NOTE: The descriptions of the places in this guide were accurate at the time the articles were posted. Please be advised that you should call ahead before traveling to any of them.

The Valley of the Dinosaurs

By: Michelle Harper

Reptile CenterWhere on earth can you find a Pygmy Goat dining next to a Pterodactyl? If you happen to be on Rt. 211 in Luray, Virginia, you need look no further than Luray Reptile Center, Dinosaur Park & Petting Zoo. This one stop shop provides an up close and personal look at creatures covered with everything from scales to wings to fur, with a few fiberglass covered ones (life-sized dinosaur models such as Corythosaurus, Iguanadon) looming throughout the park as well. Many motorcyclists find Rt. 211 a great scenic mountain ride by itself. However, as you cruise through Luray, you can't help but be drawn in by the site of the gaping sharp-toothed dinosaur mouth poised to devour patrons as they prepare to enter the park. This first promise of the adventure within is but a glimpse of what you will encounter.

Front DoorOnce inside the building you can find an assortment of reptiles such as Iguanas, alligators, a Three-toed Amphuima Limo, and more than 45 varieties of snakes including Pythons, Anacondas, and Rattlers. One creature that really got our attention was a 180 year old 150 lb. Alligator turtle. We had to study him for quite a while to determine whether or not he was actually alive but I guess at his age he was entitled to be fairly sedate. With this huge assortment of reptiles, its not hard to understand why the Reptile Center had caught the eye of television's "Crocodile Hunter", Steve Irwin, who visited in the center in 1998.

MichelleIf you don't find snakes and lizards and other reptiles to be your cuddly cup of tea, don't be disheartened. The tour is not yet complete. The reptile rooms lead out onto a world full of soft curious creatures waiting to be petted and fed. In fact, just turning the handle on the food dispenser is bound to bring goats, llama and deer scrambling to your side anxious to be your new best friend. Also included in this portion of the park are numerous exotic bird exhibits and other less than pettable, but none the less fascinating mammals, such as a porcupine and a Coati Mundi, a distant relative to the raccoon.

WebmasterThere are several things to take into consideration when planning your visit: the parking lot is gravel and the amenities are fairly basic but there is a porta-potty outside, as well as picnic tables on the grounds. However, eating establishments and restaurants are plentiful in Luray, so finding alternate arrangements is not an issue. In a world where even the most basic of amusements is high tech, both young and old will find simple pleasure in this "Jurassic Park Light".

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