Road Trip Alberta – Jurassic Style
Have you ever thought of theming a trip or holiday? Creating a unifying theme can engage family members, tap into your kids’ enthusiasms and open up destinations and activities you’d never normally consider. Take dinosaurs for example. You might be surprised to hear that Alberta in Western Canada is the Capital of Prehistoric, and thus a perfect place for a Jurassic themed road trip. We outline why in this post for Travel Alberta…
Fossil Hunting in Alberta
Do your kids have obsessions? Our kids have always taken a theme to its extreme. The ultimate was Star Wars. The outfits. The sticker books. The mental sorting of all characters from A-Z. “What’s love to not?” as Yoda might say. On one trip they even decorated the buggy as the Millennium Falcon although we didn’t go the whole way and plan a Star Wars themed journey; getting to Tattooine is too hard and too expensive. But we have adopted many other themes on our journeys. Take the Grimms fairy tale undercurrent that involved hunting for the graves of the brothers in freezing Berlin? Or the Moomins theme that saw us bike across Sweden and Denmark to finish at the home of Little My and her friends.
Why theme a trip?
Theming a trip can get everyone interested. Especially if you let them help choose the subject. It makes for a more imaginative itinerary, creates distraction and stimulates learning. And well – its just more fun isn’t it? I recently heard Alberta was a hub for dinosaur discovery and guess what? Fossil hunting just happens to be an excellent theme for a trip. With the Jurassic World movie having been released into the wild, it’s also little bit ‘now.’ Dinosaurs; they may be extinct but boy do these critters know how to make a comeback.
Kids love dinosaurs
I find it curious that kids really like dinosaurs. They’re not exactly child friendly creatures and many of the species are hard to pronounce and spell even if you are an adult. A quick surf of the internet throws up various theories as to why they are still popular, even in extinction. Kids cherish them because they are safe. An alien monster can’t gobble a child up in his sleep when it is officially dead and buried. They are big and scary and different and cool and have lots of geeky names and knowledge and facts to absorb.
But my personal theory is that kids like them because adults like them. They are part of our own childhoods; they swooped from the skies in our imagination before Tetris dropped blocks onto us. They are safe because they are familiar – (ie not Pokemon or Minecraft) and we understand them. They are safe because they are iconic toys and family movies and they bind us together with memories of childhood trips to museums. On a recent visit to Dubai it was the adults who stood in awe at the 155 million year old sauropod in Dubai Mall (yes really!) and not the children. And I was shocked to hear of the retirement of Dippy, the Natural History Museum’s beloved dinosaur cast, being set aside by a Blue Whale.
Perhaps we like ‘doing’ dinosaurs with our kids because it makes us feel like kids again.
A Jurassic Road Trip in Alberta
In honour of my theory I have come up with a dino themed road trip/week in Alberta for all the family. As I mentioned earlier, Alberta is pretty dinosaur friendly; in fact due to its peculiar type of rock it boasts the highest concentration of dino remains in the world. And some fairly unique activities. Here is the itinerary for your themed Dinotour (see what I did there?)
Saturday – T Rex meet and eat
Arrive in Drumheller. You have to start your dinotour in Drumheller because it has the world’s biggest dinosaur. This shockingly green T Rex is 86 feet tall – significantly larger than a real T Rex would have been. You can stand in its grinning mouth while you are overawed by your initial glimpse of the Badlands – a distinctive landscape you will explore as the week goes on. In the evening eat a ‘Mammoth Burger’ at Bernie and the Boys Bistro.
Sunday – It’s Hell Boy
Today brings the highlight of the trip. Hell Boy is a new species announced this year and you can find out all about the horned comeback kid at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology. This impressive museum is the T Rex of all the attractions in Alberta and there’s plenty to do. You have a choice of hiking out to see real dino remains or going on a dig with professional tools. Could you find bones that have yet been unfound? Why not split the family into two and do one of each, reporting back at the end on your findings.
Monday – You’ll dig this
Today’s location is all about excavation. Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers real life palaeontologists as guides. (Try asking one of them to spell it!) You and the kids can sign up to go on a fossil safari where you inspect and handle real fossils. Give everyone a notebook and a magnifying glass and see who might have a career in it! Or if you have older children (age 14 up) they can sign up for the sunset photo tour. If you book in advance you might have the opportunity to sleep under the stars in one of the park’s glamping tents. See if you can spot Triceratops in the constellations for an hour before you drop off and dream of being a full time palae-explorer.
Tuesday – Badlands Dino Trail
Road tripping in the Badlands sounds serious doesn’t it? And it is. Because now you’re off into wild dinosaur territory on a scenic drive that takes you to the moon. Only kidding – it just looks like the moon. It is actually a swathe of southeastern Alberta packed with geological interest. Along Highway 10 South the whole family can play ‘spot the hoodoo.’ Taking their name from voodoo, hoodoo’s are strange sandstone formations. There’s an official protected site too.
You can also let the 30 mile Dinosaur Trail lead you to Horsethief Canyon – an area where desolate meets lush. There’s an interesting story behind the name. Set one of the kids the task of finding out the details and then hike one of the trails. Award points for dinosaur related spotting while you are out there: one point for spotting any prehistoric faces in the shape of a rock, another point for hearing the roar of a species in the wind and identifying it. A bonus ten points if you spot an actual Jurassic fossil.
Wednesday – 11 bridges to Ghost Town
If you enjoyed Tuesday’s camping you can spend tonight outdoors in the former boomtown of Wayne – a town of just 27 people – 14 kilometres south east of Drumheller. While it’s not exactly Jurassic, it’s certainly a vintage experience. You can camp in the Badlands near the Last Chance Saloon and cook your own steak on the BBQ. Getting to Wayne involves a Guinness Record breaking ‘11 bridges in the shortest distance.’ But if you don’t want to drive all the way you can always travel on the Dinosaur Valley Express.
Thursday – Into the Jurassic Forest
Today you are heading into the Jurassic Forest; a prehistoric dinosaur park. If the little ones are starting to tire of bones then mention the cool adventure playground on site. In the evening grab the laptop and a take away pizza and watch back to back Jurassic Park movies. (Don’t forget to download them before you go!)
Friday – At leisure in your bone bed
If you are near Drumheller in July then try and catch the world famous Passion Play, set in the outdoors. If your visit occurs at the end of 2015 or in 2016 then you can tour a bone bed at the new Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum (due to open later this year.) The museum is named after the renowned Canadian palaeontologist who inspired characters in Jurassic Park. If not you can have the day off for some souvenir shopping. Then it’s time to go home and register the new constellation you discovered in on Tuesday.Disclosure Note: We’re working with BritMums and Travel Alberta highlighting the region Alberta as the place to go to make your dinosaur dreams come true. We have been compensated for our time. All editorial and opinions are our own. Visit Travel Alberta for more information.