It’s been eight years since Union Station hosted a dinosaur exhibit, so when a tyrannosaurus rex showed up on Main Street announcing the arrival of Dinosaurs Revealed, I was not going to miss it.
We love dinosaurs. They roamed the Earth millions of years ago when the landscape was totally different than what we see today. Some were way bigger than elephants. The carnivorous ones would’ve really enjoyed eating us but since they’re extinct now, they’re not very scary. Dinosaurs force us to use our imagination and hypothesize about the past, which I think creates fun mental exercises for people of all ages.
This exhibit also gave us a chance to marvel at the wonders of modern technology thanks to its sophisticated, interactive animatronics. Growing up with movies like Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Gremlins and Alien while enjoying scares from award-winning haunted houses like Kansas City’s own The Beast and The Edge of Hell, I’ve witnessed firsthand the absolute magic of these robotic devices with how they breathe life into creatures we’ve never before seen or imagined. So when I heard Union Station was so unsatisfied with all the touring dinosaur exhibits they decided to create their own by ordering brand-spanking-new animatronics from Gengu, I may have actually squee’d out loud with excitement.
Anyway, I wondered if our little 11-month-old lady Reila would share my fascination for animatronics and love of dinosaurs, so we gathered up the family – Nana, Pops, Aunt Tate, Pterry (Reila’s stuffed pterodactyl) and, of course, Spence – and made our way to Union Station.
We weren’t the only people excited to go back in time and see dinosaurs, as we stood in quite the line to buy tickets and soon discovered a line of people waiting to enter the exhibit itself. I was a little confused because I had never encountered a line at a Union Station exhibit before but we soon found out that they were only admitting small groups (between 10 and 20 people, it seemed) in at a time. Luckily, there are some fossils featured outside as a well as a display of underwater creatures from the Paleozoic Era set up in the boiler room and photo op stations to pass the time if your family and friends are antsy.
Upon entering, a film sets the mood and transports viewers back to the Triassic Period North America. Spoiler: when the film ends, the screen lifts up and you find yourself literally face to face with plants and creatures of the past. We almost lost Granny Ne to the interactive sandbox where you can sculpt volcanos on various terrains and watch them erupt thanks to special effects lighting. Reila was a little young to appreciate that but she liked sticking her hand in the sand.
The lighting inside the exhibit is really dim and not ideal for taking pictures, but it creates a great ambiance, adding life and depth to each of the animatronics you’ll encounter on your journey. At the beginning and end of the exhibit, however, there are Instagram-worthy photo ops that include hashtags you can use to share your pictures for other visitors to see. They’ll even be projected onto a wall for visitors without social media (like myself) to enjoy.
Now, the animatronics are much better than the floppy, self-timed, twitchy, rubbery ones of the past because they have motion sensors in front of them triggered by passersby. However, they each have a cool down period so the experience can be hit or miss. Patience is key. Interacting with each and every dinosaur is definitely worth your time, though, and there’s plenty to read as you wait for them to come back to life. Their eyes light up and are hyper-realistic, blinking and looking from side to side.
As I imagined, Reila thoroughly enjoyed the dinosaurs and didn’t seem scared of any of them, which was awesome. Maybe she’s too young to be scared? She was just wide-eyed and engaged the whole time. Her favorite dinosaur seemed to be the Triceratops of the Cretaceous Period, which makes sense since they were herbivores. Most of the time she spent pointing at each creature and calling them “dog,” which is her first and favorite word aside from mama and dada.
There’s something for everyone at Dinosaurs Revealed like interactive exhibits, motion-activated animatronics, full skeletons, fossils, and even an archaeologist to answer your questions. And in true Union Station fashion, you’ll wind up in a fantastic gift store at the end. Does anyone want to buy this $3,000 amethyst geode for me?
Dinosaurs Revealed is worth every penny and is a fun adventure for kids of all ages. When you go, be on the lookout for my new favorite dinosaur: the Dakotaraptor. Not only did the Dakotaraptor have feathers but they also apparently said, “Ow.” Here’s a video for anyone who won’t be able to make it before the exhibit closes in January or may live too far away to visit: