This most typically Disney of the Animal Kingdom's lands is a cross between an anthropological dig and a quirky roadside attraction. Accessible via the bridge from Discovery Island, DinoLand U.S.A. is home to a children's play area, a nature trail, a 1,500-seat amphitheater, and DINOSAUR, one of the Animal Kingdom's three thrill rides.

Also in DinoLand are a couple of natural history exhibits including Dino-Sue, an exact replica of the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex discovered to date. Named after fossil hunter, Sue Hendrickson, the replica (like the original) is 40 feet long and 13 feet tall. And no, it doesn't dance, sing, or whistle, but it will get your attention nonetheless.

Attractions

The key to appreciating DinoLand is to understand its back-story. A back-story is a Disney specialty and becomes the organizing tool that creates continuity between design elements. A writer provides a story and all of the design elements and attractions are created to support that story, just like set design for a movie.

In this case, the back-story starts with the famous Dino Institute, filled with mischievous students who have taken over a small roadside stop. Next door, the owners of the gas station, Chester and Hester, have decided to cash in and created a carnival in their parking lot. After all, it was their dog that found the bone that lead to all of the excavation in the first place.

Each physical element is created to add to the story in subtle layers. The Dino Institute is a formal structure with a proper plaza and educational trail. Right in front of the Institute is the students' contribution. The rambling and every expanding Restaurantosaurus is made up of permanent and "temporary" additions including an Airstream trailer. Puns and artifacts are everywhere. Well worth the time to check out. Chester and Hester have their fair on the parking lot and subtlety is tossed out the window.

Even the plant material supports the theme. The area is heavy on primitive plants that include monkey-puzzle trees with nasty spines, one of the largest collections of cycads and twenty different species of Magnolia, which go back to the dinosaur era.

Dining