New Jersey is often referred to as a state that has everything. Miles of ocean shoreline, mountains, cities and now — dinosaurs.
Saturday is the opening day of Field Station: Dinosaurs, a 20-acre outdoor educational park filled with 31 animatronic dinosaurs, located next to Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus.
As visitors walk an outdoor trail set up to look like an expedition site, they come across moving, breathing and roaring dinosaurs towering before them.
All of the dinosaurs were created to scale, according to Jason P. Schein, assistant curator of natural history for the New Jersey State Museum. However, some aspects of dino recreation are more difficult, such as skin color and vocal sounds, he said.
New Jersey has actually been a dinosaur home for millions of years.
The state once housed many dig sites, according to Schein. One particularly rich site still exists in Gloucester County, where many fossils are still being found, including plant and animal fossils, he said.
"New Jersey has such a great history of paleontology," Schein said.
Specifically within the park, some New Jersey natives can be seen, including the Hadrosaurus and the Dryptosaurus.
According to Guy Gsell, the park's president and chief executive producer, the task of bringing the park to life was a year and a half in the making. Gsell has a background in educational theater, particularly for children, and also previously was the founding director of Discovery Times Square in Manhattan.
By combining the two — education and theater— Field Station: Dinosaurs took shape. And, Gsell indulged his inner child.
"When I was a kid, I loved dinosaurs," he said.
In addition to the dinos, the park hosts interactive workshops and games, such as game shows, dinosaur meet and greets, a fossil dig site, and interactive shows featuring a 15-foot animatronic T-Rex puppet.
During an advance opening on Friday, while area children off from school gawked at the T-Rex during its "feeding," Gsell said the park was eager to see people coming in through the gate.
"Seeing those kids here is making me so happy, because we've been [performing] for rocks," Gsell said.
Those rocks, by the way, may not be the best audience, but are also noteworthy, Gsell said. The large rocks in the quarry area of the park are metamorphic rock and 200 million years old.
Gsell said the staff of Field Station: Dinosaurs has been hearing a lot of allusions to one obvious pop culture reference in relation to the park, and, he said, it's not an accurate comparison.
"We're not pretending to be 'Jurassic Park,'" he said.
Field Station: Dinosaurs is located at One Dinosaur Way, which connects to New Country Road in Secaucus. It is accessible via exit 15X on the NJ Turnpike, and within walking distance of the Secaucus NJ Transit station.
Admission is $25 for adults and $20 for children ages 12 and younger, and senior citizens. Children younger than the age of two are admitted free.
From May 26-June 17, hours are: Sat & Sun from 10am - 5pm; Weekdays - school groups only. From June 20 to September 3, the Field Station is OPEN EVERY DAY, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
For more information on the park, visit www.fieldstationdinosaurs.com.