Summer Roadtrip Day 9: Drumheller and the Royal Tyrrell Museum

Calgary’s biggest tourist attraction is actually the Calgary Stampede, considered as one of the most popular tourist attractions! The stampede is to Calgary what Formula One is to Monaco. With the stampede held in July when I might already left Canada, seeing it is to be saved for the next visit. Some other well known tourist attractions includes the Olympic Park and the site of the Winter Olympic Games in 1988. Another famous tourist attraction in the area is the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaentology which houses the largest collection of dinosaur fossils in the world. The drawback of visiting this place, though is its location in Drumheller which is about 2 hours drive away from Vancouver in the area known as Badlands. Having had a late night yesterday, we slept late before having breakfast at the Gold floor lounge. Breakfast at the lounge is quiet and the place is small, accomodating only 20 or so people for meals at any time. The lounge, though is open in the day and evenings for refreshments and drinks for Gold floor guests.

The area known as the Badlands around Drumheller, Alberta
The area known as the Badlands around Drumheller, Alberta

After breakfast, we drove out of Calgary in the northeasterly direction, where we passed more farmlands. On the way to Calgary, we also spotted some oil wells which are still operating. Alberta’s most valuable natural resource is perhaps oil, which means the oil majors like Shell, BP and ExxonMobil all have their offices at Calgary. Hardly suprising then that the area around it have been used for oil exploration. Upon reaching the Badlands area in Drumheller though, the green meadows became brown barren lands reminding of the desert of Nevada. The Badlands is an area conserved as it is an area for fossil exploration, having had many of the dinosaur fossils excavated around this region. In fact visitors to the Royal Tyrrell Museum gets to tag along for fossil digging. Another interesting point to note is that some marine fossils have also been unearthed in the Burgess Shale which is in one of the mountains around the Emerald Lake in Yoho. These are all prehistoric fossils! But before we start discovering what Drumheller has to offer, we had lunch first at Drumheller. Several dining choices and fast food can be found in the area and we decided on Boston Pizza. By ordering just one pizza, we were also able to order several starters like Yam Fries with Chipotle Dip, Cactus Cut Potatoes (a Boston Pizza specialty and a must-try) and Wings. When eating out in pizza places like this, I actually prefer the wings to the pizzas as I had better pizzas from Spizza and other wood-fired pizza place.

With lunch done, it was time to visit the Museum. I was once fascinated by dinosaurs and that was even before Jurassic Park 1 came out. By the time Jurassic Park was released, I have always imagined how these creatures lived and how large they truly are. It wasn’t too difficult to immerse yourself in the lives of dinosaurs in the Royal Tyrrell Museum. The entrance foyer welcomes visitors with a life-like display of dinosaurs and one is greeted by a full T-Rex fossil at the main exhibit area – obviously the star in the Museum as well as the Jurassic Park movie.

Dinosaur models welcome visitors to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaentology
Dinosaur models welcome visitors to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaentology

From the entrance model of the T-Rex, visitors proceed next to a gallery showcasing how Earth looked like in the past and provides snippets of what one can expect to see in the rest of the galleries. There was also a window showing the laboratory equipments used in the process of extracting these fragile bone fossils from the stone.

The palaentology laboratory within the Royal Tyrrell Museum
The palaentology laboratory within the Royal Tyrrell Museum

The Museum doesn’t just display dinosaurs, however, as it delves into the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin, one of the most famous biologists of all time. It provides interesting exhibits showing similarities of dinosaur tails to the tails of the common house lizards, as well as the evolution of man’s skull from prehistoric times. In addition to wonderful exhibits, it also provides a journey of exploration for visitors by explaining the points made by Darwin which led to his theory on the Origin of Species.

Display showing the skulls of primates and Man, indicating evolutionary trends
Display showing the skulls of primates and Man, indicating evolutionary trends

From the exhibits of Darwin’s theory of evolution, we head on to a display showcasing prehistoric marine life. There was an exhibit showing a large pristine example of iridescent ammonite, which can be found in much of western Canada that has a dynamic range of colors! This example was donated by a company to the museum.

Pristine example of an iridescent Ammonite fossil in Royal Tyrrell
Pristine example of an iridescent Ammonite fossil in Royal Tyrrell

The display of prehistoric marine life forms a transitional barrier to the gallery of dinosaurs, where full scale dinosaur fossils are built allowing us to admire these giant reptiles and immerse ourselves in the way these animals lived. Some of the exhibits showcase the battles erupting between these reptiles and several stand-alone galleries separate the various species of dinosaurs from the Ceratopsians, the horned herbivores to the species of dinosaurs which roamed Alberta in those times.

Preys and predators on display at the Royal Tyrrell
Preys and predators on display at the Royal Tyrrell

The way the museum displays the exhibits was impressive and they had another Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil on display in the centre of the dinosaur gallery which makes it feel like the traveller is walking along these giant reptiles as they move through the display!

The centre stage of the display, the Tyrannosaurus Rex Fossil
The centre stage of the display, the Tyrannosaurus Rex Fossil

However the dinosaur exhibit wasn’t the end as it was followed with an exhibit showcasing some extinct mammals like the woolly mammoth, and present species which had evolved from the time of dinosaurs such as the Komodo Dragon. This exhibit also details the change in the characteristics of animals as it shows examples of how the horse got its present hoof-shaped limbs from ancient horses which had three toed limbs. Overall, while this place is relatively far from Calgary, it makes a nice day out for the family with educative and informative displays. There is also a theatre screening various films related to dinosaur fossil exploration and the dinosaur in reel fiction. We skipped the movies and decided to leave the museum after exploring its many exhibits. There wasn’t much else to do in Drumheller other than the museum that was worthy of interest. Thus we headed back to the city, where we went on exploring the suburbs once again and came across a nice place to take in the scenery of downtown Calgary. There’s this road named Crescent Road NW, which is located just north across the Bow River from downtown which has a line of nice houses which overlooks the vista of downtown skyscrapers.

Panorama of downtown Calgary from Crescent Road
Panorama of downtown Calgary from Crescent Road

From Crescent Road it was also close to drive to our next destination, which is Sura Korean Restaurant in Calgary for dinner. My brother chose Korean cuisine again as he tries on a quest to see which Korean restaurant in Alberta serves the best Gahl-Bi. The food at Sura was relatively good and would be recommended for those looking for Asian cuisine in Calgary! Prices at the place was also affordable, though getting to the restaurant is not that easy as it is located in a mainly residential area. The dinner also marked the end of our last night in Alberta as we will be returning to British Columbia the next day!

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