taking them here under the false pretense of having them “play.” The Boneyard is one of the nicer play areas at Walt Disney World, and is definitely worth a visit. (Note: The Dig Site play area at Coronado Springs can be utilized to similar effect, albeit sans dinosaurs.)

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Restaurantosaurus – While I think the storyline of the clash between Dinorama and the Dino Institute collapses under its own weight due to a total dearth of substantive quality, that is not the case with Restaurantosaurus. This is one of the places in which the over-the-top kitsch works, and the result is a restaurant that has a lot of visual interest and some fun seating areas. This will appeal to kids for the dinosaurs, and make older adults nostalgic for Route 66 road-trips. Unfortunately, this is Animal Kingdom’s “burger place,” so we can’t recommend it for the food, but consider grabbing a waffle sandwich from Trilo-Bites (at the entrance to Dinoland) and walking over to enjoy it in the AC of Restaurantosaurus.

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Dino-Rama – Do you like crappy experiences that are supposedly good because of a concocted backstory about them? Dino-Rama is for you! (Alternatively, you can visit your local landfill and I will fax you a 20-page story detailing its subtle brilliance. That rotten stench isn’t garbage–it’s story-roma!) If, on the other hand, you recognize garbage as garbage, this area is awful beyond redemption. On the plus side, I am certain that once the chickens turn to dinosaurs, they will come to destroy Dino-Rama first. It sullies the venerable “dinosaur” name. Don’t even bother with this foolishness.

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Hall of Presidents – “The extermination of the dinosaur has been a veritable tragedy of the animal world.” ~President Theodore Roosevelt. Actually, Teddy Roosevelt–who has an oddly high number of quotes about animals–said that about the American Bison. But he probably meant it about dinosaurs, too. Although dinosaurs were undoubtedly the main source of inspiration for Liberty’s Leaders, they are surprisingly absent from this show. That is, unless by dinosaurs, you mean “old white dudes.”

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Walt Disney World Railroad – Nope, no dinosaurs here, either. You’re probably thinking of the Disneyland Railroad, which features Audio Animatronics similar to those found in Universe of Energy at Epcot. Sadly, Magic Kingdom’s dinosaur levels are at an all-time low. The other railroad provides slight redemption with the dinosaur skeleton you pass under. Pretty appalling that the only representation of dinosaur culture in Magic Kingdom is a fallen homie, though. RIP, Big Thunder dinosaur.

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Gertie the Dinosaur – I don’t want to spoil it, but this stand features two things that will feature heavily in the plot of National Treasure 3. That’s right, the two truths that Nicolas Cage holds to be self-evident are that dinosaurs and ice cream are both totally rad. (Shoot, I’ve said too much.) While it’s infrequently open, Dinosaur Gertie’s Ice Cream of Extinction is a neat little ice cream stand on Echo Lake. It’s also one of my favorite photo spots in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The stand is in the style of “California Crazy” architecture, and is (presumably) inspired by the Cabazon Dinosaurs. (I made the pilgrimage out to Palm Springs to see those noble beasts last summer.)

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American Adventure – This riveting attraction glosses over the significance of dinosaurs in the development of our great nation, in one of the most dubious examples of revisionist history ever depicted. To honor the legacies of Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods (kudos on cheating and ruining lives, fellas!) while blatantly disregarding the lasting impact felt by our heroic dinosaurs is downright offensive. Despite this, American Adventure is still awesome. Plus, it’s pretty well-known that Teddy Roosevelt was looking for dinosaurs on his visit to Yosemite with John Muir (hence his comment that “any fool can destroy dinosaurs…”), so maybe the Imagineers omitted dinosaurs out of the very real concern of an awesome-overload?

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Universe of Energy – While dinosaurs are overlooked for their integral part in making America great, they are lauded in this attraction for discovering coal and oil…or something like that. Dinosaurs are the star of the show in Universe of Energy, where the bulk of the lengthy attraction involves Ellen’s journey back in time to the age of the dinosaurs. For me, this is right up there with Dinosaur as the best dinosaur attraction at Walt Disney World. Although it lacks the frenetic energy of Dinosaur, it makes up for that with duration, and the opening scene with the sauropods towering the distance puts a smile on my face every time. I love how it presents an almost serene, majestical look at dinosaurs, reminiscent of the first reveal in the original Jurassic Park. 

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Electrical Water Pageant – From the crazy antics depicted in Boogie Nights to the belief that the Brontosaurus was a real dinosaur, the 1970s were a wild time. This is evident (the Brontosaurus, not the Boogie Nights mischief) in Electrical Water Pageant, a slice of classic Walt Disney World. Then, came the sobering realization in the 80s that it was an amalgamation of multiple, other dinosaurs. Then came the realization in 2015 that–just kidding!–the Brontosaurus was real all along. Much like the VR scene in Carousel of Progress, the Brontosaurus in Electrical Water Pageant is once again relevant…it just had to wait out the naysayers. Catch this charming little show every evening as it runs a circuit around Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake for the Magic Kingdom area resort hotels (it can also be seen from the Magic Kingdom boat dock).

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Things That Seem Like Dinosaurs But Mostly Aren’t – This is a good time to illustrate all of the things around Walt Disney World that are probably not dinosaurs since Electrical Water Pageant features a couple of them. That sea serpent at the beginning? Cool as he may be, he’s not a dinosaur. Unfortunately, sea serpents are mythical, but I’d really encourage the scientists working on bringing back dinosaurs to add “create sea serpents” to their to-do lists. Turtles and alligators also aren’t dinosaurs, nor are they distant ancestors. The cyborg-dragon-thing in Festival of Fantasy parade–cool as he is–also not a dinosaur. Back at Epcot, Figment is not technically a dinosaur. He’s more commonly referred to as a dragon, but really, he’s neither. Since he’s a product of the imagination, I suppose you could imagine him as a dinosaur if you so desired. (And I do, so from here on out, he has honorary dinosaur status.)

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To my knowledge, that covers all of the places you’ll find dinosaurs at Walt Disney World. Until Baby Sinclair makes his triumphant debut in Star Wars Land, Animal Kingdom is the go-to spot for dinosaurs. Although I like the Dinosaur attraction there, the land is otherwise a letdown and feels like a squandered opportunity. For regular readers, my complaints about Dino-Rama are beating a dead horse at this point, but I really hope that the Imagineers are given the opportunity for a mulligan on that land (perhaps once Pandora is done?). Even if you buy into what that backstory is selling, I think there’s little denying that a land based on dinosaurs should wow guests, much like dinosaurs themselves do. There’s a reason generation after generation of children are fascinated by dinosaurs, and it’s because they captivate the imagination. A theme park land based upon dinosaurs should have that same effect on children and the inner child in us all. It should be the tangible embodiment of the wow moment when Dr. Grant first sees dinosaurs. It’s a shame no theme park land (even the ones based on Jurassic Park!) has managed to capture this sense of wonder and amazement. For now, the above dinosaur representations at Walt Disney World will have to suffice.

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Your Thoughts

Do you agree or disagree with our take on the state of dinosaurs at Walt Disney World? Any dinosaurs we missed? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!


26 Responses to “The Delightful Dinosaurs of Disney World”
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