Face to fangs at Dinsosaur Adventure
If you go down to the woods today, you're sure of a very, very big surprise. STACIA BRIGGS took her family to Dinosaur Adventure for a monster day out.
The summer simply wouldn't be the same without a trip to the Dinosaur Adventure Park. My children love the Lenwade attraction, I love it and my mum loves it too: I don't think anyone can be too old to appreciate the sight of life-size dinosaurs apparently roaming the woods just outside Norwich.
From the moment you step through the gates, you're immersed in a prehistoric paradise, greeted by an incredibly impressive playground which boasts a gigantic spider's web, the 75ft Climb-a-Saurus a range of rope bridges, playhouses and even a dinosaur whose mouth you can journey into.
With climbing nets and pulley swings, slides and assault courses, it's a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
Lost World Amazing Adventure is next door to the playground and takes you on a twisting, turning track through a lost world, with plenty of dead ends and perilous bridges to cross (or avoid, if you're lily-livered). You can even try out some tribal drums.
The Dinosaur Trail itself is a real treat: a woodland ramble through beautifully maintained grounds which hide a terrifying number of dinosaurs, from the eight metre Spinosaurus to the mighty T-Rex, Brachiosaurus to Stegosau-rus and Triceratops to Pterydactyl.
The meandering path takes you past the prehistoric beasts and you can listen out for their distant roars and growls.
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A series of messages from 'park ranger' involve children in the hunt for the huge beasts and offer them a chance to listen to recorded messages about the dangers up ahead. It fires up children's imaginations as they dash along looking for the next prehistoric head peeping through the trees.
The trail leads you down into another part of the park where you can easily spend a couple of hours enjoying a drink and an ice-cream, posing for pictures in the stocks and letting off steam on the grassy field.
This area is also home to the park's Secret Animal Garden where you can have an animal encounter with a friendly pet, like a guinea pig or a rabbit, see some of the dinosaur's closest relatives (reptiles) and meet farmyard animals in a large barn.
If you're lucky, you can catch a feeding or hands-on session when the park staff share interesting information about everything from snakes to hedgehogs.
Nearby is the Waterside Gardens and the Deer Safari, which for an extra charge, takes you on a road train trip past the pygmy goats and donkeys to the park's community of deer in their natural surroundings.
Back up through the Neanderthal Walk, past sabre tooth tigers, animals struggling in dank swampland and a community of somewhat homely homo sapiens, you're back into the main park and can grab a quick game of Jurassic Putt crazy golf (we always get stuck at the volcano, and no one will leave until they hit the target) and then a spin on the Raptor Racers.
New to Dinosaur Adventure is Dinomite, one of the biggest and most adventurous all-weather indoor play areas in the region.
With three levels of fun and adventure — including a two-level area dedicated to the under-fives – there are climbing nets, bridges, ball pools and three massive slides which range from a gentle slope to a terrifying vertical drop.
For parents unwilling to throw themselves into the lion's den, there's a 130-seat coffee shop with an outside terrace where you can enjoy a restorative cup of tea or a meal.
The biggest bonus, of course, is that if the heavens do open and the children can't play on the massive adventure playground outside (which has always been one of Dinosaur Adventure's biggest draws) they can now play indoors while the clouds clear.
Best of all, as far as my Halloween-obsessed family is concerned, is the transformation the park undergoes for the scariest time of year when it becomes PrimEvil and holds various unsettling, haunted walks for various ages.
From the woodland walk, which is suitable for over-fives, to genuinely frightening Alton Towers-style walk-throughs for over-12s, it's an event that can't be missed. There are even fireworks – I think that pretty much equals perfection.
More details about this year's PrimEvil are yet to be released, but it's one to watch for. And in the meantime, visit during daylight hours for a monstrously good day out.
n Dinosaur Adventure is at Lenwade and is open daily from 9.30am, except Christmas Day and Boxing Day. For admission prices and closing times visit: www.dinosauradventure.co.uk