Where do you take your little budding palaeontologists?
Kids love dinosaurs and we love to feed their scientific curiosity. But sometimes you can hit a dead end: You?ve spent more weekends than you care to mention trawling for fossils on the Jurassic coast and walking around Crystal Palace Park?s lopsided models. You?ve taken your budding palaeontologist to the Natural History Museum so often that the people at the door know not just your child?s name but her favourite prehistoric epoch and most prized model Ornithischia. Still your child?s interest continues unabated.
Then it?s time to board a flight to Alberta, in the west of Canada ? officially the world?s most dino-tastic destination, awash in fossils and prehistoric finds and a hands-on, family friendly destination that suits young and old dinosaur hunters alike.
BritMums worked with Travel Alberta on the #AlbertaDinosaurs project, highlighting Alberta as the place to go to make your dinosaur dreams come true. Recognised as having the largest concentration of dinosaur fossils in the world, Alberta is home to the world renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum, Dinosaur Provincial Park, the Canadian Badlands, Drumheller and a new dinosaur museum opening in September this year. You can find out more on the Travel Alberta site.
Here, 8 reasons to visit Alberta for a dinosaur themed family holiday
- You will be surrounded by fossils
The province is one of the most fossil-rich areas in the world, with the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dinosaur Provincial Park, at the centre of its activities. This is the kind of place where families stumble upon rare fossils while visiting their favourite fishing spot, and bonebeds dot the landscape.
- You can see a brand ?new? dinosaur
The Dinosaur Provincial Park is not only abundant in its dinosaur remains. Earlier this year, scientists announced that they had found a new species, the Regaliceratops peterhewsi, a kind of tooled up version of the more familiar triceratops (this video gives you a clue why it has been nicknamed ?Hellboy?).
- You can actually dig for fossils
Unusually for an area of such scientific significance, visitors have the chance to discover their own new species through one of the guided excavations that is run in association with the world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology. The excavations are based a couple of hours? drive away in Drumheller ? aka the Dinosaur Capital of the World. Through digs lasting one, two or three days, scientists from the museum instruct participants in the meticulous methods that they use to uncover the wealth of remains in the area ? a rare opportunity to work alongside real palaeontologists.
- You can take a dino-themed road trip
Such an unusual hands-on experience has meant that there is no shortage of parent-travel bloggers that are excited about it as a destination. And a little research has turned up no end of versions of dino-themed family holidays to be had in the area: Stuart of The Family Adventure Project has created a road trip map of all things dinosaur-related in the region, which makes the most of your time there.
- You can do a ?dino theme park? thing too (great for younger kids)
Nichola of Globalmouse Travels and Helen of Space in Your Case suggest Jurassic Forest for a stop with little ones. It?s a 40-acre family attraction with life-size dinosaur models as well as a T-Rex slide and dinosaur mini-golf to keep younger dinophiles entertained.
- You can take in breathtaking (and toothy) views
Gretta from Mums Do Travel blogs about the stunning Badlands, where the soft rocks have preserved dinosaur bones and eggs; the circular drive through Red Deer Valley and the perspective from inside the Guinness World Record- holding 26 metre-high T-Rex model in Drumheller, from which you can peer out through the beast?s bone-crushing teeth to the scenery below.
- You can set an itinerary to suit your children, including a brand new dino museum
Cathy from Mummy Travels and Mari from Mari?s World have both come up with dream dinosaur itineraries, including links to the soon-to-open Philip J Currie Museum close to Alberta?s border with British Columbia. Its website address alone, dinomuseum.ca, should give you a clue to its purpose.
- You can get the kids excited beforehand, YouTube-style
Finally, Penny from Parentshaped has collected some Alberta dino-themed videos together. We particularly enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek video set in the province?s evocatively-named Badlands.
It has taken 145 million years to create this paleontologists? paradise. The province?s fossil trail alone stretches for more than 1500 miles and ?bone beds? along it are still being uncovered.
For more information about visiting the area, go to http://travelalberta.com/Things%20to%20Do/Attractions/Dinosaur%20Adventures.aspx
About Jennifer Howze
Jennifer Howze is the Creative Director and co-founder of BritMums. She blogs about family travel at Jenography.net, tweets at @JHowze and Instagrams at @JHowze. Previously, she wrote the Alpha Mummy blog at The Times and as a journalist has contributed to The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, Budget Travel, CNN.com, Allure, SELF and Premiere, among others. She won The Maggie Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for a health article in Seventeen magazine.