Dinosaurs come to Centreville this summer

dino1 Families will be able to learn about dinosaur habits, when they lived and what role they played in history.
dino3 You will be able to see Jurassic Encounter at Bull Run Regional Park in May.
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A self-guided, drive-through dinosaur park will come to Centreville, Virginia this summer, the second such attraction in the D.C. area.

The Jurassic Encounter at the Bull Run Special Events Center, in Bull Run Regional Park at 7700 Bull Run Drive, runs from May 14 through May 31, and will be open Wednesdays through Sundays.

Maryland events planning company Drink.Eat. Relax. Events is staging the Bull Run dinosaur exhibit with more than 75 static and animatronic dinosaurs, many of which have lifelike movements and roars. The drive-through tour includes educational audio narration that plays through the visitor’s vehicle audio system as he drives through the exhibit. It takes about an hour to drive through the event.

Some of the dinosaurs are very large.

“They range in size from 40 feet tall down to little babies and dinosaur eggs, and everything in between. Some of them require cranes and forklifts and all kinds of things to maneuver to get set up and ready to go,” said Greg Nivens with Drink.Eat.Relax. Events.

The company worked with dinosaur experts and educators to develop the educational narration that describes various dinosaurs’ habits, where and when they lived and their place in history. There is an education app that children can download.

“It’s a journey. It’s not just a bunch of dinosaurs. There is a whole story that is there, and that’s what life is all about. Telling stories and having your children learn in a fun way,” Nivens said.

The Jurassic Encounter is Bull Run Regional Park is $49 per vehicle, with up to eight passengers. Drink.Eat.Relax. Events said expected attendance for the two-week event will be more than 100,000 people.

Part of the proceeds from the Bull Run Park’s ticket sales will go to The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia.

At National Harbor, Atlanta-based Imagine Exhibitions is currently operating its Dino Safari, also a roughly 60-minute, drive through tour accompanied by educational audio narration, with more than 40 animatronic dinosaurs. It runs through April 11, and costs $49.95 per vehicle, with up to seven people per vehicle.

For Drink.Eat.Relax. Events, the dinosaur safari was in part a pandemic pivot.

The company usually stages about 45 events each year, from New York to Florida, including the popular Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festivals, other wine and beer festivals and fun runs. In 2020, the number of its events was cut in half by COVID-19, and the company closed entirely for six months, though Nivens said he was able to keep the majority of his small staff.

The company had been staging other smaller dinosaur exhibits elsewhere for about three years in indoor and outdoor settings.

“As people did more drive throughs during the pandemic we said, ‘Hey, we can do this,’” Nivens said. “It hits all of the buttons for a pandemic. It’s touchless. It is COVID-friendly so if you’re with your pod or your family, you can stay in the privacy and safety of your car.”

Nivens estimates the cost of the dinosaurs for he and his other business partners at about $300,000. The company plans to tour to other cities with the drive-through interactive dinosaur exhibit, as well as continuing its existing dinosaur attractions. When not in use, the dinosaurs are stored in a large warehouse in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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