To the average guest, Dinoland USA located in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of the most skipped lands probably out of most of the parks.
Most only venture to ride the thrilling Dinosaur attraction, meet characters like Scrooge Mcduck and Launchpad , or to entertain the kids at the Boneyard.
Dinoland USA is full of hidden, quirky details that pay homage to the little known Disney film and the returning fad of Road tripping across America!
And with everything in the Disney Parks, Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) has a well themed and well laid out tale behind it!
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In this article, we will be exploring all that the land has to offer and why it deserves more attention.
I will be breaking the location down as follows:
- Tips and Tricks
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During the early stages of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, it was coming down to the wire before its opening in April 1998. CEO Michael Eisner had to budget and had to choose which land was going to open with the park.
It was between Beastly Kingdom, a land filled with fantastical creatures, or Dinoland USA. He wanted to capitalize on the upcoming Disney film , “Dinosaur” and so Dinoland USA was chosen for Phase 1.
It was planned that Beastly Kingdom would come to be in a future phase after the park opened, but it never came to be. The land designated for it is where Pandora: The World of Avatar stands today.
While at first glance, Dinoland USA seems a bit….off putting, it’s all part of its story and it may change your mind about how you look at it for future visits.
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The backstory for Dinoland USA takes us to 1947 in a small highway town. An amateur fossil hunter discovers some dinosaur bones and the hunter contacts some friends, who collect enough money to purchase the site.
Since then, volunteers , scientists and more have come to the site and the Dino Institute was created. The institute is on the path to a major breakthrough and I won’t spoil the story for the Dinosaur attraction but it’s not to be missed!
Restaurantosaurus is an old fishing lodge turned dive where college kids work to make some money on the side.
Some of them live in the lodge as well. Nearby, Chester and Hester, two local businessmen with a kooky sense of humor open a tourist trap called Dino-Rama, which teases the Dino Institute. The Paleontologists don’t find it funny however.
The gift shop was originally a gas station and they used it to make a quick buck as well.
The now deceased attraction, “Primeval Whirl” was a comedic take on the Dinosaur attraction, Triceratops Spin is a take on Dumbo The Flying Elephant over at Magic Kingdom and they added Midway games too.
Overall, it’s intentionally corny, super cute to take Instagram photos, take a break, people watch and much more! You simply have to give it a chance.
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Dining in Dinoland USA
The main eatery in Dinoland USA is mentioned above, Restaurantosaurus. It was sponsored by McDonald’s between 1998-2008 and served up McDonald’s staples until the sponsorship ended.
As per its story, the fishing lodge was originally the first headquarters for the Dino Institute before it expanded to its current location.
It served multiple purposes including a museum, dorms, school and dining area for the scientists and students before it became a restaurant in 1978.
The walls and rooms keep with its theme and story as it’s decorated with fossils, memorabilia and sculptures. It is broken down into several areas including:
- Old Museum
- Dino Institute Dormitory
- “Hip Joint” Rec Room
- Dino Institute Motor Pool Garage
You can expect some delicious 1/3 Angus cheeseburgers , Breaded shrimp , chicken nuggets and Cobb salad here. You can partake in plant based dishes too. I will say you could skip this location for alcoholic beverages.
While they are available here, there are only 3 options which are a Margarita, Safari Amber and Bud Light. This place is really neat to spend time in and a great option if you’re looking for something familiar and quick to eat while you rest.
Read the full menu here.
3 Top Tips and Tricks for Your Visit
Here I will give a few quick tips and tricks for some of the attractions and things to do in Dinoland USA.
1. Experience Finding Nemo: The Musical
This attraction resides on the outskirts on the area and is a really great show if you’re a fan of the film. New songs and acrobatics featured in the show, along with puppetry really brings the story to a different yet familiar light.
There really isn’t a bad seat in the house, but I prefer middle section as the performers come through the aisles to give an interactive experience.
If you don’t want to waste a FastPass on Dinosaur or it isn’t available, try to shoot for it around lunchtime or towards park closing. In my experience, it’s usually a 15-20 minute wait.
While in the queue, pay attention to the detail places throughout and tell Mrs. Huxtable I said hello!
2. Meet Rare Characters
You are able to meet some familiar characters also known as Donald and Goofy here. But for the 90s babies, this is also a great place to meet Scrooge Mcduck and Launchpad Mcquack !
Finally you can meet chip and dale in the most adorable dinosaur costumes!
You will have to ask a Cast Member about the times they meet which is preferred in my methods. Cast Members are more up to date when it comes to character meet times vs the website. They usually meet near Restaurantosaurus.
3. Party with Donald!
You can’t miss Donald’s Dino Bash either which is a fun dance party with these characters! Have you ever done a line dance with Chip and Dale? Now is your chance!
Best part is, it’s usually not busy so it’s a perfect way to get some photo ops with them.
Dinoland USA is a classic example of Walt Disney Imagineering really playing into its theme. Guests write off the land as cheap and skip it. But in reality, that’s all part of its story, theme and charm quite frankly!
I think it was important to bring up its story because it allows you to truly look deeper into the details placed all over the land to create its bigger picture.
While one may come for the E-ticket Dinosaur attraction or to let their kids dig around in the Boneyard where the very first fossils were found, this is the big draw to explore the land.
Visit the Chester and Hester gift shop which one could compare to the joke shop of Fred and George’s from the Harry Potter films. There is so much to see in there and buy if you want to like their pockets with a quick buck.
Finally, dining at Restaurantosaurus is a treat too as you can see nods to Disney History on top of the details that play a continuation of its overarching tale.
The tale of Dinoland USA plays into the old days where families would road trip across the country and stop at cheesy highway towns. Road tripping has since come back with the pandemic and the land plays into that.
Will you be making Dinoland USA a priority on your next visit? Let us know in the comments.
Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!
About the Author
Victoria is a professional solo traveler here to make your solo trips as stress free AND enjoyable as possible for you.
She has over 5 years of Disney and Non-Disney travel experience and was featured by POPSUGAR as one of the Top 50 Black Disney Creators you should follow.
She is a Proud Native to Baltimore, Md but always will call Disney World home. You can find her at Disney Tea with V.