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It’s been two months since the Philadelphia Zoo opened its latest special exhibit, which features 24 life-size replicas of creatures long gone. With spring greenery filling in, the display has never looked better.
A tour through “Big Time” isn’t quite like checking out the zoo’s many live animal collections, which you’ll walk past to get there, and can visit on the same trip.
But the prehistoric show offers plenty of its own benefits. There’s no craning your neck or hoping an elusive lion or tiger deigns to come out of its cave. Instead, the dinosaurs are all right there in front of you as you walk down the winding path, which is cleverly arranged so you only see a few of the giant, species-specific dioramas at any one time.
Constructed by an outfit called DinoDon in Media, Pa., the animatronic models were made with a surprising amount of detail, so they bear close inspection. That’s if you dare to get close — the roars some of the animatronic creatures let out as they gnash their teeth and lift their claws have the potential to make little ones jump in momentary fright.
For the most part, kids are a perfect audience for the exhibit. The scary parts don’t last too long (each dino stays silent and still until someone steps close to it), and they can pick up limited-edition, dinosaur-shaped zoo keys to unlock narration at audio boxes along the way.
It’s also a perfect date activity, with interesting selfie backgrounds built right in. There’s little chance of getting bored, since curators have sprinkled informative placards throughout, building a narrative about evolution, climate change, endangered species, and illegal wildlife trade.
The whole thing is located in what was once the Children’s Zoo, an area that hasn’t been open since 2013. There’s a snack bar near the entrance/exit of the loop, appropriately rebranded as “Dino Bites,” and a beer garden that also serves wine.
“Big Time: Life in an Endangerous Age” is open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Oct. 31. Tickets cost $6 per person (under 2 years old free) on top of the regular zoo admission ($24 for adults and kids over 12; $19 for ages 2 to 11). Advance purchase is required.
Scroll down to check out two dozen photos of what you’ll find when you go.