Kids and dinosaurs go together like Batman and Robin. I haven’t met a kid yet who doesn’t love dinosaurs. Having two dinosaur-mad boys who love everything dinosaur related, we had to spend a day in Drumheller, the ultimate dinosaur adventure on our epic Vancouver to Calgary road trip.
Where is Drumheller?
Drumheller is located just over 100km north-east of Calgary in the badlands in east-central Alberta, Canada. This is real cowboy country if ever you saw it.
Why visit Drumheller?
It’s the Dinosaur Capital of the World. Isn’t that enough reason to visit? Actually, there’s a whole lot more to Drumheller than just dinosaurs, but our main reason for visiting was, of course, the dinosaurs. The boys have been into dinosaurs for as long as I can remember. They know so many dinosaur names and even ask us to read their dinosaur encyclopedia with thousands of dinosaur facts for kids as a bedtime story. What these kids don’t know about dinosaurs isn’t worth knowing!
If you have a dinosaur fan in your family, you must fit a visit to Drumheller into your Canada itinerary. The whole town is dinosaur themed. Even the streets are named after dinosaurs and there are dinosaur statues on every street corner. That’s just the start of it…
Drumheller Visitor Information Centre
On arriving in Drumheller, we went straight to the Drumheller tourist information centre. We wanted some information on where to go and what to do in Drumheller, but we also wanted to see the world’s largest dinosaur. You can climb to the top of the dinosaur for a great view out of his mouth! It’s open 10 am to 5.30 pm and ticket prices are:
$4 / Person
Children 5 and under are FREE
$10.50 / Family Rate (1-2 adults, children 6-17)
Parking is free of charge.
The tourist office gave us a great map detailing the main sights to see. We took a route west out of town along the north side of the river (North Dinosaur Trail), crossed the river taking the Bleriot Ferry and headed back along the south of the river (South Dinosaur Trail) into town.
The Royal Tyrrell Museum
Our first stop on the North Dinosaur Trail was the Royal Tyrrell Museum. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is a must-see if you’re visiting Drumheller. It’s one of the best dinosaur museums in the world with over 130,000 dinosaur fossils. They even have a life-size bronze Albertosaurus, Canada’s first known carnivorous dinosaur from Alberta.
Ticket prices are:
Adult – $19
Child (7-17) – $10
Child (6 and under) – free
Parking is free of charge.
We loved the staging of the exhibits. They created scenes telling a story as opposed to just rows of dinosaur bones. There were interactive exhibits and an interesting short film on the history of the earth from the beginning of time and the life and death of dinosaurs. Every so often there were interactive displays which the kids loved. We highly recommend including this in your itinerary!
The musem also has an excellent gift shop with a huge range of dinosaur gifts. We bought the boys each a couple of small dinosaur toys and a dinosaur t-shirt. We don’t usually buy holiday souvenirs but made an exception this time 😉
The next stop just 16 kilometres northwest of Drumheller is Horsethief Canyon. This is where outlaws came to hide their stolen cattle many years ago. The landscape is just like a mini Grand Canyon. It is vast though, and it was difficult to capture just how picturesque it was. If you have time, you can hike down to the bottom of the canyon to explore.
On the edge of the canyon, you may see the resident gophers popping out of their holes to say hello if you stand still for long enough. It was just like that 1970s arcade game, Whac-a-Mole. Every time you went near one, he would scurry down his hole only for another one to pop up a few holes away. The views were fantastic but the gophers were the star of the show for the boys.
There’s a free car park there and there’s no charge to visit the canyon.
The Bleriot Ferry
Head on another few kilometres and you come to the Bleriot ferry river crossing. It’s a free cable ferry that crosses the Red Deer River. You drive the car on and it only takes about 5 minutes to cross. The boys were invited to ‘control’ the ferry by the friendly ferry operator which was very exciting for them. It’s been running since 1913, but it doesn’t run in the winter months.
This is a quick stop just after the ferry crossing. There’s a large car park on the edge of the canyon and The views up and down the canyon of the Red Deer River are pretty spectacular and there’s an information board with the history of the area and the ferry.
Rosedale Suspension Bridge
From the Orkney Viewpoint, head east back towards Drumheller and on a further 10 kilometres you’ll find the Rosedale Suspension Bridge (also called the Star Mine Suspension Bridge). Visiting the suspension bridge is free of charge and there’s a free car park right next to it so it can be a very quick stop if you want it to be. Crossing it was an experience! It’s 117m long, free and swings a lot as you cross it. If you do decide to walk across, you can check out some of the old mining structures that were used in the coal mining days across the river.
The clock was ticking and we didn’t want to miss out on one of the highlights of the area, the Hoodoos, so we set off. Everything in the area is pretty close together so it was just a quick 10-minute drive. I’m not sure what I expected really but when we got there I had a little, “Oh, that’s it?” moment! They are quite impressive in the fact that they are unusual, but they’re quite small. I think I was expecting miles and miles of the things!
As it was, there was a little clump of them, with lots of tourists clambering around on the surrounding rocks. So, of course, our boys ran off to do the same. It was quite hard to keep track of them because they blended in with the scenery!
Visiting the Hoodoos is free of charge and there’s a decent-sized, free car park there. It was exceptionally hot and dry here on the day we visited and with all the clambering around, the kids were very thirsty. We always carry water with us in refillable Camelbak bottles, but if you get caught short, there were a couple of food vans when we were there.
Last Chance Saloon
We had just enough time before heading back to Drumheller to squeeze in a late lunch/early dinner at the Last Chance Saloon in Wayne. This meant taking the 11 bridges route from Rosedale. (you cross 11 bridges in 6 kilometres which the kids enjoyed counting).
As the name suggests, it’s a Wild West saloon-style restaurant serving burgers and fries and the like. The food was pretty average but it was a great way to end the Wild West part of the trip.
Where to stay in Drumheller
There are a bunch of Drumheller hotels but not many great family options. The best for families with large family rooms and an indoor pool is the Canalta Jurassic. If you want to search for something in the surrounding area, try booking.com which has a large selection of accommodation for all budgets.
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