This summer at Brookfield Zoo, dinosaurs are roaring back to life along with some mythical dragon friends! From May 6 through September 17, guests of all ages can explore the new multisensory Dinos & Dragons exhibit, which re-creates a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, while discovering interesting facts about dinosaur history and learning about dragon legends through culture and literature.
Showcasing a display of 17 animatronic dinosaurs and dragons—including the Triceratops, Apatosaurus, Tyrannosaurus rex, and Chinese dragon—Dinos & Dragons will be both an educational and entertaining experience for the entire family.
“We’re thrilled to offer this interactive exhibit to our guests,” said Andre Copeland, interpretive program manager for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages the zoo. “People young and old can experience the awe and wonder of seeing these extraordinarily lifelike dinosaurs and dragons—and hopefully learn a few things about these amazing creatures.”
Guests will first enter an indoor area in which they can explore the cultural connections between people and dragons through hands-on activities and up-close experiences with an amazing collection of large and small modern dragons: lizards. For the first time in Brookfield Zoo’s history, guests will see a 6-foot Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard. Additionally, there will be frilled and bearded dragons, a European legless lizard, spiny-tailed lizard, iguanas, and a plumed basilisk, as well as several species of monitor lizards: the crocodile (one of the longest lizards in the world), the roughneck, the Nile, and the black-throated. Animal care staff will be on hand throughout the day providing informal chats about the animals.
The live reptiles will be integrated within three dragon-themed areas: Medieval, Asian, and Paleontology. Each will have colorful and intricately designed scenery such as a fire-breathing dragon poking his head out of a castle. Engaging educational signs will illustrate the mythology of dragons, as well as facts on real-life “dragons.” Youngsters can enjoy a variety of interactive activities, such as loading and releasing a miniature catapult, putting on a puppet show complete with a castle backdrop, and digging for realistic-looking dinosaur bones and other fossils. Scattered throughout will be kid-friendly stations featuring temporary tattoos, a dragon texture rubbing project, and fun photo opportunities. At dig boxes presented by JULIE, Inc., young want-to-be paleontologists can uncover dinosaur artifacts.
Exiting the indoor area, guests will encounter colorful graphics that will introduce them to inhabitants from a time gone by. From the Late Jurassic Period, when the Stegosaurus roamed North America 150 million years ago, to the Late Cretaceous Period of 85 million to 75 million years ago, when the Pteranodon wandered the Earth, zoogoers will discover extraordinary facts about each one. Along a winding outdoor path landscaped with fully grown trees, each animatronic figure will come to life as guests pass by, triggering a sensor that signals body parts such as eyes, heads, arms, and tails to move.
Along the trail, zoogoers can test their dinosaur and dragon knowledge by trying to answer questions from the “Games of Bones,” which will feature parodies of popular game shows: DINOPARDY, Are You Smarter Than a Paleontologist?, and Dino Feud. Guests will also encounter a replica of a paleontologist’s excavation site and a dinosaur dissection lab, complete with a light box of x-rays, beakers, books, and a microscope. There, staff will engage youngsters in “dissecting” realistic-looking dinosaur body parts made of non-latex materials.
Additionally, an animatronic Dracorex hogwartsia mom and her three newly hatched offspring will be displayed on the north side of the zoo’s Roosevelt Fountain. The Dracorex, which means the “dragon king of Hogwarts,” was named for the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry from the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling. In the 21st century, three amateur paleontologists discovered the skeleton in the Hell Creek Formation in South Dakota.
Dinosaur and dragon enthusiasts of all ages will be able to shop to their hearts’ content in the Lair Shoppe, located at the exit of the exhibit. The gift shop will feature a variety of dinosaur- and dragon-themed merchandise, including plush and PVC dinosaurs and dragons; activity kits and paleontological dig sets; books; T-shirts; jewelry; board and card games; giftware, and souvenirs.
Dinos & Dragons is open during regular zoo hours, including during the zoo’s summer evening event, Summer Nights. Admission to Dinos & Dragons is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 3 to 11 and seniors 65 and over. General admission to Brookfield Zoo, which is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, is $19.85 for adults and $14.50 for children 3-11 and seniors 65 and older. For more information on the exhibit, go to CZS.org/DinosDragons.