Sunday, June 27, 2010

Review - Torquay Dinosaur World

Torquay's Dinosaur World

Based at the harbourside in beautiful Torquay (Devon), this is a must visit indoor attraction for families with children of all ages.

We visited Torquay's Dinosaur World on Father's Day - 20th June 2010.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the welcome we received from the front desk staff was just as pleasant.   First to greet us was Michael, young and very presentable, with a pleasant attitude and very helpful manner.  He swiftly dealt with our ticket requests, then took the time to come around to the front of the desk to talk to us about the available quiz sheets and explain more about the attraction.  

First impressions were of excellence. 

After choosing the written version of the quiz (there is also a drawing version for those that prefer), we started on our way.   We were instantly impressed by the exhibits.  The models are of very high standard, and children are encouraged to touch and interact with the majority of them.   The children's interests were immediately captured; questions were asked, information was read, exhibits were touched and eagerly explored.  They moved on with enthusiasm from exhibit to exhibit, desperate to see what else was in store on this exciting journey of a time long ago.

Torquay Dinosaur World seems to have got the balance just right.  It is unusual for us, as a family, to find an attraction that satisfy's all of the children's needs and interests.  With such a wide span of ages - from 14 down to 4 - this is hardly surprising.  It really does make a refreshing change, so forgive me if I sing its praises from the rooftops.   My 14 year old daughter was enthralled, my 12 year old son had his curiosity well and truly quenched, and my younger two had their 4 and 8 year old needs to touch and play,  absolutely satisfied.   The quiz was well put together, with just the right amount of knowledge being required to answer correctly, but with the minimum amount of reading effort necessary.  This meant that the children could find the answers to questions with ease, read more information if they wished to, but didn't get lost in 'just finding the answers' as has happened on visits elsewhere.

The building itself is pretty amazing, and totally unlike what I expected from the outside.  The set-up is what I can only describe as corridor-like, almost maze-like in appearance.   The space is not at all claustrophobic in feeling, but it also doesn't give the children the "oh look, nice open space to run around" sort of feel -  important to those who wish to be able to walk around the place without children running off in all directions.  It felt safe, and it was lovely to be able to walk around with ease, not worrying about children touching things they shouldn't.  The atmosphere was really relaxed and child-friendly, just as a family attraction should be!  Younger children will enjoy following the dinosaur footprints around the attraction, who knows what you will find as you go...

There was a good mix of fossils and models, and both adults and children alike found the exhibits interesting.  The information given wasn't long and laborious, but enough to gain knowledge and give a starting point for future research.  It was interestingly laid out in 'snippet' form thus easy on the eye.

Hardly surprisingly, it was the biggest of the beasts that seemed to win the greatest affection of my tribe.  They loved the huge and fearsome Tyrannosaurus model head, complete with terrifying sound effects as she fiercely protects her baby as all good mothers should.  

Kelsey meanwhile, the Triceratops skull, was a source of great fascination, attracting many wows and and ooohs and ahhs.

Once our tour had been completed, and we found ourselves back at the front desk , we handed in our  finished quiz sheet ready for marking.  We were pleased to find that we had scored 25/25, and achieved true Dino Expert status!  Certificates of recognition were passed out to each of the children (even though we had only filled in one quiz sheet as a family - I thought that was a nice touch), and the children (and adults!) were given the opportunity to choose a free badge each.    Such simple things that bring smiles to little faces.   We were this time served by the utterly delightful Steph, who greeted us with a wide smile and enthusiastic chatter.   I have to just say that we couldn't fault either staff members that we had the pleasure to meet.  They were both young, full of enthusiasm, and eager to help.  They answered our questions confidently, and gave the impression that nothing was too much trouble.  So, credit where credit is due - thanks guys!

We had a quick look around the shop before we left.  It was of no surprise to see it full of dinosaur themed souvenirs, and we ended up giving a good home to a couple of small plush toys and a gripper-type Tyrannosaurus Rex - the latter of which Callum has refused to be parted from.   The prices weren't excessive, and we didn't feel 'badgered' into buying something, we bought because we chose to, not because we felt it was expected.   All in all, everyone agreed that it had been a very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours, and almost immediately my gang were asking when we could return again.  I am really hoping that they will roll out some sort of season ticket membership.  At almost £30 a time for us to visit, we can't afford to go as often as I know the children will be begging us to!

This review was written as a personal account of our visit to Torquay Dinosaur World in Devon.  The Classroom Free website and blog, and Julia herself, has no personal connection with Torquay's Dinosaur World, and all views expressed are honest and completely her own and that of her family.

If you have a family attraction in Dorset, Devon, or Cornwall that you would like the Classroom Free tribe to visit and review, please get in touch to discuss details.

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