We were lucky to have really lovely weather for the first two days of our recent road trip, but the last two days were grey and intermittently rainy. I had planned most of our stops in advance, knowing that we might not be able to hit them all and I tried to account for the possibility of unplanned stops. On the fourth day, we drove through some heavy, steady rain and I scrambled to find indoor things for us to do. I decided to swap the outdoor Dinosaur Land with an indoor parade float museum, but we arrived at Shenandoah caverns only to discover that the museum had already closed for the season (thanks for nothing, Google hours!). It was still raining, but I decided that we should at least give Dinosaur Land a chance, and it ended up being one of my very favorite stops of the entire trip (I will probably say that about every stop, but this one is in the top five for sure).
Dinosaur Land, located near Winchester, Virginia has been in operation (and in the same family) since the early '60s. It's not my first dinosaur park—we went to Dinosaur World in Cave City, KY—but I can't imagine there being a better one still in existence. Most everything about Dinosaur World feels stuck in the '60s, and that is the very best compliment I can pay to any roadside attraction.
It was still raining when we arrived, but the "prehistoric forest" offered some protection, and the pine needle-lined paths were far less soggy than I expected. Unfortunately we weren't the only visitors, but as much as I firmly believe that other people's children ruin everything, I'm always happy to see attractions like this making money.
Dinosaur Land feels as if it might be in someone's backyard, and I'm fairly certain that at least some of the family lives behind the gift shop. The experience is low-tech and self-guided—my favorite kind—and the artistry that went into the dinosaurs, hand painted signs and other creatures is apparent. It's clear that dinosaurs have been added throughout the years, and it's fascinating to watch how styles and features evolve over time.
Dinosaur Land has four T-Rexes, and none of them look remotely similar to one another—I overheard a little boy telling his dad while looking at the oldest one, "that doesn't look anything like a T-Rex." Although we'll probably never know which one is the most accurate, the oldest ones are definitely my favorite. You can spot them quite easily—they're textured like the walls of an Olive Garden—and I can't help but laugh when looking at their goofy expressions.
When Joseph Geraci started Dinosaur Land next to his already existing gift shop, he borrowed heavily from other parks—his sign is a nearly exact copy of the Disneyland sign, and the large mouth entrance is a nod to Gatorland. The gift shop alone is worth a stop, and it's filled with dusty souvenirs that feel as if they haven't been updated (or sold) since the park first opened.
I was slightly more restrained than I was at South of the Border, but I did leave with a mug, t-shirt, two squished pennies, several postcards and a program book that was legitimately printed in the '70s—the cashier said they had five boxes in the back and "when they're gone, they're gone."
3848 Stonewall Jackson Highway
White Post, VA 22663
March 1st – Memorial Day: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Memorial Day – Labor Day: 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Labor Day – December 31st: 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
October 1st – December 31st: Closed on Thursdays