If you grew up loving dinosaurs, or still love dinosaurs as an adult or have kids who love dinosaurs, the exhibit at Pierce College cannot be missed.
This exhibit called Dinosaurs in the Valley is just that — the grounds at Pierce College in Woodland Hills are full of the giants who lived 66 million years ago during the Mesozoic Era. If you ever fantasized about what it would be like to step back into a prehistoric time when dinosaurs walked the earth — this is as close and as safe as you can ever get to journey through the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous period, and even times before the dinosaurs.
As you walk through the exhibit, you hear and see excited kids and their parents shouting and pointing, “Look there’s a T-Rex, a stegosaurus, triceratops!” And, there’s lots of “ahhs” when they come across the 40-foot-high brachiosaurus.
The life-like dinosaurs at this exhibit that were previously featured in museums and zoos can now be seen and experienced up close in an open air environment, with animatronic dinosaurs all designed with an emphasis on education and scientific accuracy.
From the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex to the diminutive troodon, every species is brought to life fully-sized with an attention to detail and accuracy. After all, this exhibition was produced by “Dino” Don Lessem, the advisor for Steven Speilberg’s film “Jurassic Park.” He said this is the largest exhibit of its kind in the world.
“The biggest thing we did was a zoo in the Bronx that was 55 animals. And there’s about 80 here, so it’s hard to be able to do this scale anywhere else. So that’s part of the fun. Let’s do the entire menagerie,” said Lessem, who pointed out that this exhibit is completely in the open air with no enclosed spaces, there are no roofs or walls to worry about.
“Here, we have the possibility of creating something more original than what we are allowed to present in a zoo environment. There was a more creative opportunity,” he said.
“The dinosaur is the most successful animal form that ever lived in more places for a longer time. And it’s 10 times the size of anything [that’s ever lived on the earth] before or since. So it was an engineering triumph for an animal to ever live and then they [nature] never repeated it.”
“Nature never bothered again until it was repeated right here [with this exhibit],” said Lessem.
He hopes this exhibit ignites a new spark of wonder for dinosaurs in people of any age and hopes children will foster interest and a desire to have the sense of discovery and grow up to be people who want to learn more. A student can become interested in the study of paleontology by visiting this impressive exhibit.
There is much to learn. Some of the dinosaurs are babies while others stand over 40 feet tall and span over 70 feet long. They are created with advanced animatronics that can appear so realistic and lifelike that caution should be taken for the smallest of children who might get scared.
While it’s no surprise that the dinosaurs’ roars can be heard from quite a distance, or can be seen moving their heads, necks, tails and blink their eyes so realistically, what is unexpected is to see and hear them breathe and to see the posted signs to beware of swinging tails.
This is a unique opportunity to get up close and touch a 70-foot long moving dinosaur that hasn’t come around in the past 60 million years or so.
During the day, children can dig for fossils, climb into giant dinosaur eggs, listen to dinosaur story-time and participate in Dinosaur Dance Parties.
At night, the exhibit attempts to provide the setting to show how dinosaurs may have lived when the sun goes down. There is also a laser and light show.
On Saturdays at 8:00 a.m., there is a special event for children and adults who may be on the autism spectrum or prefer a less hectic presentation. There is a sensory friendly session that will provide a sensory modified setting with sound and light adjustments designed to be less stimulating and overwhelming for those who have sensory sensitivities.
The exhibit also has a charitable component — it’s partnered with Motor4toys to collect toys for kids in need during the holiday season who live in the local community. There are toy collection bins at the exhibit and people who wish to donate are encouraged to bring unwrapped new toys for children between the ages of 0-18 years old.
For tickets and more information, go to: www.DinosaursInTheValley.com. Pierce College is located at 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills, CA.