“That actually was pretty cool mom.” High praise indeed, coming from my pre-teen daughter Kate. She was referring to the Royal Canadian Mint tour in Winnipeg, Manitoba which we had just completed.
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It was the morning of day three of our cross-Canada relocation road trip, and the night previous we had made it from Regina to Winnipeg. Some logistical delays meant that we checked into our room at the Holiday Inn Winnipeg South Hotel, part of the InterContinental Hotel Group, later than planned. Luckily the hotel pool was open until 11pm, and I let the kids spend an hour playing in the pool while I soaked in the whirlpool and then lounged poolside on the super comfy cushioned couches before heading to bed.
The kids wanted more pool time in the morning, but we hustled through the breakfast buffet (it was the best one of a nine-day trip) to head to the Mint for our pre-booked 9:30 a.m. tour.
I had talked up the Mint tour to our three daughters (11, 9 and 7) based on my memories from a high school trip to the Mint in Ottawa. A little worried I had oversold it, those fears were partially alleviated when we pulled up to the mountain-shaped building and drove down the long driveway flanked by flags of the world – each one from a country that contracts the Mint to create their coins. The kids wanted to run from flagpole to flagpole to read each one, but the chilly wind drove us inside quickly.
Entering the building we checked in and paid for our tour (a very reasonable $15 for our family of five, less if you visit on a weekend), then browsed the small gift shop and displays. The kids especially enjoyed an interactive display that allowed them to feel the weight of a gold brick compared to bricks made from other materials. They had to be dragged away from an electronic display that let them select a flag and see which country it’s from. (In related news, I need to do a better job of teaching my kids how to pair flags with countries – it was a little embarrassing that they only knew the United States and Canada.)
We met our tour guide, Christine, and had her to ourselves for the half hour tour. She led us upstairs and walked us down a long corridor that overlooked the shop floor and various specialty rooms, explaining what we were looking at and the process of coin creation from start to finish. The hallway contained displays to complement her talk, and she had a number of props to show the kids as well. It was fascinating to watch the machinery at work, with the presses working to stamp 800 coins a minute, a ceiling crane to move the 2 ton rolls of steel ready for punching, and rolling machines sending rolls of finished coins to workers for packing.
At roughly 14,000 square feet, the facility is smaller than you might imagine, given it’s ability to process up to 15 million coins per day. Canadian coins are just a small fraction of the coins produced here – the Mint produces coins for 75 other countries!
The tour complete, we headed back downstairs for our final stop – the souvenir coin pressing machine in the lobby. We exchanged a $10 bill for 10 shiny new loonies and each kid took their turn feeding three loonies into the machine to watch it punch a commemorative “coin.” Each time the machine slammed down to punch the front and back design it was impossible not to jump at the booming noise.
Newly minted souvenirs in hand, Kate grudgingly admitted that the tour had been fun, while the other two were more effusive in their praise. A tour of the Mint, whether in Ottawa, Winnipeg or Vancouver, is well worth the coin.