Tourist traps are cool. Those weird little roadside businesses full of merchandise that no right-thinking person would ever buy were they fully possessed of their senses have always fascinated me and represented one of the great pleasures of hitting the road. For that reason, I always take a moment to browse through the brochure stands at rest areas and motels just to see what kind of creative, capitalistic ventures a particular area has invented.
For years I've lived in Virginia, and for years I've wondered about Dinosaur Land.
Located in the Shenandoah Valley between Winchester and Front Royal, Dinosaur Land has a distinctive brochure filled with pictures of slightly embarrassed looking children posing with blood-spattered dinosaurs. Originally built in 1963, they've expanded over the years to where their gravel-covered "prehistoric forest" now houses around 50 or so purportedly life-sized dinosaurs alongside a few other creatures that have nothing, whatsoever, to do with the Mesozoic era.
The whole idea sprung years ago when a man who operated a souvenir shop went to Florida for the winter. "My daddy was in Florida playing on a putt-putt course," said Barbara Seldon, one of the current owners, "and he happened to meet the man who created the dinosaurs there, so he decided to buy a few to put out front. Later he decided to build the park, and he had some more built. Then after he passed away, we built some more."
In addition to dinosaurs, the park boasts a shark, an giant octopus, a replica King Kong and a 7-foot, hopefully-not-life-sized praying mantis. Though its primary purpose, obviously, is to provide entertainment for hyperactive children, the park does boast some educational benefit, with the dinosaurs created to be as accurate as possible as of the time they were built and some scientific information given.
Dinosaur Land is open March 1 through Dec. 31 each year with hours that vary based upon the season. If you happen to be out that way and have children, it's worth stopping in. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for children.
Visit dinosaurland.com for more information.