To imagine that dinosaurs once high-tailed or sloth-walked across the planet we presently traverse so casually (and with no insect-fear of being inconsequentially crushed by the next beast up the chain) requires a great leap of imagination, one no doubt spurred by several viewings of Jurassic Park or its heart-wrenching, animated brother, The Land Before Time, two movies that revitalized interest in the now eternally sleeping giants. It's been gazillions of years since the sky was a shade we'll never know and mammoth plant leaves dangled heavily like drunken cars from freeway overpasses. The world was smaller then, the footprints of its inhabitants larger, and our desire to understand such bygone days has not waned.
But now, the Discovery Science Center, that onyx cube of information balanced precariously over the 5 freeway, has excavated the past and built life-sized models of some of our favorite dinos. A "hands-on exhibit that uses full-scale dinosaurs to teach about life sciences, paleontology and fossils," Dino Quest is a permanent addition to the center and lets visitors rent transmitters to communicate with virtual paleontologists across the globe. Walk through the urinary tract of an Argentinosaurus (the biggest known dinosaur with vertebrae the size of an 11-year-old), feel like Pee-wee underneath the jagged grin of a safe and static T-Rex, or make nice with a slew of Velociraptors. And if the thought of navigating through the traffic on the 5 makes you hesitant, just remember, life finds a way.
Dino Quest, Discovery Science Center, 2500 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 542-2823. Open daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $11; children and seniors, $8.50; ages 2 and under, free. Transmitter rental, $4-$5 per hour.