Though the creatures on display at Dinosaur World don’t need much space to roam, plenty of care has been taken to furnish them a comfortable habitat. They peer imposingly from the hillsides of Kentucky, crane their necks up through native trees, and stomp through prairie fields. Although a life-size mammoth or T. rex might be hard to miss, little visitors might still jump with delight at noticing a baby dino suddenly appear from behind a bush. Giant brachiosaurus necks arch high above treetops, while toothy meat-eaters and spiny stegosauruses roam the world below. The fiberglass, steel, and concrete models reach up to 80 feet in length, and are built according to the latest scientific discoveries about what dinosaurs looked like and what styles were trendy in the Mesozoic era.
The first Dinosaur World location was a former alligator farm in Florida and five years later another one was opened in Kentucky. As Swedish-born Christer Svensson began to fill it with statues, he consulted with experts around the world to not only create realistic reptiles but to surround them with fun, educational activities. Kids can sift through sand to find shark’s teeth, gastropod shells, and trilobites in a fossil dig, get to know some lizards a little better on the playground, or examine ancient eggs and raptor claws in the museum.
Country Critters Farm isn't really a farm in the traditional sense: it's a petting zoo that's home to ponies, cows, goats, chickens, and a menagerie of other amiable creatures. Open on Saturday and Sunday?and weekdays by reservation?the farm is filled with nine rustic, kid-friendly activities that range from pony rides and hayrides to a playground and bounce houses. Though they welcome school field trips and onsite birthday parties, the staff can also load up their Big Red Barn?a mobile petting-zoo trailer?and bring their cuddly residents to birthday parties and other events.
In 1906 the Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company was created to distribute the smooth, bubbly taste known as Dr Pepper. Today, that building still stands and is dedicated to a similar mission: to teach the world about the history of the iconic soda, a vision realized by a few devoted enthusiasts. The building became the Dr Pepper Museum in 1989, then the Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute in 1997. Today, it is a tribute to the imagination and talent that fueled the soft drink's success throughout the years.
Bob and Coni Keyes began the adventure that is Green Meadows Petting Farm in Wisconsin in 1964, when it was simply Green Meadows Farm. As a "pick-your-own" raspberry and vegetable farm, there was nothing there yet to pet, especially since raspberries notoriously withhold affection. When they discovered that most farms of their ilk prohibited youngsters, they brought in animal friends to make their farm a family affair. All it took was the raves of one nursery school group, and suddenly the new Green Meadows Petting Farm was bringing in up to 1,200 visitors a day. Through the decades, Green Meadows has expanded its array of animals and family entertainment, which includes horse-drawn hayrides, sleigh rides, mobile pony parties, and more pumpkins than in a headless horseman's closet. They've also expanded to locations to Maryland and Texas, allowing kids in two times zones the chance to get closer to nature's critters.
Endangered Asian arowana flash lustrous orange and green scales; a Victorian crowned pigeon shakes its cerulean tufts and spreads its turquoise wings; 16-inch fairy penguins waddle across a forest floor. And that’s all before you hit the admissions booth. The Dallas World Aquarium’s Borneo exhibit greets guests to the zoo and aquarium with a preview of the colorful, exotic wildlife that await them inside. But the animals aren’t just there for visitors’ entertainment—the aquarium plays a large role in conservation efforts not just in the U.S., but around the world, and yhe majority of its residents are endangered or threatened in the wild. Once inside, guests explore each critter’s natural habitat as they delve into exhibits that emulate different global regions, much like the control centers run by evil TV weathermen. The eight-story Mundo Maya’s 400,000-gallon Cenote river teems with sharks, rays, and sea turtles indigenous to the Yucatan Peninsula. In the Orinico exhibit, crocodiles and red-bellied piranhas form a menacing welcoming committee in the water, but residents of the sloth forest remain unconcerned, moseying lazily from branch to branch.
Outside in a mock South Africa habitat aptly named tomato frogs, squat and orange like their namesake, hop around a flourishing botanical garden, alongside Madagascan big-headed turtles and black-footed penguins. And in the aquarium, a 20,000 gallon walk-through tunnel lets guests get up close and personal with hundreds of Indo-Pacific fishes and sea critters, including the blue-dot stingray—named for the blue specks scattered across its yellow coat.
At noon every day, a new flock of butterflies is released into the butterfly house at Texas Discovery Gardens, opening their colorful wings for the first time among the lush vegetation. Counted among their number are elegant species such as the monarch and the blue morpho, while an outdoor nursery attracts native butterflies with nectar-rich plants and attractive butterfly buffets. This is just one of the ten themed areas on the 7.5-acre estate, which brims with vibrant collections of plants collected from around the world and is maintained using sustainable, organic methods. The newly renovated Tribute Garden invites visitors to relax in the shade next to a bubbling fountain, and the Master Gardeners' Garden demonstrates landscaping practices that are both attractive and environmentally friendly.
The organization also offers education and outreach programs for children to teach them about life cycles and natural landscapes, as well as increase their understanding and appreciation for nature. Visitors can also attend festivals including the Butterflies and Bugs Family Festival on August 3, as well as special programing such as Sunrise Pilates and guided nature walks.