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Carolinas museums putting spotlight on dinosaurs

Sorry, Santa, but you’re sharing the season with extinct reptiles.

Museums – especially science museums – know dinosaurs are a big draw for visitors. So it’s no surprise three major institutions in the Carolinas are offering special dinosaur exhibitions that are prime for winter field trips or school-vacation family getaways. John Bordsen

Discovery Place

301 N. Tryon St., Charlotte.

“Dinosaurs in Motion” features 14 dinosaur sculptures – including one of a 44-foot T. rex – made of recycled metal; all have exposed mechanisms inspired by actual fossils. The sculptures are interactive: You can control their actions using pulleys, levers and remote controls. The art component of this exhibit shows how Asheville artist John Payne created them; the science component explores the mechanics of how the sculptures move. It runs through Jan. 16.

Shown daily in the 3-D theater (included with admission): “The Lost World: 3D,” a 30-minute, special effects-filled fantasy about people meeting live dinosaurs.

The all-day “Dino Days” party Dec. 13 (free with paid admission) offers dinosaur activities throughout the museum, include RoboRaptor Races, a simulated fossil dig, “I Know Dino” trivia game, etc. The “Jurassic New Year” party (Dec. 29-Jan. 2) also has dino-themed activities for the family.

Details: $15; $12 for ages 2-13 and 60 and older. Closed Dec. 24-25; otherwise open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. 704-372-6261;

N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences

11 W. Jones St., Raleigh.

“The World’s Largest Dinosaurs” explores the anatomy of the biggest beasts – long-necked, long-tailed sauropods – based on the latest paleo-biological research. It includes a life-size, detailed model of a 60-foot-long Mamenchisaurus as well as interactive exhibits and hands-on activities. You can compare sauropod teeth with those of modern animals, and use a hand pump to learn what kind of pressure may have been needed to distribute blood from one end of the dinosaur to the other. Also: sauropod specimens from the museum’s fossil collection (including a Diplodocus femur you can touch), fossil plant specimens from the N.C. State collection, a display of tools paleontologists use, and video footage showing museum paleontologists in the field this summer at a dig in Utah. It continues through April 12.

A five-lecture monthly series tied to “The World’s Largest Dinosaurs” begins at 7 p.m. Dec. 4, with Paul Brinkman of the museum’s Paleontology & Geology Research Lab discussing the history of America’s fascination with dinosaurs. $10 for lecture; $20 for lecture/exhibition entry. Tickets:

Dec. 5, for the museum’s monthly First Friday promotion, there are later hours, discounted 5-7 p.m. admission to “The World’s Largest Dinosaurs” plus a free screening of the campy 1970 sci-fi movie “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.”

Details: Museum admission is free. Cost for “The World’s Largest Dinosaurs”: $14; $8 for ages 3-12; $12 for 65 and older and for students and military. Closed Dec. 24-25 and Jan. 1; otherwise open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. 919-707-9950;

S.C. State Museum

301 Gervais St., Columbia.

“Dinosaurs: A Bite Out of Time” showcases 15 lifelike repros of dinosaurs – mostly robotic – and other prehistoric creatures. One of the robotic beasts is of a Maiasaur, a skeleton cast of which is on permanent display elsewhere at the museum. Dinosaurs range from full-size to half-scale and include T. rex, Triceratops, Stegosaurus and such oddities as Tenontosaurus and Pachycephalosaurus. Cool touch: photo opportunities with the Triceratops and a T. rex head. Also: a kids corner with a puppet station, a control-it-yourself robotic dinosaur and a “dig box.” It runs through Jan. 11.

The museum’s new 4-D theater has 15-minute “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” worked into the lineup ($3 add-on to museum/“Dinosaurs” admission).

Details: $13.95, $12.95 for 62 and older; $11.95 for ages 3-12 includes museum entry plus “Dinosaurs” exhibit (other packages available). Closed Dec. 24-25; otherwise open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday and Wednesdays-Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. 803-898-4921;

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