A Visit To The Royal Tyrrell Museum
We just returned from a road trip to Alberta, Canada and I knew we had to make a stop at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller on our way through Southern Alberta. I had the opportunity to visit the museum twice with my elementary school and had gone on to visit it a couple of times since then. I wanted my girls to have the opportunity to enjoy the museum especially since they’re both loving dinosaurs. I also wanted to share this museum with you too in case you’re ever going past so you don’t miss this gem. If your kids are six or under then they’re free to get in and there’s a section on the Royal Tyrrell website that includes discounts too.
Leading up to our trip
The girls’ friend Xavi loves dinosaurs which started their love for them. Since they’ve started loving dinosaurs we’ve watched ‘Dinosaurs’ (episode 3) by StoryBots Super Songs (youtube link) on Netflix and listened to the soundtrack all the time at home and in the vehicle. I created a playlist on Apple Music that starts off with this soundtrack, then We are the Dinosaurs by Laurie Berkner (youtube link), followed by any soundtrack that mentioned dinosaurs. I’m frequently asked to play the dinosaur playlist… the whole dinosaur playlist. Within a week of leaving for our trip we introduced the kids to Land Before Time (the first couple) on Netflix and it’s the first movie she actually sat through instead of watching it in installments or asking for a television episode instead. (Though I wish they used the real species names for the dinosaurs as the kids are already saying Apatosaurus from the Storybots music).
Since I knew we were going to check out the museum I bought some dinosaur and rainbow striped fabric through Whimsy Baby Customs in advance and used the free Magnolia dress pattern through Stitch Upon a Time to sew up surprise dresses for the girls in Drumheller. I posted previously about this pattern through my Me-Made-May 2018 post. I packed the dresses in the suitcase where the kids wouldn’t look and made sure to transfer them to my diaper bag the night before for when we arrived at the museum.
The Royal Tyrrell Museum
We ended up going on a busy Sunday but there were staff members directing traffic in the parking lots so it was easy to get parked. The crowds weren’t too bad once you got into the museum as it’s so spread and everyone travels through at different rates. We were meeting my sister inside so we decided to skip the steps up to a lookout point and the storytime a staff member told us about. The small walk to the entrance takes longer since there’s so many dinosaur statues along the way that you can stop and greet.
My sister joined up with us and surprised the girls with their very own Apatosaurus that funnily enough matched the stripes on their dresses perfectly. Ada and Zoey loved their dinosaurs and ended up keeping them close throughout the rest of their vacation.
I loved how the Royal Tyrrell Museum groups the displays according to the geological age of each animal so you end up traveling through time while walking through the museum. The only downside to this is the beginning can be a bit boring for hungry toddlers so you may want to give them a snack first. I didn’t think of the snack so we ended up skipping past most of the end to go grab something from the cafeteria (to the right after you pay) and then doubled back through the gift shop exit to more fully enjoy the dinosaurs.
Some of the displays were realistic statues with amazing scenery which were as detailed as the dinosaurs themselves. Depending on the age and temperament of your child you can spend a lot of time picking out all the hidden elements. I marvelled at the realistic water with the life-like turtle incased inside. Near the end of the displays while looking at the mammoth diorama I noticed the clouds moving around the full moon behind the mammoth skeleton which makes me wonder how many other elements I might have missed that added to each individual scene.
In my favorite part of the museum I ended up enjoying it too much to take any photos. There’s a tunnel you walk through where even the floor is glass. It’s sort of like the shark tunnels you find at aquariums, but this is all a detailed diorama surrounding you. Zoey started off walking through enjoying what she saw but then overanalyzed the floor and ended up stopping on a cross-beam while refusing to walk out onto the glass. To continue she held my sister and my hands and took the step off with us.
In addition to all the factoids spread throughout the museum your budding paleontologist may also enjoy looking at a sample paleontology lab behind the glass window. I also loved the display showing how the fossils from a single skeleton may be broken up and contained in several different rocks.
For the younger crowd there are more up close and personal statues they’d enjoy.
The dinosaur footprints on the wall were a crowd-drawing favorite. There was a button to the right to turn it on making it interactive. Once on the lights turned off and three ‘dinosaurs’ took turns walking up the wall. Each one sounded different and had a different corresponding color. Once done the footprints turned off and the lights came on showing the rock with the resulting trace fossil left behind by those dinosaurs. We ended up having to pull the kids away so I’m not sure how long they would’ve been entertained by the dinosaur stomps.
Another favorite were the two tanks back to back set out by the giant dinosaur fossils. The kids both loved standing on the provided step stools while watching the soft-shelled turtle swim past.
And then we can’t forget about the best part… all the dinosaur fossils! These were located in the last room before exiting into the gift shop, but you were able to look down at them from above at an earlier point so you had been anticipating them throughout the entire museum. I especially love how they were set up in mini scenes and the ones against the wall had a simple 2D painted scene including a painted copy of the dinosaur so you could imagine how that dinosaur skeleton may have looked like and where it walked more easily. I also noticed how the ground was a pale sand so with the simple 2D background it let the dinosaur skeletons shine.
At one point they had a room off to the side that let you look at an underwater scene that was darkened to show how it may have looked. If you looked up at the (lowered) roof you could see a swimming dinosaur overhead.
After the museum we ended up heading into Drumheller to grab food (will post about that next), but returned to drop my sister off at her car and took the opportunity to check out the playground we saw a sign for. The museum currently is expanding (Spring 2019 and slated to include a hands-on learning space) so we had to go around the construction area to find the playground. The view was great, but the playground itself was a contained area (like you’d find for an inside play space). While pursuing Zoey throughout the playspace I noticed the adorably added trilobite on the inclined climbing wall so it all worked out. Next to the playground they had a dinosaur dig sand pit. I could see this space being perfect before heading out once my kids are old enough to enjoy the enclosed play space by themselves.
I’m so happy we made a point of going to the Royal Tyrrell Museum. If you want to continue your dinosaur journey after visiting the museum there is also the Burgess Shale located in the Canadian Rockies. I’ve checked out the fossil display years ago, but never got an opportunity to go on the hikes. There are two tours offered that both start out in Field, British Columbia (about an hour from Banff, Alberta). As a quick overview the Walcott tour is 11 hours total and covers a distance of 22km (round trip) with an 800m elevation gain. The Stephen tour is 8km with an 800m elevation gain and takes about 7 hours from the meeting time until the end. If you’re interested you can check out the Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation frequently asked questions. If you’re passing through Field B.C. (which is gorgeous when the mountains open up when traveling from Banff) you can stop at the visitors information center to look at a small-scale exhibit of the Burgess Shale Fossils for free.
I hope this helps you either plan a trip to Alberta or gives you a must-see stopping point on your way through. My next post will continue on to show you some more places you can stop at while in Drumheller, Alberta. Feel free to share your experiences, where you went, or anything else related in the comments below, on my Facebook page, or through Instagram. Have a great day and hopefully an awesome visit.