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PROVIDENCE â€“ Eight-year-old Estuardo Estrada of Providence stares up into the beady eyes of a Triceratops, a three-horned, plant-eating dinosaur that roamed the earth 65 million years ago.
Illuminated by overhead multi-colored lights, the beastâ€™s head â€“ boasting the largest skull of all land mammals â€” suddenly moves from side to side, itâ€™s short, pointed tail wagging in unison.
The creature suddenly lets out a roar, startling Estrada and the crowd of other junior paleontologists standing nearby.
Wide-eyed and breathless, Estrada grips the hand of his stepfather Gabriel Vargas.
â€śAmazing,â€ť the boy whispers. â€śIt looks so real.â€ť
â€śLooks so realâ€ť was probably the most common remark overheard at Discover the Dinosaurs, a walk-through interactive exhibit featuring 60 museum quality and animatronic dinosaurs and dozens of dinosaur-themed attractions.
The exhibit, which opened Friday at the Rhode Island Convention Center, features upwards of 10 scenes with each scene representing dinosaurs from a specific period of time. The scenes engage visitors with sight, sound and motion by using special lighting, sound effects, animatronics, and fog. The backdrops, rocks, flooring, and plant materials are all designed to bring people back in time to a landscape where dinosaurs lived.
Many of the non-moving dinosaurs are positioned safely throughout the exhibit, so children can touch and feel them. This is encouraged and a cornerstone of the Discover the Dinosaurs experience.
According to Brandon Riby, who works for the exhibit, the goal of Discover the Dinosaurs is to create a fun environment of learning and activity that explores the wonder and mystery of the earthâ€™s pre-historic past.
â€śThe kids love it, but the parents not so much because the kids end up wanting to stay for hours and hours,â€ť says Riby. â€śItâ€™s really a great exhibit for the entire family, especially if you have little one who love dinosaurs.â€ť
Estrada, a student at the George J. West Elementary School in Providence, is one of those kids. Estrada knows all about dinosaurs and can quickly explain the difference between the Jurassic Period and the Cretaceous Period, and a Tyrannosaurus and a Trigonosaurus.
And which dinosaur has the longest name?
That, says Estrada, would be Micropachycephalosaurus, which means â€śtiny thick headed lizard.â€ť
â€śWhen we visit the Mount Pleasant Library heâ€™s always looking at books about dinosaurs,â€ť says Vargas. â€śWhen we saw the commercial for Discover the Dinosaurs on TV we knew we had to come.â€ť
The exhibit, which ends Sunday, also features several kid-friendly dinosaur-themed attractions, including a Dino Dig â€” a half dozen sand-filled stations where kids can brush away sand to reveal dinosaur fossils beneath. The kids can also pan for gems and fossils and explore a mine with a headlamp-equipped hardhat to find hidden rocks, gems and fossils in a darkened mineshaft.
For smaller children, there are dinosaur themed inflatables, face painting, a Dino Den and a mini golf course.
The Discover the Dinosaurs continues Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Rhode Island Convention Center, 1 Sabin St., Providence.
Tickets are available at the door. Admission is exhibit only adults (13 and older) $17. Children (2-12) $12 exhibit plus children (2-12) $20. Seniors $15 Children 1 and under free.
Tickets for children includes the dinosaur exhibit, Dino Dig, Dino Den, Dino Theater, Dino coloring station, scavenger hunt, unlimited dinosaurs rides, mini golf, and inflatables.
Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7