Sunday, September 07, 2008

Dinosaurs in Zilker botanical gardens good fun for kids

Kathy and I took our two-year old grandbaby to the "Dinoland" exhibit at the Zilker Botanical Gardens - featuring life-sized replicas of various dinosaurs set au natural - and the baby particularly enjoyed herself, though the long walk wore her down by the end and made everyone a little cranky.

We happened to go to the event on opening day, and though the botanical garden is a large place - around 30 acres - the crowd at 2 pm on Saturday was still rather oppressive, I must admit, though it made no difference to the baby.

Having visited the zoo recently, I think, primed her for the experience, and Ty issued oohs and aahs at nearly every stop. I particularly liked one depicting two long-beaked dinosaurs in a gigantic nest situated up in a tree, but Ty was most impressed with the traditional, large lizard creatures like the one featured above.

The animals were most notable for their impressive scale, but they didn't quite look real, more like oversized toy dinosaurs. Another minor complaint - while we know nothing about what color dinosaurs were, a little more diversity in the educated guesses exhibitors made would have been welcome. Like birds, to whom they're related, dinosaurs were likely multi-colored and more showy than depicted in this exhibit, which portrayed most of them as gray, brown, or some other neutral hue.

The level of supporting information provided was aimed at an audience of kids, for sure, not adults who might, say, frequent natural history museums. But for its audience it was quite well done. There was also quite a bit of kid oriented programming in addition to the nature walk, but it was a hot day and the baby was ready to bed down by the time we finished. Not only was this a good experience for kids, it gives a lot of Austinites who might not have been there before a chance to see Austin's impressive botanical garden that plays second fiddle on most weekends to Zilker Park and Barton Springs across the road.

UPDATE (Oct. 19): See a story on the exhibit from the Austin Statesman.