Dinosaurs Come Alive in Jurassic World at The Franklin Institute
It's finally here. After months of teasers, press releases, and photos, the long awaited Jurassic World exhibit is open at the Franklin Institute. Whether you grew up watching the Jurassic Park movies, or you've got kids who have just recently gotten into the franchise, or maybe you have a dinosaur-loving toddler like I do, this exhibit is sure to spark some excitement. The excitement was definitely palpable as you waited in line and entered the "intro" room of the exhibit. Everyone was on their toes just waiting to see what was in store. If you're attending this exhibit with kids of any age, we've got plenty of tips and advice to share before you go.
When you enter the exhibit, you're taken aboard a "ship" where you travel to Isla Nublar as a VIP guest of the park. This room was incredibly built. It looked and felt just like we were inside a ship. It included windows that looked out onto an interactive ocean scene. A short intro video was played from the tour guide and then the door opened. There was a definite swell of anticipation as the crowd walked in and to see that familiar Jurassic World park gate. There's a bit of a bottle neck here as everyone wants to take a picture at the famous entrance gate. If it's as crowded as it was when we were there, I recommend having a little patience (I know it's hard!), and hanging back towards the end of the crowd. It will give you more space for photo-ops and more time to really enjoy the exhibit, especially with smaller (AKA shorter) kids.
The famous park gate as you enter the exhibit.
With no time wasted, as you round the corner past the gate, there stands an enormous and majestic Brachiosaurus as the dramatic theme music plays. It truly feels incredible standing there- like you're really in the park itself. My husband, who grew up in Florida going to Universal Studios, was extremely impressed with the animatronics. These dinosaurs really had a lifelike feel to them. We were all in awe.
The towering Brachiosaurus in the first room of the exhibit.
My 2-year-old thought it was amazing at first, but as the dinosaur's long neck and head hovered above him, he did get a little scared. He loves dinosaurs, but it took some convincing for him to understand they weren't "really," and were just pretend. If you have a toddler who scares easily, keep in mind that these dinosaurs are really convincing. The exhibit is really targeted more towards older kids and adults. That said, he wasn't crying, he didn't request to leave, and he eventually did understand that it was all pretend, but there are a few not-so-friendly dinosaurs in the exhibit that you might find yourself having to walk past a little more quickly with little ones.
The Gentle Giant Petting Zoo- a baby and momma Pachyrinosaurus behind a fence.
The exhibit also features the "Gentle Giant Petting Zoo." This room featured more amazing and lifelike animatronic dinosaurs, but it was maybe poorly named. I'm an adult, so I knew kids wouldn't be getting the chance to ride on the backs of any baby triceratops, but if your kid has seen the movie, you might need to give them a heads up that they won't be able to get as close as they think.
Incubated baby dinosaurs.
The exhibit also included a lab where you could see eggs and baby dinosaurs in incubators that were actually used in the movie!
I was really bummed to find that the hugely advertised (and much anticipated) Velociraptor area was closed off the day we were there. Typically, this area is host to live actors operating animatronic dinosaur suits in a cage, and interacting with museum guests. It sounds amazing, but we didn't get to see it, so I can't speak to how well the actors interact with kids or how scary this might be for little ones.
The T-Rex room is timed to split the group up a little bit, so you may have to wait as the timer runs down until you're allowed in. A short video is played to build anticipation and then the door opens to the Tyrannosaurus Rex exhibit and feeding. This room was really cool, but also kind of scary. If you have little ones, hanging back might be best, so you don't get too close, or you may want to skip through altogether. This dinosaur is very loud and angry- and, as I said before, they're very realistic as far as dinosaurs are concerned. If you've got older kids, this will probably be their favorite part, so squeeze in close!
Indominus Rex escapes from captivity.
There was also a room with the infamous Indominus Rex. She was a bit difficult to see behind a log-like tunnel. This one included a little drama- she had escaped (just like in the movie). If you don't get there while this storyline is going, it takes quite a while to restart, so you might have to stand for a little bit and wait. There are little windows in the tunnel where you can catch a glimpse of the dinosaur, but they really don't make it easy to catch this much-anticipated scene.
The gift shop is much tinier than I expected. It's really overpriced (more so than usual), and doesn't offer many small knick-knacks or kid appropriate stuff, which might be good if you don't want to buy anything, or bad if you wanted a keepsake. There's a line just to get out of the gift shop, as folks are trying to get a look at their pictures on the photo wall. On the way into the exhibit, you snap a photo in front of a green screen where a dinosaur is said to be chasing you. All of the photos are printed and displayed on a wall in a hallway where you exit the gift shop, making it a little tricky to get out. There's also not a lot of information about how photos work, so everyone is a bit confused. It's $25 to purchase the photo on 2 dinosaur backdrops- the Indominus Rex and the Mosasaurus- as well as digital copies.
Overall, this was one of my favorite exhibits. The dinosaurs were so well done, and it was very exciting. It took us about 30 minutes or so to get through the exhibit at a fairly slow pace, but part of it was closed while we were there, so I'm guessing the full exhibit would probably take about 10 minutes longer from what I've read about the room we missed. However, this certainly isn't the interactive Franklin Institute exhibit you're used to. There are signs to read along the way if you're interested in learning more about the dinosaurs, but I'd say this exhibit is more of a thrill than an educational experience.
If you want to take pictures at this exhibit, bring a good camera. I made the mistake of relying on my phone camera and it was so dark in most of the rooms, that I only got a handful of decent photos. It's also an extremely popular exhibit, and it is timed, so I recommend buying tickets online before you go so you don't have to wait for the next available time slot. Secure your time slot before you go; it will cut down on lines and if you're opting for street parking, you won't unexpectedly be there an hour or more longer than planned. We got to the museum at 11 AM Saturday and the next available time slot was noon. The ticket included general admission as well as a planetarium show, so we caught one of those before we lined up to head in. There were still quite a few people in our time slot, but nothing compared to the huge ticketing lines that stretched throughout the lobby when we left around 1 PM. If you want to avoid crowds, go before lunch.
Jurassic World runs through April 23, 2017. Tickets are available for purchase online. Daytime admission is $34.95 for adults and $29.95 for children 3-11. Evening admission (5-8 PM) is $19.95 for adults and $14.95 for kids. Musuem member admission is $13.95 for adults and $12.95 for kids 3-18. Children under 3 are free.
Top photo by James Thomas/courtesy of Franklin Institute. Unless otherwise noted, photos by the author.