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Dinosaur drive-thru exhibit Jurassic Quest stomps into Utah

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Brittney Manahan puts the final touches on a display of dinosaurs ahead of the opening of “Jurassic Quest Drive Thru” at the USANA Amphitheatre in West Valley City on Friday, April 23, 2021.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Did you know velociraptors measured in at just 3 feet tall — making them look kind of like a turkey from your nightmares?

That’s just one factoid Utahns can learn (and see) at the Jurassic Quest exhibit that stomped its way into the USANA Amphitheater in West Valley City, where it will remain until May 9.

As the exhibit opened its doors Friday, cars brimming with kids lined up to meet the more than 70 ancient dinosaurs on display, which include dozens of animatronic models of favorites like the Tyrannosaurus rex and triceratops, and lesser-known creatures like the tylosaurus. Shrieks and screams escaped from cars as the first group of attendees started their drive through the exhibit, but within a few minutes, countless kids were hanging out of windows and sunroofs, greeting each dinosaur in awe.

“They’re at first hesitant sometimes because there are loud noises, the big creatures, but they warm up really easily, especially with the baby dinosaurs. That wall comes down, and they’re ready to take on the adventure,” said “Dino” Dustin Baker, who works as a guide at the quest.

“It can be a little thrilling, but the more they go and they realize: ‘I’m inside this car, I can roar back at these dinosaurs,’ it’s really cute to see them interact,” said “Safari” Sarah Menard, another guide.

Dinosaur Quest began as an indoor exhibit about seven years ago but moved outdoors last June during the pandemic, Menard said.

“We transferred all that to an outdoor drive-by format so people could still greet the baby dinosaurs as they drive in and everything and see all the same dinosaurs,” she said.

“I think it has been as popular because there’s not a lot for people to do right now, people are starving to do things with their families, and so this is the perfect opportunity to have an event and be safe, and not feel like you’re putting your family in any kind of harm’s way, and so we were excited about that,” Baker said.

Tickets need to be purchased in advance to get into the exhibit. Tickets cost $49 for vehicles that seat up to eight people and $80 for vehicles that seat between nine and 15 people. After getting their ticket scanned, each group receives a QR code that directs them to an audio tour on YouTube. They then drive through each section of the exhibit, which covers the Cretaceous, Jurassic, Triassic and Neogene periods. Families can text “dinosaur experts” at DINO-411 during the show with questions.

The tour takes about one hour. At the end, groups can have a free family photo taken.

While the exhibit brings to mind the popular “Jurassic Park” movies, its animatronic dinosaurs are “a little more educational and a lot more accurate, actually,” according to Menard. The exhibit is not affiliated with the movies, she said.

“We work with paleontologists hand-in-hand to make sure our dinosaurs are replicated painstakingly, and that detail, making sure even if we find out there’s a tooth missing or a tooth that needs to be taken out, that we can bring in our dinosaur doctor to pull it out. That way everyone can have as accurate of a depiction as possible,” she said.

The show also includes a Utahraptor, discovered in the Beehive State in the 1970s. The Legislature this year approved the creation of a Utahraptor State Park, where dinosaur remains have been found.

“We love that we’re able to showcase that to people who actually know what they are and like them,” Menard said.

For more information, jurassicquest.com.