Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: Jurassic Quest in Mason, MI

Our daughter is now 20 months old and she has been dino-obsessed for 6 months now. She knows the names of over 10 dinosaurs and she talks about dino eggs, dino bones, and dinosaurs endlessly. You can imagine our excitement when we found out an event called Jurassic Quest would be coming to Michigan. It was a dream come true! We immediately bought tickets to the exhibit on the weekend of February 10th, 2017, in Mason, MI.

We had originally intended to attend the event on February 11th, a Saturday, but after reading the Facebook posts from the Jurassic Quest page, we decided to go on Friday, February 10th, instead. The reason was that the expected lines and wait times was purported to be significantly larger on Saturdays than on Fridays. I contacted the Jurassic Quest page in order to see if my daughter would be tall enough to ride the rides and if it would be warm enough for her to attend. The first response I received was "We'll give you a refund," and the second was that she was plenty tall enough for the rides.

We drove 2.5 hours, and then we stopped and had lunch at the Mason McDonald's. It was very sweet. The locals were friendly and excited about the dinosaurs arriving at their fairgrounds. This was the Ingham County Fairgrounds. It was a very nice facility, but they were nowhere near large enough for the event, it turns out.

We arrived at 3:07pm and immediately noticed that the line was already several hundred people long and growing by the second. We had purchased the tickets in advance, so we skipped the queue and went straight in through and empty doorway intended for advanced ticket holders. I noticed a lot of parents with toddlers and babies in the line and felt very anxious about them waiting in the cold. It really made me upset. The average temperature that day was 26F, and the high was 36F and low 15F. Since the event didn't open until the afternoon, the temperature was cold and continued to drop the longer we were there.




Once we passed through the advanced ticket holders door, we were issued stamps and found that though we were there within 7 minutes of the event opening, the place was jam-packed with people. The first thing we saw was a small tent of dinosaurs. There were two large dinosaurs on one side and several smaller ones on the other. There were so many people and strollers that we could hardly get our daughter through to see them. It was also noticeably cold. It was not hot enough for her to remove her coat at any time in this tent.






We noticed was that the "heated tents" were not very warm. They were the size of party tents, very big, and the dinosaurs fit inside them, well, some of them did.















The bigger dinosaurs we were desperate to see were all outside in the cold, and it was simply too cold to keep our daughter out there for very long. We stopped long enough for a selfie, but had to move inside.

















We fully intended to purchase tickets for the rides, and the ticket stand was a further two areas away. As we approached it, my husband decided that she might want to do more than 4 rides, which were $5 each, and bought her a wrist band for unlimited riding. The person manning the ticket tent argued with him about why she didn't already have one. Two and under did not need them to get in. He finally did get her a $20 wristband. Unfortunately, by the time he got the band, the lines were growing, and my daughter was only able to ride once. The patience of a 20 month old child can wear thin after they've just spent 2.5 hours in a vehicle.



The one ride she did ride was the walking dinosaurs. We waited 25 minutes in line, and when we got to the front, the line had more than doubled in length from when we waited. There were three attendants inside making the dinosaurs walk, and 3 more dinosaur rides plugged in and charging. One dinosaur was missing its leg from the shin down. It was just a metal post with a wheel attached. It was also dirty. I began to have second thoughts about my child riding the rides, but there was no way out of the line with our stroller, so there we were.



Once our daughter got onto the ride, it lasted approximately 3-5 minutes, walked across the area, and then it was over. The attendant was lovely, and my daughter enjoyed this ride.


We then went to the gift shop, where DVDs, toys, and merchandise were set up. We declined to buy anything from this area as the prices were a bit higher than we would have liked. I'm a couponer, so it's tough for me to spend the extra bucks when I know we can get the same stuff at home cheaper.




Next, we decided to check out the bounce house. It was one just for Tots called Tri-cera-tots. The age limit was 2. No one over that age was allowed in, and the funny thing is, for a bounce house for ages 2 and under, no parents were allowed in either. My child sat, scared, while a little boy tried to mule kick her in the face. There was no attendant inside. We pulled her out.





We went to the fossil area to look at the fossils, and that line took up another 15 minutes of waiting. The man in line behind us had just come from the Tricera-Tots area as well and expressed his disappointment in the event. His son was 2, and he had another child stepping on his neck in the bounce house. The bounce house had only one entrance, and you could not see all of the areas from outside as it had tall walls. He had no way to get inside and get his son, so he ran around and had the attendant help him. He was very concerned about the safety of kids at the event.




When it was our turn to dig, we got approximately 3-5 minutes to do that. Just enough for my daughter to become very interested in the large sandboxes, and the have a howling fit as we were forced to pull her away. The attendant watched her phone, looking at the timer. She blew a whistle to let everyone digging know that it was not our turn any longer.








We went to see the baby dinosaurs, and had hopes of seeing the walking dinos. This was back in the second tent and it was freezing cold. We had to keep gloves, hat, and coat on in this area. The baby dinosaur stopped for approximately 15 seconds, long enough for my child to touch its head. Then, the person holding it was gone. We never did see the walking dinosaurs. It was simply too cold to stay any longer, so we headed back to the car to make the 2.5 hour journey home.




All in all, I'd give Jurassic Quest 3 out of 10 stars. It was a good concept, but it was executed very poorly. It was comparable to the quality of a traveling carnival, not a big children's event. It was very dirty, the lines were long as they had obviously oversold themselves, and the thing was crammed into tents outdoors in freezing weather. Often there was no rhyme, reason, or signage in event areas. You just had to guess where you were headed. The folks working the door were nice, and the lady that held our daughter on the ride was wonderful, but the rest of the people working seemed like they were tired and unenthusiastic. I can imagine I would be too, if I had to do that job day in and day out. It seemed like a lot of work.

I would not recommend this event for any friends or family that I know, and I will definitely not be returning to the event. When I expressed my concerns, to the Facebook page, I was given an apology and they told me it was their first time in Michigan, and that they would work on bettering the event. I guess they must get a lot of complaints because in days since I have seen them mounting on Facebook during each subsequent event, with the same problems we experienced. The actual event looked nothing like the photographs they use to tout it. I'd avoid it if you've got a toddler or younger child. There are better dino events out there. We'll find them.

Edited to Add: After I told others about our less-than-stellar experience in the comments, Jurassic Quest banned me from commenting on their Facebook page. Also, I heard from T-Rex Planet that Jurassic Quest is a cheap rip-off of their show and is causing issues for their branding.