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Dinosaurs' delight and amaze

Cynthia Wolf Posted on 2021-05-24

Dinosaurs delight, amaze visitors at Volo Auto Museum’s new Jurassic Gardens VOLO — Once past the towering T-Rex at the entryway, visitors to the new Jurassic Gardens at Volo Auto Museum walk into a green-fronded world thick with the pounding footfalls and piercing cries of dimetrodons, pterodactyls and triceratops. Dozens of iguanodons, ceratosauruses and velociraptors dot the gloam-lit landscape. “With the background sounds, the lighting, the foliage, the movement, it pulls you into dinosaur times,” said Brian Grams, director of the Volo Auto Museum, now also home to Jurassic Gardens. “We paid a lot of attention to detail to make this an immersive experience.” That immersive experience is now open, with more than three dozen animatronic and several static dinosaurs on display, as well as a dino-themed playground outside. Tickets are available on-site at 27582 Volo Village Road or at The new — and permanent — exhibit is the culmination of an idea that sparked in 2019. Transforming what formerly was the mercantile mall took nearly a year, including a fair few seven-day work weeks to stick to the mid-May opening plan. During the COVID-19 pandemic closure, crews gutted the 13,000-square-foot space that the forever-fascinating creatures now inhabit. Along with carefully building each mechanical, metal, moving frame beneath the animatronic dinosaurs, they installed greenery, a pathway, a theater-quality sound system and stones plaqued with dino descriptions and era information. Instructive world maps, an incubator lab, a small theater, a fossil dig for budding paleontologists, a mining sluice, an expansive arcade and a gift shop all are part of the educational fun. “It’s a dream come true for kids,” Grams said. “We expect to see a lot of school field trips come through in the fall. We’re already getting calls.” A soft opening the weekend of May 14 drew about 1,600 visitors, including Tamara Cialabrini of Crystal Lake, who wrote on Facebook: “We took our son today and he was obsessed! We’ll be visiting many more times.” While Jurassic Gardens may be the most dramatic new draw at the reopened Volo Auto Museum, it is certainly not the only new draw. A breathtakingly restored, fully functional 1920s Herschell Carousel and surrounding grand music hall also is open to the public for the first time. The museum’s vintage tractor display is expanded, more movie cars are on view and a streamlined ticketing terminal is in place to reduce wait times. With pandemic mitigations loosening, the ShowBiz Pizza Place is on pace to reopen in June. Grams also plans to bring back summer-time train rides that offer a guided tour of the property, recently expanded by about 60 acres to the north. “Now more than ever, there is so much to do and see,” Grams said. “We’re looking forward to showing off what we’ve accomplished.” The museum is following state COVID guidelines. Currently, visitors who have been vaccinated are not required to wear masks. Those who have not been vaccinated are urged to mask up. Tickets to see Jurassic Gardens are $15.95 for ages 5 and up, free for those 4 and younger. Auto museum tickets are $19.95 for adults or $12.95 for children ages 5 to 12. Combo tickets — which provide entry to both attractions plus a second consecutive day’s entry free of charge — are $31.95 per adult and $24.95 per child. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily for both attractions. For other information, find Volo Auto Museum or Jurassic Gardens on Facebook, visit or call 815-385-3644. ### Photos by Cynthia Wolf | Wolf Wordsmithing Suggested captions big.T: This towering, bellowing T-Rex greets visitors to the new Jurassic Gardens adventure at Volo Auto Museum, 27582 Volo Village Road. february.JP: Just a few months ago, what is now Jurassic Gardens was a teeming mass of dino pieces awaiting placement in a newly gutted building on the Volo Auto Museum grounds. learning.lab: Visitors take in the learning center at Jurassic Gardens during a recent preview tour of the new attraction at the Volo Auto Museum on Volo Village Road. photo.op: Members of the Naber and Natschke families from Woodstock and Hebron enjoy one of the photo-friendly dinosaur displays at Jurassic Gardens during a preview tour in April. BG.dino.foot: Volo Auto Museum Director Brian Grams stands next to a dinosaur fossil replica at Jurassic Gardens that drives home the height of the extinct beasts in comparison to humans. Full disclosure: Cynthia Wolf is related to the Nabers and Natschkes, who appear in the learning lab and photo op images. Cynthia Wolf Wolf Wordsmithing On behalf of Volo Auto Museum 815-388-5793