I missed the Press Day for the brand new Field Station: Dinosaurs in Secaucus, NJ. It was an embarrassingly ridiculous conflation of a very bad sense of direction and poor planning. And no, I’m not exaggerating. I can’t talk about it yet; it’s too, too mortifying.
The silver lining is that I took the kids on the second official day of the inaugural season instead, and I feel much more capable to review the experience since I paid my entrance fee with the best of them. The other silver lining is that my husband came with us, which was a very good thing when one of the two children we brought was crying and shaking with fear after seeing the first moving dinosaur display. We talked him down, and he ended up loving all of the dinosaur exhibits. He’s been asking to return.
However, since we the parents are the ones with the car and the credit card, we won’t be returning too soon. It’s not that we didn’t like it, we did. I loved seeing the dinosaurs, and I had fun watching the kids’ reactions to the different displays. Getting there was a short 20 minute trip in the car. But, was it worth the $96 entrance fee (including tax) we paid for two adults and two children? Add on the $10
parking environmental impact fee to get us up into the three-digit dollar range, and I have to say no.
Because I’m feeling wordy, I’ll put my bottom line here: It’s fun. It’s cool. It’s not worth $100 for a family of four. If you live close-by and if you and/or your kids love dinosaurs, I suggest shelling out the extra cash for a season pass and going once a week through November. Then it would be worth the money per visit. If you do decide to go for a one-time visit, buy your tickets on-line at least 24 hours before you plan to visit Field Station: Dinosaurs. I tried to, but the website wouldn’t confirm, so we bought our tickets at the box office. This park is located close to a train station, and it’s easily accessible from the highway.
First, the good. The variety of dinosaurs and their descriptions are fantastic. I liked being able to read a little about the dinosaurs at each display, and I learned quite a bit about several dinosaurs I thought were all called “T-Rex” – there are a lot that look alike! In fact, the educational aspect is a big plus. I also liked that we got to take a nice walk as we discovered the displays. There were several shady resting spots around the paths, and that was appreciated. The dinosaurs are very close to the path, so it makes for an exciting time for kids. Check out this video of Field Station: Dinosaurs. It gives a great idea of the cool factor. Also, check out the Baristakids review from Opening Day. NJ Playgrounds also had a great time.
Something else that deserves an honorable mention is the staff. Everyone was wonderfully friendly. From the parking attendants to the lovely young woman selling water on a hot and humid day, everyone was patient with questions and smiled easily. This was especially impressive considering the many (sometimes grumpy) visitors and the hot, sticky weather.
Realizing that it was opening weekend when we went, I was ready to be generous with the experience. However, since we spent the full admission fee, and because we arrived a good two hours after the park opened, I didn’t expect to see empty cardboard boxes laying about. It kind of interrupted the suspension of disbelief. I also didn’t expect to see some of the plastic fencing down – it looked like it had been intentionally trampled by park-goers. In fact, parents were encouraging their kids to go behind the fencing to hug the Velociraptors for photos. If the park is to last through November in good repair, either more staff or better fencing will be needed.
In all, we spent about 90 minutes at the park. Apparently, our timing was off because we missed the Dinosaur Meet and Greet (which probably would have scared my kids too much, although I love the puppet!), and only one other session was going on while we were in the park. It was hard to hear the presentation, but the kids in attendance seemed to be enjoying it. We also missed seeing the troubadour in action, although we did see him moving the empty cardboard boxes by the Lego toddler table next to the Dryptosaurus display. (See the Dryptosaurus below.)
There are bathrooms in roomy trailers before you enter and also deep into the park. It’s a good alternative to port-a-potties. The faucet wasn’t working, but there was soap available. There are also lockers near the pre-entrance bathrooms; this is a great option for people to store items like diaper bags or purses. Also, the gift shop is the main exit – and while most things there are educational, it’s a little harsh to be directed to “exit through the gift shop.” Luckily, there are low-cost options. We got away with a $1 dinosaur eraser and a 25 cent dinosaur crayon. Others weren’t so lucky, and gift shop business was brisk.
As we left, we received the second stamp on our entry “credentials” – the first was when we entered. I asked the staff member where we could have gotten the other four stamps (kids love stamps), and she said there is one for each presentation, as well as one from the troubadour. Next time, if there is a next time, we’ll pay more attention. Field Station: Dinosaurs is a great option for tri-state families with dinosaur obsessed kids. To spend a full day there should be the objective for the price. The park ought to offer more lunch options and more drink stations to make this a viable option for families. Hopefully, as the season continues, they will continue to improve. Have you visited Field Station: Dinosaurs in Secaucus? Let me know what you thought in comments.