Friday, January 10, 2014

Totally Texas -- Letting the dinosaurs out to play

Dinosaurs Live!

Heard Natural Science Museum

1 Nature Place, McKinney


At last, it’s warm enough for dinosaurs to come out and play. The Heard Natural Science Museum’s annual exhibit of animatronic dinosaurs is an eagerly awaited event in my family. People who know my family won’t be surprised to learn I had an animated conversation the day of this writing with a seven-year-old grandson about the exact relationship between dinosaurs and modern birds.

But of course he’d already viewed the latest editions from the Allen, Texas, based Billings Productions, makers of the animatronic dinosaurs that have populated the Heard for the last several seasons.

Every year, the Heard’s flock of dinos gets bigger and better, expanding this year to include the fully-feathered and ominously named Citipati who illustrates this post. Big C, a Mongolian denizen whose name translates as “funeral pyre lord”, may give more timid kids than my daughter’s twins a permanent horror of holiday turkeys.

You’ve probably seen the video of the little boy terrified by the huge animatronic dinosaurs that roar and move along the Heard’s prairie and woodland trails outside McKinney, Texas. If your kids are up to confronting lurking terrors, go for the full deal of nearly a dozen monsters waiting along turns of the trail. But don’t force them. My daughter’s boys weren’t always as blasé as they appear to be in the illustration, with a Citipati in full pursuit.

For the younger set, the Heard offers an immobile “photo-op” Tyrannosaurus rex model who willingly allows kids to climb on his back along the gravel-surfaced, stroller-friendly trail.

What I meant earlier about the dinos needing warmth is that the electronics that power
their moves and vocalizations can’t work unless temperatures are at least 45 degrees F. Fortunately, the Weather Channel forecasts balmy weather for at least the next ten days. Plenty of time for dinos to play before they disappear for another season February 2.

The Heard, at 1 Nature Place outside McKinney, is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sunday from 1 p.m.- 5 p.m. But early bird readers will note it opens second Saturdays of each month, like this one, at 7:30 a.m. The dinosaurs await you.

Ticket prices through January 31 are $11 for adults, $8 for seniors age 60 and over and children ages 3-12. (Free for members and children under age 3). February 1 through May 31, ticket prices are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and children.  For more information about the Heard and its programs, see

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