Omaha’s botanical gardens transforms into ‘Jurassic’ world

Velociraptor Lego exhibits
Velociraptors are a popular attraction among Lauritzen’s Brickosaurs.

Jurassic World has invaded Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha. Dinosaurs from a foot tall to a ferocious T.rex can be found at the botanical gardens. But, not to worry, these prehistoric creatures won’t devour you; they’re part of a Lego model exhibit running through May 12.

The 30-piece BRICKLIVE Brickosaurs exhibit is the creative work of artists using about 1.5 million Lego bricks. Omaha is the first American city hosting the display. From the main hall to the conservatory, you’ll find everything from velociraptors to a plesiosaur.

Dilophosaurus model
A Dilophosaurus greets visitors to Lauritzen Gardens.

Your prehistoric tour begins with a vicious Dilophosaurus – “double-crested lizard” – outside the visitors center. Living about 200 million years ago, the Dilophosaurus was common in present-day Arizona. A scientist once speculated the dinosaur spit venom, but that theory was disproven because its skull size didn’t have room for venom sacs.

With a weak jaw, it’s likely the Dilophosaurus ate fish, which likely explains why its foot prints were common around lakes and other waterways.

Dinos invade Floral Display Hall

Lauritzen Gardens’ Floral Display Hall has six Lego dinosaurs on display. But, first, you may want to get your photo taken from inside the mouth of a dinosaur.

Dimetrodon lived before dinosaurs and is classified as a dicynonant, because it resembles a mammal rather than a dinosaur. The dominant predator of its time, the Dimetrodon lived about 280 million years ago and likely became extinct millions of years before dinosaurs.

Dimetrodon with boney sails
Dimetrodons were mammals that became extinct before dinosaurs appeared.

The sail on its back helped regulate the Dimetrodon’s body temperature. Paleontologists have found Dimetrodon fossils in Texas and Oklahoma, as well as Europe. Four artists spent 416 hours building the models, using almost 92,000 bricks.

One of the most-recognizable dinosaurs is the Stegosaurus – “roofed lizard.” An herbivore, the dinosaur lived about 150 million years ago. The Stegosaurus used its boney tail to protect itself from predators. Considered the dumbest dinosaur because its brain was too small to control its body, a second “brain” near its rear helped the Stegosaurus move.

Stegosaurus took 184,500 Lego bricks to create.

Five artists used about 184,500 Lego bricks to construct the 2,475-lbs. creature over 498 hours.

I’ve been a fan of the Triceratops since childhood. One of the last dinosaurs to become extinct, the Triceratops lived as recently as 66 million years ago. Weighing up to 26,000 pounds with a height of about 10 feet and a length up to 30 feet, the herbivore was a fierce fighter. Researchers believe the Triceratops won several encounters with the Tyrannosaurus rex.

The BRICKLIVE Triceratops was created by five artists over 500 hours. They used more than 157,500 bricks.

Triceratops Lego model
Triceratops was created by five artists using more than 157,000 bricks.

Of course, no dinosaur exhibit is complete without the vaunted Tyrannosaurus rex. The BRICKLIVE display includes an adult and baby T.rex. About 40 feet long, the Tyrannosaur stood about 12 feet tall. Living between 66 and 86 million years ago, the carnivore was the most-feared predator of its time.

More than 262,000 bricks were used to build both dinosaurs. Nine artists took 868 hours to create the 4,500-lbs. exhibit.

Tyrannosuarus rex and baby models
Tyrannosaurus rex and its baby.

Conservatory dinosaurs

With 13 displays, including a jeep selfie spot, the temperate and tropical houses assume the role of a Jurassic world.

Lisa’s favorite dinosaur during our visit was the Mochlodon. Using purple bricks to create the colorful display, it’s believed the island dweller’s feathers could have been purple, pink, brown or red. The Mochlodon’s strong jaws allowed it to eat tough plants. The bipedal dinosaur lived as recently as 66 million years ago.

Using 22,518 bricks, two builders took 48 hours to create the display.

Mochlodon model
Mochlodon’s feathers may have been purple, pink, brown or red.

With a club-shaped tail capable of crushing ancient alligators, the Ankylosaurus roamed the earth 66-70 million years ago. With fossils found in Montana, the dinosaur’s remains have been discovered on every continent but Africa.

Three people used more than 42,000 bricks to create the 460-lbs. exhibit.

Ankylosaurus could challenge its predators to battles.

A plesiosaur rises above the tropical house’s pond. Reaching a length of 50 feet, the plesiosaur was a marine reptile, and its fossils have been found in Nebraska – including near Valparaiso and on the Santee Dakota reservation – since the state was once a prehistoric sea.

The Plesiosaur had a small head atop a long, slender neck. Its turtle-shaped body was maneuvered by fins. The sea creature was incapable of underwater breathing.

Using more than 83,000 bricks, five builders took 323 hours to create the 981-lbs. display.

Plesiosaur fossils have been found in Nebraska.

The Compsognathus may look cute displayed on rock formations, but the chicken-sized dinosaur was a carnivorous predator of other smaller creatures. It’s a good thing for my older sister that the chickens at our Grandma’s house didn’t get the Compsognathus’ sharp teeth or mobility when one chased her up a tree when Denise was a child.

Living about 150 million years ago in Europe, the Compsognathus was once considered the world’s smallest dinosaur, but other smaller dinosaur fossils have since been found.

Compsognathus on a rock formation
Compsognathus was once considered the smallest dinosaur.

With about 10 on display, each Compsognathus took 1,200 Lego bricks to create. Two builders spent an hour on each of the dinosaurs.

No dinosaur collection can be complete without a giant bird, right? The Pteranodon was a predator which patrolled the sky 70-90 million years ago. Males had a wingspan of about 18 feet, while female Pteranodons were smaller with a 12-foot wingspan.

With fossils found in the Plains, the giant reptile lived in Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas and South Dakota, though fossils have also been found in Alabama.

Three artists took 160 hours to create the prehistoric bird, using 48,400 bricks.

Pteranodon was common in the Plains states.

The last display of the Jurassic adventure involves velociraptors. Popular with movie-goers thanks to the “Jurassic” movie series, the exhibit comes complete with a vibrating dinosaur caged box.

Each of the 30 BRICKLIVE Brickosaurs exhibits offers an entertaining, unique look into history. With placards offering insight into each animal, it’s nice to understand the basics of each dinosaur’s story. Enjoy your Jurassic tour – you may find yourself humming the theme to “Jurassic Park” – at Lauritzen Botanical Gardens through May 12.