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  • Liane Morris

Walking With Dinosaurs | Unleash Your Inner Palaeontologist!


The Hunter Valley Gardens are located in an ancient landscape that once erupted with the fiery lava flows of volcanoes, still evident in the rich red soils that provide the local wine industry with perfect growing conditions today. So it’s apt that once a year, the giants that once roamed the earth return in the annual April School Holiday Mega Creatures display to the delight of junior palaeontologists and their families everywhere.

 

Autumn is a beautiful time to visit the Hunter Valley, and this April, including the school holidays and Easter, Hunter Valley Gardens invites visitors to roam among dinosaurs and create special memories at Mega Creatures and Mega Creatures Night Safari. Now in its eighth year, the event is open from Saturday, 1 April until Sunday, 30 April and is the perfect day or night out.


At this year’s event, you’ll discover rides for all ages, Easter Egg hunts, interactive fossil digs and giant animatronic animals for the whole family to enjoy. With over 14 hectares of immaculate gardens, manicured lawns, 6000 trees, 600,000 shrubs, and over 1 million ground cover plants, plus waterfalls, statues, murals, and much more, Hunter Valley Gardens has planned the perfect activities to get your family outdoors and enjoying the fresh air these holidays.


Each year the team behind this family favourite event create new displays and experiences so that no two years are ever the same. They work all year round to ensure that the best ideas come to fruition, designing many of the displays themselves with state-of-the-art animatronics and speciality lighting and sourcing them internationally. The gardens are divided into 11 zones with different creatures to discover as you wander through the beautiful landscape.



This year there are newly hatched baby creatures in the Storybook Garden and a wonderful photo opportunity where you can take photos of your little one hatching out of a giant dino egg. Discover a kaleidoscope of colour in the Butterfly Garden with giant butterflies (some with a four-metre wingspan), bugs, six-metre tall flowers, and insects such as 2-metre bees and 4-metre dragonflies. There are frosty creatures such as Woolly Mammoths and Sabre-Toothed Tigers in the Ice Age Storybook Garden and giant snakes and lizards on Reptile Road.


Don’t jump in the water at the Water Creatures Sunken Garden because you might get taken by the creatures from the deep. In the Predator versus Prey zone, there are creepy crawlies to scare you as the mega spiders and frogs battle it out. The Pterodactyls take flight in the Flying Creatures Amphitheatre, and you’ll be amazed by the mythical fire-breathing creatures in the Dragon’s Den Waterfall Lookout. Take special care not to disturb the new three-headed dragon!


Pre-historic creatures come to life in the Walk with the Dinosaurs Border Garden and Dino Land with new dinosaurs this year, including a Triceratops skull, a Chasmosaurus, a Styracosaurus, a Parasaurolophus and an extra Ankylosaurus and old favourites, T-Rex, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and Spinosaurus. Everyone’s favourite dinosaur, the T-Rex, will be roaming around looking for his next feed and posing for the odd photo opportunity. Don’t miss the very popular Boneyard, where junior archaeologists get to dig deep and discover mythical creature facts, figures and hidden fossils.



As the sun sets at Hunter Valley Gardens, and in a first for this year, there will be a new night-time tour – the Mega Creatures Night Safari, led by the Pretty Amazing Jono as the Dino Keeper wearing a safari suit and carrying a walkie talkie. Keep an eye out for stomping dinosaurs that wander through the Gardens as you encounter life-sized mega creatures in the dark, and hear the roars and the mysterious rustlings as you creep through the grounds. It’s an experience the kids will be sure to remember. Step back in time and explore Dino Land inhabited by prehistoric giants, including Stegosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Triceratops and lots more. Let your imagination take flight as the specialty lighting makes all the pre-historic and mythical creatures come alive at night in a way that will be equal parts enchanting and scary (in a fun way).


There are unique photo opportunities dotted throughout the gardens, including the hatching eggs in the Storybook Garden, a giant butterfly in the Butterfly Garden, and giant dinosaur skeletons, including a giant dinosaur skull that the kids can climb on. If you visit the Gardens over the Easter long weekend, there will also be a visit by the famous Easter Bunny and his long-time friend Alice in Wonderland – both available for photo opportunities.


Kids up to 15 will love the Giant Easter Egg Hunt, with thousands of brightly coloured eggs to collect. The Hunts will be conducted on Friday 7, Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 April, with three daily sessions. In another first for this year, the 10am hunt is reserved for children under six years of age only, so the little ones aren’t unfairly competing with the bigger kids. Easter Egg Hunt tickets are $2 and can only be booked online after purchasing Mega Creatures tickets. Numbers are strictly limited, and session times for Easter Egg Hunts are non-transferable.


If you’re hungry from all that exploring, a wide range of delicious food options are available to enjoy, from pizza and souvlaki to Mexican, crepes, healthy nourish bowls, loaded spuds and more. To satisfy your sweet tooth, there are churros, gelato, doughnuts, sweet crepes, and tropicalsno, to name a few.


And, of course, once you’ve finished exploring and eating, grab a ride token and head over to the famous Hunter Valley Gardens’ rides. Soak up the vintage atmosphere of the Italian-built traditional Venetian Carousel, fly 11 metres above the ground and get your thrills on with the Swing Chair, have some twist and twirl fun in the Tea Cup or speed down the 35-metre Superslide that stands 12 metres high – guaranteed to keep even your teenagers happy. The 25-metre-tall Giant Ferris Wheel offers spectacular, panoramic views of the Gardens, surrounding mountains and wineries and will be your only chance to see the dinosaurs and other mega creatures from above – a firm favourite for all family members because you can sit back, take a breath, relax and enjoy the view.


Kim Jacobs, Marketing Manager at Hunter Valley Gardens, says, “A pre-historic and mythical world will be on display at Mega Creatures in the magnificent Hunter Valley Gardens, a truly Mega event with day and night displays of Dinosaurs, Dragons and Bugs that you won’t want to miss. We can’t wait to see the looks on children’s faces as they experience life size models of dinosaurs, dragons and bugs, with a fantastic interactive display to delight any age. Whether you’re visiting during the day or at night, this is the perfect day out for everyone during the school holidays.”



There are also opportunities to win free passes with giant dinosaur eggs hidden in the Gardens daily. If you find them, you have a chance to win a family pass to Snow Time – the Hunter Valley Gardens winter attraction. Over the three days of Easter, a hidden golden egg will offer super-sleuths the chance to win an annual family pass to the Gardens.


This year the Gardens celebrate 20 years since they were opened in October 2003 by then NSW Premier Bob Carr. Built by Bill and Imelda Roche over four years with a dedicated team of over 40 landscape gardeners, architects and engineers, it was the fulfilment of a long-held vision to create a garden that would be enjoyed by generations to come. The Gardens now welcome more than 300,000 visitors each year, with many of the regular events, such as Mega Creatures, Snow Time, and the Christmas Lights Spectacular becoming family traditions enjoyed annually by locals and tourists alike.


For more information or to purchase tickets visit www.huntervalleygardens.com.au/event/mega-creatures.



Details and show timings for the entertainment schedule for Mega Creatures and the Easter School Holidays:


ROAMING T-REX & VELOCIRAPTOR

Sat 1st & Sun 2nd April 11am, 12 noon, 1:30pm, 2:30pm

Fri 7th – Sun 23rd April 11am, 12 noon, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3:30pm

Mon 24th, Tues 25th, Sat 29th & Sun 30th April 11am, 12 noon, 1:30pm, 2:30pm


ROAMING EASTER BUNNY & ALICE

Fri 7th – Sun 9th April 9.30am, 12 noon, 2.30pm


EASTER EGG HUNT

Fri 7th – Sun 9th April 10am, 12.30pm, 3pm


NIGHT ROAR WALKING TOUR

Fri 7th – Sun 23rd 6.30pm & 8pm

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