BE THE DINOSAUR: Life in the Cretaceous

Through May 18 

Come to the Arboretum to travel back in time 65 million years.

This groundbreaking exhibit combines video game technology and traditional components for an oversized adventure. Visitors take control of their own dinosaur and explore a fully interactive reconstruction of the most complex ancient ecosystem ever created. The exhibit also features full-size dinosaur bones, robotic dinosaurs on loan from Catawba Science Center, a paleontology field station and more!

The simulation at the core of this exhibit is, to-date, the most complex simulation of dinosaurs and their world ever created. For the first time, artificially intelligent dinosaurs roam across realistic terrain. The dinosaurs have simulated muscle and digestive systems. Virtual winds circulate digital odors. Plants grow and have accurate nutritional values. In order to prepare for a trip into this exciting virtual world, visitors will need to “dig” through other exhibit components to unlock the secrets of how dinosaurs survived, and thrived.  

 The unique blend of traditional and innovative design creates a dynamic that encourages visitors to explore educational concepts and immediately experience them in the Be the Dinosaur™ simulation, repeating the process in a cycle of progressive learning.


• Visitors are encouraged to individually and collaboratively search for key educational goals in order to maximize their simulation experience.

• The innovative aspect of Be the Dinosaur™ is the necessary interaction with both traditional and interactive elements to fully experience the exhibit.

• Physical components of the exhibit highlight educational goals reflecting the most current available data on dinosaur biology, behavior, food sources and ecology.

• 12 Navigation Icons that are repeated throughout the physical and virtual components of the exhibit embody the educational goals for school age visitors.

• Visitors follow the icons and discover the information about dinosaurs and the ecosystem in which they lives that will enable them to experience more and more of the Be the Dinosaur™ simulation.

• Traditional dinosaur exhibit elements are also present, including fossil reconstructions, and informational displays.

•  Life size robotic dinosaurs give you a glimpse of a few of the species that lived during the Cretaceous Period.


Exhibit Support Provided in Part by our Community Partners   

Fairway Outdoor Advertising  


Field Station and dinosaur skulls

The Field Station is designed to point out “How we know what we know”. How did we recreate the dinosaurs? How can we reasonably infer the behavior of extinct animals? Life-sized fossil casts of the skulls of Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops prorsus bracket the Feild Station. The dinosaur skulls help set the stage for the experience of Be the Dinosaur as well as communicating the immense scale of these ancient creatures.

Simulator pods

Custom designed simulator pods allow the visitor to learn about life as it existed 65 million years ago through an immersive educational simulation.

State of the art imaging systems deliver an exclusive High Definition video and audio experience. Custom controls are both easy to use and afford distinct and intuitive control functions for dinosaur limbs, head and neck, jaw and even nostrils! User selectable control options provide easy access for young visitors, visitors with disabilities, and an ‘expert’ setting for more precise and detailed control over your virtual dinosaur to satisfy even the most tech-savvy guests.

Rock-formation kiosks

These kiosks present key information and focus attention on important educational goals in an animated and interactive fashion. In some installations, multiple topics will be presented in a single rock formation kiosk, affording smaller host institutions the ability to maintain the overall integrity of the Be the Dinosaur™ experience in a more compact exhibit space.

Amber pillars

Beautiful glowing panels thrust upwards from rock formations and provide a visually stimulating overview of the main topics discussed in the exhibit. Like other aspects of the exhibition, the icons function to quickly identify each topic and relate each exhibit element to one another.


This touch-screen station allows visitors to experiment with various camouflage patterns, changing dinosaur species and backgrounds to create their own custom designed dinosaur. 

Dinosaur Observation stations

“Windows” into the reconstructed environment, these stations give visitors the opportunity to explore the Cretaceous world and observe the artificially intelligent animals as if in a Nature Preserve. Sophisticated behaviors such as egg-laying and nest tending, herd and pack mechanics and hunting and defense can be witnessed. Visitors can even play “Nature Photographer”, trying to capture images of these lifelike behaviors.

Amber pillars

Beautiful glowing panels thrust upwards from rock formations and provide a visually stimulating overview of the main topics discussed in the exhibit. Like other aspects of the exhibition, the icons function to quickly identify each topic and relate each exhibit element to one another.

Exhibit navigation icons

Icons representing 12 major areas of the science of dinosaurs and their ecosystems clearly link the experiences in the Be the Dinosaur™ simulation with the other interactive and traditional elements of the exhibit and reinforce the cyclical flow of learning between the simulation and the more traditional exhibit elements. Visitors will follow these icons and explore many of the mysteries concering how dinosaurs may have lived their lives:

Do I hunt alone or in packs?

How do I behave in groups?

How di I find plants to eat?

What was the world around me like?

Do I live alone or in groups?

How do I use my senses?

How do I stay healthy?

How do I find food?

Creatures that share their world…what else lived at that time?

The life of carnivores and herbivores.

Do I defend myself?




Join us for a guided school field trip or youth group program!