I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
DALLAS — There’s no doubt that 1993’s Jurassic Park had a dino-sized impact on the world. The story of a group of scientists trying not to become a Jurassic lunch after an island’s dinosaurs get loose was riveting, funny and everything that makes up a true-blue blockbuster. Adventure and wonder intertwined in Steven Spielberg’s classic film like a double-helix, and audiences were hungry for more experiences.
Many movies, television shows and 28 years later, families are still chasing the next opportunity to soak up the thrill. So, why not amp it up by taking in what is perhaps the closest it will ever feel to be among Jurassic World’s dinosaurs?
June 18 marks the launch of the North American tour of Jurassic World: The Exhibition. It’s open at Grandscape in The Colony, just north of Downtown Dallas. Produced in conjunction with Universal Parks & Resorts, this hour-long, fun-spiked experience immerses visitors of all ages in the groundbreaking film franchise Jurassic World.
Guests will get the chance to interact with life-sized prehistoric creatures in a richly themed 20,000-square-foot space. You can learn about several different species, enjoy plenty of Kodak moments and dig for fossils with younglings as if you’re at an authentic zoo filled with dinosaurs.
The summerlong event takes place daily from noon until 7-9 p.m., depending on the day of the week, through Labor Day weekend.
What to expect?
Upon arrival, you are greeted with a photo opportunity where you and your loved ones can snap a printable picture with a digital dinosaur background of your choosing (around $20 for one photo, with special pricing on multiples). You are informed about park rules and absorb fun facts about some of the creatures you’ll be encountering on a shuttle boat made to appear as though you are traveling to the fictional island of Isla Nublar.
Shuttle doors close once a few groups step inside, and noises sound off as if the boat is moving. Digital images of pretty blue water passing you by occupies the room’s windows. (Note: Face coverings are not required for fully vaccinated guests. Event employees wear masks for your safety and comfort.)
It’s apparent right away that the creative team and event organizers behind this exhibition put a lot of careful thought into what Jurassic Park and Jurassic World fans would love and appreciate from such an experience. Once the boat has “docked,” you are officially welcomed to Jurassic World at the famous gate doors. The staff (in movie-accurate attire) are happy to capture the nostalgic and memorable moment with your cameras or phones. There is even an original Jurassic Park Jeep to widen smiles and spice up photos.
From there, you step through several different rooms that are seamlessly designed to look and feel like recognizable parts of the park. Stand under an enormous Brachiosaurus, get cozy with several baby dinosaurs (puppeteered to appear alive), learn about incubation and dino droppings in a lab, and nearly run for the hills from up-close encounters with velociraptors, the Indominus rex, and — of course — the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex during the grand finale.
Parents, be wary of bringing small children who might be easily frightened by these lifelike experiences. Sudden loud noises, strobe lighting effects and theatrical fog will sometimes make you feel like you’re in a dino-filled haunted house. A street light at the T. rex pen is created to fall near guests, and it certainly made me jump. Thankfully, employees cause you to laugh off the terror by cracking jokes about how the park’s track record isn’t the best.
How to prepare?
One thing is for sure: Bring lots of money!
The photos taken at the opening are a lot of fun, and you may have trouble deciding which one is best. (There are about six backgrounds to pick from for the purchasable photos. However, guests also have plenty of free photo ops. around the park, using a barcode to scan and download later.)
Upon exit, there’s a retail store where guests can shop for a wide variety of products. Stuffed dinosaurs are tucked in every corner. Old-school dinosaur posters are hard to ignore for pinning in a child’s room (or a movie geek like me). T-shirts, keychains, water bottles and T. rex mugs may have you wishing you sucked up every couch penny you have before visiting.
No food or beverages are sold or permitted once you’ve entered the exhibition (except for closed water bottles). So, make sure you’re well fed before coming through the doors. Fortunately, there are plenty of good dining options in the Grandscape area. You can even keep the festivities going by catching a movie at the Galaxy Theatres Grandscape, too. The theater is showing 2015’s Jurassic World, and you can see it for free if you show your exhibition ticket from the same day.
Parking-wise, there isn’t a dedicated area for the event. You can park in several locations around the property. There’s surface parking on the north side (near Andretti Indoor Karting and Games) and a multi-story garage on the south end (near the Galaxy Theatres) at no additional cost.
Tickets to the event start at $29.50 for adults (16 years or older) and $19.50 for youth (3-15 years). Children two and younger are free with an accompanying parent. VIP packages are also available (including exclusives like flexible entry and souvenir items) and range from $64.50 to $89.50. Special pricing is offered for senior citizens and the military. Group sales packages are available to parties of 10 or more.
The first few days are already sold out, including this opening weekend. However, there are plenty of tickets next week and weekends following if you’re looking to go right away. For more information about Jurassic World: The Exhibition, visit jurassicworldexhibition.com.