Step Back in Time by Day... and by Night
Dinosaurs, dragons and giant creepy crawlies are invading the Hunter Valley Gardens - roaring, buzzing, moving, swarming and crawling both day and night to scare and delight kids and their families during the April school holidays.
So if you’ve ever wondered what it was like to live in the age of the dinosaurs, or your family includes at least one aspiring dinosaur expert, now is your chance to experience it first-hand. With over 14 hectares of immaculate gardens and manicured lawns, Hunter Valley Gardens has planned the perfect activities to get your family outdoors and enjoying the fresh air these holidays.
The annual Mega Creatures display runs for four weeks from 2 April through until 1 May and is more interactive and atmospheric than ever before, with 30 new creatures joining this year’s display, incredible giant animatronics and the Mega Creatures Night Safari for those that are brave enough to venture into the gardens in the darkness of night! This astonishing display set within the beauty of the magnificent gardens will delight the whole family, appeals to all ages and is an ideal holiday outing for locals or visitors to the Hunter region.
Now in its seventh year, this annual event delights with over 100 animatronic and static mega creatures that transport the garden visitors to the age of the dinosaurs and the landscapes of mythical dragons, giant insects and spooky spiders. Every year the team at Hunter Valley Gardens strive to create even better displays and experiences for their visitors so that they can continue to come and enjoy a fresh adventure with no two years ever being the same.
“This year we spent a lot of time creating atmosphere. The idea for the Night Safari came to us one night when the gardens were closed and our crew were still on site. The animatronics are on motion sensors, and occasionally something would set them off. The roars and sounds of the dinosaurs in the dark amongst the bushes was eery, scary and delightful all at the same time,” said Event Manager Amanda Andrews.
“We knew our visitors would love that experience, so we’ve created the ideal night-time safari using a lot of tech, AV and lighting to build the atmosphere.”
The gardens are divided into zones, and visitors journey through them along the pathway, taking in Dino Land, Dino Hatchery, Dino Adventureland, Fossil Find, Insect Invasion, Dragon Den, Spider Alley, and the Enchanted Garden.
In Dino Land you’ll find two giant walking T-Rex (because they’re everyone’s favourite), a 7-metre Shunosaurus, a Carnotaurus, Raptors, Triceratops, a Dilophosaurus, an Ornitholestes family, a flying Pterosaur, a giant Brachiosaurus and the Woolly Mammoths and Sabre-Toothed Tigers will bring a blast of the Ice Age to the Hunter Valley. This year there is an opportunity to get up close and personal with a walking T-Rex for photo opportunities that are sure to delight dino crazy kids.
The Dino Hatchery is another place that’s ideal for family photos, with a mega nest full of baby dinosaurs and eggs that visitors can sit in! This year’s Fossil Find includes massive dinosaur skeletons that you can walk past and get right up close to – ideal for young dinosaur fossil hunters. And Dino Adventureland is a soft play area for the youngest of the visitors where they can dig for fossils and create their own dinosaur land.
The Dragon Den in the Sunken Garden will have you thinking you’ve stepped into a fantasy land and comprises a giant volcano next to the waterfall. The volcano erupts with lava and is particularly spectacular at night. There are mythical flying dragons and Naga, the giant water serpent that brings the whole scene to vivid life.
It’s not all about dinosaurs, though. Insect Invasion sees swarms of giant bees, wasps and frogs while the Enchanted Garden includes giant praying mantis, grasshoppers, a bean worm, caterpillars, glowing sunflowers and mushrooms and even a talking tree. Spider Alley is only for those brave enough to venture into a giant spiderweb with creeping, crawling, moving spiders to freak you out. For Night Safari visitors, you’ll hear them coming for you in the dark!
But the fun doesn’t stop there. Don’t miss the Dino Egg Hunt with the chance to win a family pass to this year’s Christmas Lights Spectacular, and in the second week of the holidays, ERTH’s Dinosaur Petting Zoo will be there with baby dinosaur puppets for the young ones to get really excited by. For all the little thrill seekers, the Hunter Valley Gardens famous rides will be operating throughout the event, including the Superslide, Swing Chair, Carousel, Ferris Wheel and Tea Cup Rides.
For those who love a quiz, there’s also a trail app designed to make the entire experience more interactive. Visitors can download the app, learn fun facts, take the challenges and enter the quiz. This year you can even form teams and be ranked. During the day, the Amazing Jono will perform every Saturday and Sunday. At night there will be African Drumming Sessions on Saturdays and Fire Performers every Sunday night.
Over the Easter long weekend, this year sees the return of the annual family favourite, the Giant Easter Egg Hunt, which had to be cancelled due to covid last year. There are thousands of colourful easter eggs to collect, and at the end of the hunt, every child receives a gift of Easter chocolate. There are hunts every hour between 11am and 2pm from 15 – 17 April. The Easter Bunny will also be visiting the Gardens over the Easter long weekend, handing out chocolate Easter eggs to children between 11am and 2pm.
In addition to all this excitement, the usual full range of delicious food and beverage stalls will open to ensure everyone has the best time.
The team at Hunter Valley Gardens works on the display almost all year round. There is a maintenance crew of five and a floating crew of five, and they all work together over two months to build the displays in situ and a further month to bump out. Planning and purchasing of the displays is also a team effort, beginning many months in advance with the animatronics and mega creatures being ordered internationally.
“Each year, we get together as a team and talk through what we’d like to change and create for the next year,” said Amanda.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had because it’s so incredibly creative. We get to use our imaginations, go wild with ideas and then see how close we can get to our crazy fantasies. Our crew are incredible - just so talented and committed. It’s a special place. We’re all driven by the motivation to create magical memories for people. We love seeing families return every year as part of a family tradition – visitors and locals!”
For more information and to book tickets, visit www.huntervalleygardens.com.au
MEGA CREATURES TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE NOW:
DAY 9am–4pm (last entry 3pm) OR
NIGHT 5:30pm–10pm (last entry 9pm) Adult (16+ yrs) $32.00 Children (4-15 yrs.) $25.00 Children (3 yrs. & Under) FREE Family (2ad+1chd) $79.00 Family (2ad+2chd) $99.00 Additional child with family pass $22.00
DAY/NIGHT COMBO All guests must exit the Gardens between 4pm–5:30pm Adult (16+ yrs) $49.00 Children (4-15 yrs.) $39.00 Children (3 yrs. & Under) FREE Family (2ad+1chd) $119.00 Family (2ad+2chd) $149.00 Additional child with family pass $37.00
RIDES Subject to height and age restrictions. Ride token $5 Bonus pack of 6 ride tokens $25
Rides operation hours: 10am–4pm (Day Session) and 6pm–9:45pm (Night Session)
Tokens must be purchased from the ticket booth between 9:30am–2:30pm (Day Session) and 5:30pm–9:30pm (Night Session).
DISCOVER VOUCHERS Discover vouchers can be redeemed in person for Garden entry and amusement rides.