Field Station: Dinosaurs in New Jersey: Where Prehistoric Creatures Really Roam the Earth
Even if your mini paleontologists have memorized every nook and cranny of the American Natural History Museum, you've never experienced dinosaurs quite the way you do at Field Stations: Dinosaurs, the open-air dino spot in Secaucus, New Jersey that opened in 2012. Home to more than 30 animatronic dinosaurs, this educational attraction really lived up to my family's expectations—our two kids were particularly impressed.
Located just nine minutes by train from NYC, the prehistoric-themed park is a great day trip. The park also offers lovely views of the NYC skyline (the T.rex and the Empire State Building make for quite a contrast). We visited on opening day and I’m thrilled to be able to tell you all about this completely unique family adventure.
Field Station: Dinosaurs is very rustic with almost a campground feel. Right before the entrance is a small set of lockers and portable toilets, and then you hit a set of tents to pick up your passports and a trail guide. While exploring the park, you can get your passports stamped at various stations (my girls were very into doing this) and the trail guide provides the times for the different shows that occur throughout the day.
Right before the first bend we could hear the roar of a dinosaur. We knew our seven-year-old would love it but we were a bit nervous about our two-year-old. She was scared when she first saw the dinosaur but quickly calmed down when she noticed everyone else around her was at ease. After her initial dino-fright, she really got into the whole giant-dinosaurs-everywhere-you-look experience. She also realized that these creatures weren't going to run wild; although they move, they stick to their designated spots.
We weaved around the trail and encountered five dinosaurs before reaching a clearing where we saw a pterodactyl perched on top of a mountain! You can continue your dino-spotting journey to the left or veer off to the right for a snack or a show at the Outback Steakhouse Amphitheater.
There are a number of shows and workshops. We attended two: Dinosaurs' Feast and Dinosaur Meet and Greet, which has been discontinued but there are a bunch of new offerings for 2014 including a Dino Whodunit and Dragons to Dinosaurs. It's best to arrive early as there is limited seating on the boulders and very little shade. Both shows had music and impressive dinosaurs—some were animatronic and others were large puppets with people inside of them. The T.rex one might not be the best choice for little ones—they are carnivores after all. There is quite a bit of crowd participation and the hosts are very good at getting people excited.
Field Station: Dinosaurs is home to more than 30 prehistoric creatures that range from huge dinos like the 90-foot-long Argentinosaurus, the largest animatronic dinosaur ever made, to baby T.rexes, which are too cute. Scientists from the New Jersey State Museum have made sure that the attraction includes the latest discoveries in the field of paleontology. At the top of the mountain there is a station where you can seek shelter and play a Jeopardy-themed dinosaur game. The crest is also a great photo op with the T.rex and the New York City skyline in the background. It was quite hot on opening day but we found shade in various tents and pavilions. Since the park will be open daily during the summer, it's best to go early or late to avoid the crowds and the heat.
Overall, we had a blast. The staff was very helpful and friendly. You're allowed to bring your own food (popcorn, water and soft drinks are also available for purchase) and there is a nice shady food pavilion with picnic tables where you can eat. There's a second set of portable toilets behind the pavilion. Although we loved pretty much everything about the park, we thought of two additions we'd like to see: a spray zone to cool off in and a dinosaur-themed playground.
Things to Know Before You Go
Bring your camera, obviously.
Wear sneakers or durable shoes since you'll be doing a lot of walking.
Dress comfortably and causally—you will get dirty!
The park is open rain or shine. If you visit on a wet day you'll snag free rain ponchos when you enter.
Make sure you pack sunscreen, bug spray, water and other beverages, snacks, and a fan or water spray bottle on hot days.
If you're planning on having a stroller, bring a jogging model. Lightweight strollers may not be able to navigate the tough terrain.
If you need to leave the park, get your hand stamped and you can re-enter later the same day.
Prices and Hours
Tickets are less expensive if you buy them in advance. You can find the complete list of ticket options on the website as different prices offer access to different attractions and experiences. There's even a season pass. Parking is available at a lot next to the park and costs $5. Field Station: Dinosaurs is also about a ten-minute walk from the Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station in Secaucus, NJ if you want to take public transportation.
Field Station: Dinosaurs is only open to the public on weekends and holidays May 23-June 28 10am-6pm. Open Tuesday-Sunday from June 30-September 7 10am-6pm.
For more information, visit the Field Station: Dinosaurs website.
This post was originally published in May 2012.