Despite Walt Disney’s insistence that his parks be free of charlatans, there is one area of Walt Disney World that does have a whiff of old-timey hucksterism: the Fossil Fun Games of chance at Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama at the Animal Kingdom. Games of chance that, if you’re not careful, will end up costing you as much as a signature dinner for a plush-ish frog.
Other areas of Walt Disney World do have in-park experiences that are not included in your admission price. Most of these are either low cost (Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade), somewhat hidden (the arcades at Toy Story Pizza Planet and the Space Mountain exit), or both. Or if they are high cost (tours), they are all but invisible to the average guest and not available to or made enticing to children. The Animal Kingdom Dino-Rama is the inverse of this, potentially high-cost, extremely visible, aggressively marketed (barkers shouting “step right up”), and alluring to children.
On the plus side, what you see is what you get.
The Dino-Rama area is themed like a carnival, with a back story that Chester and Hester were local merchants trying to capitalize on the influx of the research and tourist dollars of the folks coming to visit the nearby Dinosaur Institute. Bit by bit, C&H created a South-of-the-Border-esque agglomeration of rides, souvenir stands, fun house mirrors, and midway games. Chester and Hester, as the story goes, wanted to cash in on the unsuspecting tourists. Um, well, I guess there’s something to be said for transparency.
Rather than rail against the machine, I’m here to inform so that, when the time comes and little Jimmy is begging for you to win him a bright blue stuffed reptile, you’ll be prepared.
Here are possible approaches to the situation:
- Avoid the area altogether. This is challenging because DinoLand is home to two of the most preschool-friendly attractions at the Animal Kingdom, the Boneyard and TriceraTop Spin.
- Just say no. Explain the cost of the games and their place in the family souvenir budget. Be prepared for tears.
- Cave into a game or two and win your kid a prize.
- Let your kids try their hand at the games to win their own prize (the most expensive option).
If you decide to go with option three or option four (what the heck, you’re on vacation), here’s what you need to know:
- The games are dino-themed versions of classic carnival games of skill and chance: toss a basketball, squirt water into a tiny hole, whack-a-mole, horse race, etc. For best results, you may want to do a little Google research in advance on how to best approach these games.
- Prices vary slightly from game to game. You can expect to pay between $2-3 per person, per game.
- Be aware that the games of chance last a very short time, often less than 30 seconds.
- There are some games that have multiple chances for one price, two or three basketball shots, for example. If you have more than one child, ask the barker if they can each take one of the shots. This may cut down on your total cash outlay.
- If you have more than one child, you should plan in advance the ramifications of winning only one prize.
- The games of chance are sparsely populated until at least noon. Some booths have a “winner every game” policy. If your goal is to get Junior a prize, these are the ones to hit. Fill the game with members of your own family. Play a few successive games until you have the number of prizes that will appease your clan.
- If your child is going to play, make sure he/she understands the rules of the game in advance. If possible, have them watch several rounds before they play to get the hang of it.
- Make sure your child understands which prizes are available. There are large items displayed that may only be available if you win multiple games.
- The Fossil Fueler game has two sides of seating. You may be competing against people you can’t see.
- If your child is going to play, make sure he/she understands the possibility of not winning a prize.
- If you do win prizes, consider what your plan will be for toting them around all day. Using a boa as a boa can be uncomfortable when it’s 95 degrees out.
- Don’t assume that your child will let you get away with the Fossil Fun prize being his souvenir for the day/week/trip. These items are not Disney-themed.
So fellow tourists, what are your strategies for coping with Fossil Fun? Do you have any tips on how to avoid breaking the bank on Whack-A-Dino? Do you have a secret trick for staying strong against the siren song of the carny? Let us know in the comments below.