A Short Drive: Dinosaur Kingdom II

Sitting directly across the street from the Natural Bridge Zoo is the Dinosaur Kingdom II attraction. You can’t miss it. In fact, there is so much going on in every square foot of your vision that it is hard to draw your attention away from it. I could see the entrance while in the zoo and, even then, it would steal my focus – and that’s just the entrance.

It is really difficult to explain what Dinosaur Kingdom II is and if you will enjoy it. I absolutely loved it but I love things that are absurd and represent imagination run amok. That is what this is, in spades.

The founder is an artist who makes sculptures in fiberglass. Big sculptures. You can see some of his other work in a video from 2018 with the CarpetBagger channel on YouTube. I found the CarpetBagger channel during the height of the lockdown and recommend it if you would like to go to amusement parks, wax museums, and attractions of all kinds vicariously through video.

Dinosaur Kingdom is a series of installations, some animatronic, some interactive. From the ticket booth where the kindly attendant shows you the latest hatched dinosaur (hand puppet) all the way to the maze at the end, it seems like there is something carefully packed into every step of your path through the campus.

The first section is a replica western street front. There is a jail where animatronic eggs are “hatching” and we stopped to take photos of different members of our party “in jail”.

One of the buildings is of the tilting house variety. It is not the easiest to walk through but it can be done and you can make a ball secured to the wall appear to roll “up” its track.

All of the buildings have some sort of story going on inside. For example, you can’t actually go inside the building pictured below because this smart fellow has a big foot creature trapped inside, trying to get out.

Other buildings you can go inside or you are presented with an ongoing story, like the undertaker’s office where young raptors have broken in and turned the room upside down. Not literally upside down, which I would point out is a distinct possibility here. One room had a game based on the classic Operation but dinosaur-themed. My companion said that this one is more difficult.

Even with all of the absurd, whimsical, and funny sights to see, I really appreciated what appeared to me to be real antiques throughout. They had to have spent a lot of time collecting all of this stuff.

At the end of the street is the Big Foot Stage and at set times during the day, there is a water fight between the resident Big Foot and anyone who wants to take up one of the dozens of water canons available in front of the building. The show starts off with Big Foot banging on the doors of the “barn” behind the water canons. I missed the first part of the battle so the video below picks up after Big Foot and abandoned the stage and run to the little house on the right.

It’s all good, clean fun and a nice way to cool off a little. After the Big Foot shoot-out, you begin a path through the woods. The first stop is an attraction that is still in the process of being completed. It is called The Triceratops Bullfight and the rules are posted as follows:

  1. Only two (2) people in the corral at a time.
  2. One person operates the head. One person fights “the bull”.
  3. Only an adult operates the head mechanism.
  4. Place your phone in the clip to make the best video.
  5. Push the button to start the music. Bull Fight is 1 minute.

My only photo of this attraction is not a good one. I look forward to when this opens and people start sharing videos. This could be really fun and a great marketing tool.

The rest of the experience is a walk through the woods, passing by various installations – some animatronic, some not. Several of the installations refer you to a specific page in the the Dinosaurs Kingdom II comic book (a $6 purchase in the gift shop) for explanation.

I did buy a copy of the comic book at the end but I haven’t read it yet. Real life happens after you leave. But I have to hand it to the artist that my photos are probably going to cause me to read the comic book (here eventually) so, in a way, Dinosaur Kingdom is still commanding my attention.

Props, Mr. Cline. A job well done.

And, touché.

A Short Drive: Natural Bridge Zoo

I was lucky enough to be invited along on a day trip to Southern Rockbridge, just about two hours to our north. We covered so much ground that I am going to divide the trip into three posts: the Natural Bridge Zoo, Dinosaurs Attack II, and the Natural Bridge Caverns and river walk. We had two pre-teens and three adults. Everyone had an absolute blast at each stop.

It’s been a hot July so we started off our day at the zoo. This was a really good suggestion by the Natural Bridge Caverns people. They sold us a ticket package for all the events that we would be seeing and suggested that the zoo is better in the morning when temps are cooler. “Hot” in this part of Virginia is generally humid and 90 but it still cools off at night. Nighttime temps generally drop to around 70, a little more if we are lucky. Even when it’s “hot”, it’s reasonably comfortable until around lunchtime.

I really enjoyed the zoo. It was nice. I encourage folks to go and give it a gander. See it for yourself.

There was a good video put out by the zoo but it is no longer available on YouTube. There were a couple of points made in the video that I thought were important. First was that this zoo specializes in birds and hoofstock. I am a bit partial to birds and they do have quite a lot of different varieties. There is an unusual number of monkeys given this specialty. I have no explanation for that.

I’m not a veterinarian and I have no knowledge of what these animals need. As a patron that day, I did not feel like any of the animals looked mistreated. The guys next to the lemurs looked sad (their sign said that they were on the shy side) and some of the birds looked hot (it was a hot day) but, other than that, I did not feel uncomfortable about what I saw.

Most of the enclosures were dedicated to a specific type of animal but one notable exception was the cage for the capuchins. The capuchins look like the kind of monkey from Indiana Jones and they seemed perfectly happy in this conical cage surrounded by chickens, tortoises, and an odd deer/goat animal that seemed very inquisitive and sweet.

The center of the zoo is dedicated to large paddock areas. This is where the elephant is. He has a fairly extensive play area but he was busy dousing himself with water while we were watching.

This big fellow was in a paddock across the lane from one of the types of monkeys that were particularly loud and gymnastic. The sign said that these guys didn’t like noise so they pretty much stayed in the shade on the far side of the paddock.

Can anyone else see a zebra without thinking of the Madagascar movies?

We were followed around for a little while by a lovely little bird that seemed to be able to slip in and out of his or her fenced area at will.

I don’t know if the llamas would spit on you or not but I’ve always heard that they will. While the fellow in the photo below looks friendly, he always had a bubble of spit on his lips. I was never sure that he wasn’t just trying to get us a little closer to improve his aim.

I’m skipping a lot. There were camels and giraffes and exotic birds and just something new in every direction. I’ve selected the shots I’ve included in this post so that you have an idea what the zoo looks like in general. I encourage everyone to go check it out.

I did not see much in the way of snakes. One boa constrictor, I believe. There were two tigers, a huge black bear, and a mountain lion. So, if you are only thrilled by the “fierce creatures”, you will not be disappointed.

Additional tips:


Go in the morning to avoid the heat.

The nicest picnic pavilion is over by the mountain lion and tigers. You’ll end up there if you go in a counter-clockwise direction when starting.

The gift shop is full of good touristy things. I bought my host a commemorative shot glass (go ahead and snicker).

Buy food at the gift shop to feed the animals.

Buy your kid an elephant ride.

Plan on going to the Dinosaurs Attack II (right across the street) afterwards.

Next Weekend – June 27th (Updated)

I’m going to try something new this week and see if it works. As I find fun things coming up for the next weekend, I’ll update this post.

Right this very moment, I don’t know of anything scheduled so I’m thinking about going up to the Roanoke Mountain Adventures and renting one of their kayaks. You pay for the package with them so having my own now is no help in this case. On the plus side, it looks like they rent sit-on-top kayaks. I’ve never tried a sit-on-top kayak before and, since I’m interested in buying a Tootega Huntsman, it might be a good idea for “research”.

Update:

Well, that certainly didn’t work well.

I had hoped to essentially knock out two birds with one stone by organizing the events that looked like fun in one place.

What’s happening in real life is that there are a ton of events planned with no coherent theme, timing, or location. Organizing them in a post is not going to work.

Since I’ve brought it up, here is what I know of at the moment:

July 29th – Henry County Parks & Recreation 50+ Club is having a senior kayaking event out at Fairy Stone State Park. It’s a bring your own kayak event at 1:30. It is free to attend but they do ask that you call to register with them: 276-634-4600 (then choose 5 for the Parks & Rec Department). This is a monthly event and the location for August 26th is Philpott Lake.

July 31st – Brushy Mountain Peach and Heritage Festival is in downtown Wilkesboro, NC from 9 to 5. If you search for Wilkesboro Peach Festival and find one cancelled due to COVID, it is NOT this one. I promise. We’ve already had this discussion (more than once) within my group. This one is on. It is going to happen.

August 1st – The Churchmen are in concert at Horsepasture Christian Church, 6:15 in the evening.

August 7th – Dan River Basin Association will be hiking the trail out at the Reynolds Homestead.

August 14th – The Homestead Hikers group will be hiking Twin Ridge to Salthouse. I have no idea what that means but you can bet that they do. This is an all-skill-levels welcome group and they do an excellent job of curating good hikes.

August 15 – Horsepasture Christian Church is having an ice cream social at 6:00 in the evening.

September 3rd – 5th – Appalachian Vibes Music Festival at Mountain Valley Brewing. I don’t know much about this yet but it looks H-U-G-E.