Travel Stories: Drumheller, Alberta & The Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum

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On our road trip across Alberta, my husband kept laughing as we drove from Calgary to Drumheller.

“Are we in the Badlands, yet?” I kept asking. “Is this the Badlands?” Finally he just said “You’ll know.”

And I did.

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Bub in the Badlands near Royal Tyrrell

We drove down a little dip and all of a sudden the landscape completely changed. I’ve done my share of traveling, but this was like nothing I’d ever seen before. THAT was what the Badlands looked like.

NOW I know!

Not sure if visiting Drumheller with toddler in tow will be worth it? I hope to change your mind.

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Scary T-Rex at Royal Tyrrell Museum

Our first stop once we pulled into town was straight to the famed Drumheller museum – the Royal Tyrrell Museum. This place is why (way back when) Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie brought their kids to Drumheller, Alberta. The famous dinosaur museum is Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the science of palaeontology and houses one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaurs.

It’s awesome.

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Not sure this in the Grade 1 curriculum…

Royal Tyrrell is also dedicated to making learning about dinosaurs fun. So there’s lots of interactive displays and even a cute game room that essentially turns the pollination process into a game with giant flowers and shooting balls. It was a blast! At least until Bub got blasted in the face with one of the balls. Lesson learned – even though Bub thinks he can (and often does) play like a big boy, his reflexes are still somewhat toddler.

The recreated dinosaurs are fascinating and incredibly life-like. So much so, that Bub found a lot of the museum a little scary. He’s not a big fan of dark combined with noisy and, while the lights are dimmed at the start of the exhibits, the added sound effects kinda freaked him out. My daughter loved it, though. Then six-and-a-half, she was a voracious reader and devoured all the information posted in front of all the exhibits. Suddenly I felt a lot less guilty for her missing a week of school.

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Less scary with no skin, apparently…

Bub came around when we got towards the end of the exhibits – with the dinosaur skeletons rebuilt in action poses. The room was much brighter, and we only had difficulty keeping his little hands away from the sand and the bones! Unfortunately we were there on a weekday before high season, so the various outings and digs were not yet running. The hands-on exploration and dig programs that run on weekends–and then daily during high season–sound amazing. A good reason to come back, I think!

Royal Tyrrell Museum is great value – at only $18.00 admission for adults, kids aged 7-17 are $10.00, and children six and under are free. The museum is fully accessible, so stroller access was a breeze. A nice touch in the washroom was a sign instructing nursing mothers to inquire about their comfortable nursing facilities. There are some benches here and there, and plenty of seating in the dining area, but nowhere really comfy if you need to sit for any great duration. Change tables are in the washroom, and there’s a decent selection of healthy options in the cafeteria.

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NOW I know what the Badlands look like…

We still had some time to spend with our visiting family before they had to head back to Edmonton, so we decided to check out the Hoodoos. Just about a ten-minute drive from the museum, you’ll come across these funny rock formations that look straight out of a Road Runner cartoon.

Apparently, a long time ago, you used to be able to climb on the Hoodoos. These days they’ve built stairs and platforms to safely view the rock formations without damaging them. Hoodoos are created through the deposit of materials during the Cretaceous Period – between 70 and 75 million years ago. They are composed of sand and clay and the solid caps protect the softer base beneath, creating their unique mushroom-y shape.

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Bub and his “Rock River”…

The areas around the Hoodoos are great for exploring. Younger toddlers can make their way around the formations relatively easily so long as you are nearby or offering a hand. Older toddlers (like my daredevil) of course are off and exploring – looking for rocks to throw down the “rock river”. I thought they went a bit steep for my liking but my husband was with them and since he was familiar with the territory I let him take the lead. I fully admit my helicopter parent leanings and in this case I’m glad I kept my mouth shut and let them explore. When asked about her favorite part of the trip, my daughter says “climbing the Hoodoos”.

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Bub’s favourite part of our trip…

That night we stayed at the Ramada Drumheller – it’s a very basic hotel but the rooms are spacious and clean and there’s free WiFi, a fantastic INCLUDED breakfast that ended up being our lunch as well (pack zippered baggies, people!) and, of course, THE WATERSLIDE. The pool area was very clean (careful, the floor can be a little slippery) and they had a couple of life jackets kicking around which pleased Bub to no end. Be ok with water slides being the highlight of your trip to Drumheller with toddler in tow; they’ll learn what to say eventually 🙂

See also:

I am so grateful to Travel Alberta for helping my family take this trip of a lifetime. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, Have Baby Will Travel may receive a small commission.

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