Field Station: Dinosaurs in New Jersey
That's the warning the cartoon dinosaurs in the "Land Before Time" video series yell whenever they see the teeth-gnashing, meat-eating, scary-as-heck Tyrannosaurus rex.
Kids visiting Field Station: Dinosaurs will have fun whooping out the same cry when they happen upon one of the enormous, realistic, animatronic T. rexes along the path through the park's woods. The new theme park opened last weekend in Secaucus, N.J.
Field Station's 31 dinosaurs -- some friendly-looking, others not so much -- are set into the trees and atop the boulders along a three-quarter-mile, packed-gravel trail. They roar, turn their heads, blink their eyes, move their arms and tails. Visiting Field Station: Dinosaurs, in the Meadowlands, is like a safe version of "Jurassic Park" -- the venue's slogan is "9 minutes from Manhattan, 90 million years back in time."
Even before passing through park gates, visitors hear evidence of what's in store: sounds akin to an elephant's bellow, a cow's deep moo and a bird's call waft from the park -- all dinosaur speech.
Here's what to expect when venturing inside:
MEET 31 DINOSAURS
Species include stegosaurus, with plates sticking up from its round back; triceratops, with three horns adorning its face, and apatosaurus (aka brontosaurus), with its long, long neck. Visitors get close enough to the dinosaurs to see many details -- for instance, it's possible to count the nearly 100 teeth in the baryonyx's mouth.
Each dinosaur along the trail has a wood-and-glass box next to it with archaeological-style paraphernalia, such as a map or brochure inside that explains something about the species and even tells how to pronounce its name. (Can you say Apatosaurus? It's ah-PAT-uh-SAWR-us.)
Along the way, visitors also see a "geologist's outpost," a tent on a wooden platform with realistic touches such as a coffee pot and a lantern. "We want this to feel like an expedition," says Guy Gsell, the founder and executive producer of Field Station: Dinosaurs. All the activities are outdoors or in tents.
Gsell and paleontologist Jason Schein of the New Jersey State Museum traveled to the factory in Zigong, China, where the dinosaurs were made, to ensure their realism, including what their skin should look like and what posture each should have. "We provided a lot of information on where they lived and when they lived," Schein says.
SHOWS AND DIGS
Tickets to the park look like passports, and kids can have their credentials stamped at the different activities along the pathway. A sand pit lets the kids dig for fossils. A Lego station lets them build. Team games such as Raptor Feud, a "Family Feud"-style competition, encourage kids to show off their knowledge of dinosaurs.
Shows include "Dinosaur Meet & Greet," during which kids and adults can touch dinosaur puppets (those who attended the Dinosaur Petting Zoo show at Tilles Center in January will recognize the same puppets). Another show is "T. Rex Feeding Frenzy," a more menacing, raucous and frenetic performance featuring a 15-foot carnivore.
A dinosaur troubadour will roam the park in khakis and a dinosaur Hawaiian shirt singing dinosaur songs written especially for the park. "He's the Jimmy Buffett of Field Station: Dinosaurs," Gsell says.
All activities are included in the park fee.
THE CREATORS' FAVORITES
"My favorite guy is the dimetrodon," says Glenn Mahoney, a 1990 graduate of Dix Hills' Half Hollow Hills High School East and president of Raise Plow, which designed the park. It's a lizardlike creature tucked up on a hill. "When we design, we like to put things in where everyone won't find them. Only the studious visitors are going to find that guy," Mahoney says. "If 100 people walk down this path, only 30 or 40 people will find him." Hint: Look up.
Gsell likes the dryptosaurus. "He was found right here in New Jersey," Gsell says of the original fossils. "He's just as mean as a T. rex, and faster than a T. rex. I think he's got that New York attitude. That's great."
And, of course, there's the showpiece argentinosaurus, which is 90 feet long and dwarfs humans. Its huge tail wags across the trail. From its perch, on clear days there's a view of Manhattan, including the Empire State Building.
Gsell hopes to give a new generation of kids the kind of childhood memory he has: "I remember going to the New York World's Fair with my parents in 1965 and seeing the famous Sinclair Dinosaur. Luckily for me, anamatronic dinosaurs have gotten much better in the 50 years since then."
WHAT Field Station: Dinosaurs
WHERE 1 Dinosaur Way, 1000 New County Rd., Secaucus, N.J.
HOURS Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through June 17; open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. beginning June 21; park closes for the season Nov. 11
COST In advance: $21 per adult, $18.50 per child ages 3 to 12 and seniors 65 and older. At the door: $25 per adult, $20 per child and senior. Age 2 and younger free. $10 parking fee.
INFO General info 973-748-4561; tickets 855-999-9010, fieldstationdinosaurs.com