Tag Archives: Royal Tyrrell Museum with kids

Dinosaur fun in Alberta

“If most of the big dinosaurs like T-Rex lived during the Cretaceous Period, why didn’t they call it Cretaceous Park?” I asked, pondering all-things-dino inside the visitor centre at Dinosaur Provincial Park.

“Because Jurassic Park sounds better,” deadpanned Blake. Avery agreed, and soon found more evidence that Hollywood embellishes its movies: the giant, terrifying Mosasaurus sea dino from Jurassic World was, in real life, only about 40 feet long (still huge), but nowhere near the 100+ feet depicted in the blockbuster.

It had been four years since our family had done anything remotely dinosaur-y in Alberta, so when an opportunity arose to try comfort camping in Dinosaur Provincial Park, we didn’t hesitate.

Centrosaur Quarry Hike at Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Centrosaur Quarry Hike at Dinosaur Provincial Park.

The park, located just a half hour north-east of Brooks, is stunning. Its five interpretive trails meander through the surreal hoodoo- and coulee-ridden landscape, and also through a grove of ancient cottonwood trees. Plus, as part of a story for the Calgary Herald, running this weekend, we got to experience the Centrosaurus Quarry Hike with a guide who not only informed us of the truth about Mosasaurs, but helped us learn to spot fossils in the extensive bone bed.

Guide Jarrid Jenkins educates us about Centrosaurs and their fossilized remains.

Guide Jarrid Jenkins educates us about Centrosaurs and their fossilized remains.

The kids loved the park and we decided to return to dinosaur country a few weeks later, on Father’s Day, to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller and search for fossils there. The museum is fantastic, weaving a tale of the province’s geological history — that included tons of dinos during the Cretaceous Period — with awesome dinosaur skeleton displays created from original fossils and some casts.

Bennett and Avery don't quite measure up to this T-Rex leg inside the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

The kids don’t quite measure up to this T-Rex leg inside the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

Afterward, we put our new fossil-hunting skills to the test on the short interpretive trail adjacent to the museum, and were soon rewarded with a huge discovery. Blake likes to travel off-path, along gullies that churn with water after rainstorms, where the most erosion occurs that can reveal new fossils. Sure enough, I stumbled upon something sizeable: I like to think it’s part of a head or pelvis.

Avery's hand next to the dinosaur fossil for scale.

Avery’s hand next to the dinosaur fossil, for scale.

And, like the budding palaeontologists we’re becoming, we reported our “find” to the front desk after the walk. We also left it there for other families to discover. Thanks for the awesome dino double-header, badlands — we’ll be back soon!

Avery and Blake hiking in the badlands near the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

Avery and Blake hiking in the badlands near the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

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Dinosaur discoveries: the Alberta badlands with kids

It’s funny how many times Curious George has served as the impetus for my son to try new things. If Curious George goes camping, Bennett wants to go. Ditto the little monkey riding a train, learning the alphabet or buying ice cream from an ice cream truck. So imagine Bennett’s delight when he found out we were going to a dinosaur museum this past weekend, just like Curious George!

Since life doesn’t always imitate art, we did not join a dino dig nor did Bennett get to climb to the top of a dinosaur skeleton. While in the Drumheller area, however, we hiked among hoodoos, ogled skeletons at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and made some exciting discoveries including a blooming prickly pear cactus and dinosaur bones (but not a complete specimen). Here are our top picks for passing the time in dino-land with kids.

Since our daughter will no longer pose for inane pictures like this, it’s up to me to be dorky.

1. Hike in Horseshoe Canyon. Located just off Hwy. 9 on the way to Drumheller from Calgary, this canyon will be your first glimpse into Alberta’s badlands, a stunning geography of domed sandstone formations created by water erosion over millions of years. It’s easy to hike down into the canyon along one of the paths and then explore the formations. Just don’t get lost.

Hiking through the badlands.

2. Visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Otherwise known as the “Dinosaur Museum” this amazing facility boasts one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaur remains in Dinosaur Hall, plus an Ice Age exhibit (hello woolly mammoth) and a display featuring weird-looking and now extinct huge mammals that used to roam the plains of Europe and North America.

Avery restrains Bennett from climbing onto a skeleton inside Dinosaur Hall.

3. Take a stroll outside of the museum. If your kids have any energy left after the first two activities, I highly recommend striking out for the interpretive trail just outside the museum’s doors. The 1.5-km gravel trail winds past more iconic badlands formations and it’s here we found a blooming prickly pear cactus and what we think might have been a couple of fossilized dinosaur bones (it had rained recently, which exposes new fossils). The kids loved it!

Avery’s first discovery — a blooming prickly pear cactus.

It’s a dinosaur fossil! We think, anyway. I like to think it’s part of an Albertosaurus’s arm.

In all, the day was a hit, even though we didn’t have time to visit Reptile World or climb to the top of the World’s Largest Dinosaur. Next time. Bennett’s one disappointment? Since we didn’t discover a new species of dinosaur, the Tyrrell Museum will not be naming a dinosaur after him (Bennettosaurus has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?).