The Dinos Alive stegosaurus watches as kids walk by. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel
Seattle’s Pacific Science Center has been mostly closed for more than two years now, so where can a young paleontology enthusiast get a dinosaur fix around here? A new immersive experience, Dinos Alive, roared into town this week.
The show features 41 life-size dinosaurs (my kids counted), many of them animatronic. It’s tucked inside an unassuming Sodo warehouse, one block south of T-Mobile Park.
What to expect
When you enter the exhibit, you step through the video projection waterfall and into a prehistoric jungle. It’s dimly lit, and draped floor-to-ceiling with camouflage netting. Fog machines and colored lights create a hazy mist. Snarling, moaning and grunting noises immediately set your nerves on edge.
The star attractions, of course, are the dinosaurs. They move quite convincingly, unlike the jerky geriatric robots at the science center. As you follow the dinosaur footprints through four rooms, you’ll spot all your favorite species: T. rex, a herd of Velociraptors, even a mama Triceratops and her babies.
Looking at pictures in a book is one thing, but here, you can feel what it would be like to walk next to these giants. My kids barely came up to T-Rex’s kneecap! Taller grown-ups will have to duck under the diplodocus’ swaying tail. Fortunately, if you fail to duck, the tail is made of surprisingly soft, squishy material, not hard plastic.
Which dinosaurs are from the Triassic period? The Cretaceous? Don’t ask me, ask a 5-year-old. Luckily for non-experts, each dinosaur featured in Dinos Alive comes with a placard listing basic facts.
Interactive dino fun
My kids’ favorite part of the exhibit was the last room, which features interactive games. The ride-on dinosaurs weren’t activated yet when we visited, but the kids were thrilled to mount stationary dinosaurs nonetheless.
There are two big sandboxes where you can practice excavating fossils. The virtual aquarium wasn’t open during the exhibit preview.
Try racing against a dinosaur on a screen — you can choose your setting: amateur, training for Olympics or medalist. The system is a little glitchy, because someone couldn't resist banging on the big red buttons a few too many times.
Tots will enjoy playing peekaboo inside two giant dinosaur eggshells. In the third egg, a baby dinosaur pops its head out from time to time. There’s also an all-ages dinosaur coloring station, where you can take a picture of your finished artwork and project it onto the wall.
Dino VR experience
The only activity that costs extra is the VR experience, which is $5 unless you bought VIP tickets. It’s fun if you have a kid who loves video games. Strap on the headset and you get to play catch with a raptor. The raptor runs right up to you, and it’s hilarious watching people with their headsets on trying to pet it. If you win, the raptor does a little dance. If you lose, it eats you. (Kidding!!)
Dinos Alive is organized by Exhibition Hub and Fever, the same companies that put on the immersive Van Gogh exhibition next door. Van Gogh is still open, with no end date announced, and it makes a handy landmark to find because the exterior is painted like a bright blue starry night. Dinos Alive is located in a harder-to-spot olive green building just north of Van Gogh. The two exhibits actually share a connecting restroom.
Sodo doesn’t exactly have a kid-friendly reputation, and if your timing is crud, you could sit in Sounders or Mariners traffic. Definitely avoid game days. Still, the venue makes sense because where else are you going to find a building tall enough to fit a spinosaurus, and long enough for a diplodocus?
The bottom line
The night of our visit to Dinos Alive, I asked my first grader what he liked best that day and he said… Riding his bike to the library!!? Well, it is hard to argue with a child on a rare sunny Seattle day.
So consider saving Dinos Alive for a rainy-day outing, when you need to while away an hour or two. It’s a spendy treat (tickets start at $20 per person), but thrilling for kids who love dinosaurs. Just maybe don’t try to compete with springtime Seattle sunshine.
If you go...
When: Dinos Alive Immersive Experience opens today, April 7, 2022. No end date has been announced. The show is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; and Saturday–Sunday, 9 a.m.–8 p.m. (It’s closed Tuesdays.)
Ticket prices: Ticket prices vary by peak (generally weekends and weekday evenings) and non-peak (weekdays during the day) times. VIP tickets (which include skipping the line, the VR experience and a photo booth picture) and family bundles (4 or more tickets) are also available. Children ages 2 and younger not need a ticket. Buy timed-entry tickets online.
Age recommendation: Dinos Alive is appropriate for all ages.
Duration: The website suggests planning to spend an hour to an hour and 15 minutes in the exhibit.
More family fun ideas: