Here’s a random question for you: which Albertan urban centre is comparable to Las Vegas, in the eyes of a five year old? If you guessed Drumheller, please come and collect your prize.
Wait, no one guessed Drumheller? Really, no one? Well, I guess I’ll keep this Stegosaurus T-shirt to myself and carry on…
What does Drumheller possibly have in common with Vegas, you might ask. It all has to do with the aforementioned five year old. Recently my husband was on his annual Vegas trip with the boys; you know the one where they all act like they are high rollers and pretend that they in their 20s again for a weekend? Well, with the hubby in Vegas, I was at home with my two daughters, bunkering down for an epic weekend of hide and seek and picking up after a crawling, destructive 10 month old, when my five –year-old daughter posed the question, “Why does Dad get to go away and stay at a hotel with a pool and we can’t? It’s not fair!”
Great question, in fact, with no acceptable answer. “Yah,” I thought, “she’s right. It’s NOT fair.” With that realization, I asked her where she would like to go.
“Well, since Dad is in some place cool like Vegas, we should go somewhere super cool, too.”
Hmmm…that threw me for a loop. We had been planning to visit the museum for a long time, but kept putting off the trip for one reason or another. I know my daughter loves dinosaurs, but I didn’t think she would come up with that one as her first option.
“Okay. Drumheller. Alberta’s version of Vegas, I guess.”
With that, it was a flurry of phone calls, packing and arrangements to make if we were going to be able to leave the next morning. One quick search of “Drumheller hotels with pools” led me to the Ramada Drumheller Hotel and Suites, and after seeing the pictures of their waterslide, we were sold! We were lucky to speak to the manager Theresa Vyvey and secure one of the last rooms in this very popular hotel, and the next morning, we were off…just the three of us girls.
The first stop? Horseshoe Canyon. Located just off of Highway 9, the small sign looks very unassuming, and if I hadn’t been there before as a child, I might not even have stopped to explore the area, which would have been unfortunate. Although my five year old was disappointed that we weren’t visiting a Horseshoe cannon, like she thought, she was in awe that something so magnificent could appear in an area surrounded by farmer’s fields and cattle. The site is mesmerizing and you really do feel like you are in another world when you transcend into the canyon. Due to the cold weather, we didn’t explore the area nearly as long as we would have liked, and I have since had to promise my daughter at least 100 times that we will return there in the spring and do a full day hike with a picnic lunch.
After some small hikes at the Canyon, we drove the ten minutes into Drumheller and went to see its most obvious tourist attraction: the tallest dinosaur in the world! With children five and under free, it only cost my family my $3 adult admission to climb the World’s Largest Dinosaur. Even though I carried my youngest daughter up the 86 feet, it was not a difficult climb by any means, and benches are even placed at the halfway mark for guests who might need a rest. Standing in the gaping, toothy grin of the world’s tallest T-Rex brings out the kid in everyone, that’s for sure. There was a group of geriatric German tourists mimicking T-Rex snarls for the camera when we opened the door at the top. Both of my daughters loved this site, and the staff was exceptionally friendly and helpful, as the attraction doubles as the Visitor Information Centre.
After our busy morning, we went to the Ramada to check in, and we were pleasantly surprised. Travelling with kids is never easy, but this hotel goes out of its way to cater to families with children. Our room was an oversized suite, with a large living room area separated with French doors from the huge bedroom. The complimentary playpen was set up and waiting for us, with adorable sheets and soft blankets. The room was spotless, and I didn’t have any reservations letting my youngest crawl around. At night, my oldest daughter and I could watch a movie in the living room without disturbing the youngest who was asleep in the bedroom…a win/win situation that resulted in one of the best hotel sleeps I’ve had since travelling with children.
The highlight of the whole weekend, according to my oldest, was the hotel pool. The first afternoon at the hotel, we were the only people in the pool and had the pool, hot tub, and waterslide all to ourselves; it was so great that we went back after dinner for another round! It was busier in the evening, and we met some nice families who were staying at the hotel while visiting the museum. Every family I spoke to absolutely loved the facilities and their rooms. The kids could be noisy, burn energy, and be crazy in the pool after a day being somewhat reserved and very respectful at the museum. The pool area was loud, but that just shows how much fun was being had by everyone.
The hotel also offers a complimentary breakfast, and it is fantastic. They had so many highchairs for all the little ones, and their food choices are catered to families with children. My daughter loved being able to reach her own food, pour her own drinks, and make her own waffle, so even the meals were exciting for her! I will not stay anywhere else when we return in the spring to hike.
After a day spent at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, which is absolutely amazing and deserves its world-class ranking (and fills a blog post all on its own!) we decided to take a detour home and visit the hoodoos. Just a fifteen minute drive outside of Drumheller, the hoodoos are a wonder for the big and small. Parents will love how educational the signs are, and kids will love running and climbing up the surrounding hills. Again, due to the weather, we didn’t stay as long as we would have liked, but will return in the spring to spend a few hours hiking the trails around the hoodoos.
With both girls sleeping the whole drive back to Calgary, I had a chance to reflect on how much fun we had and how much we managed to do and see in just one short, spontaneous weekend. Drumheller has dinosaurs on every corner and is renowned for its world-class museum, but there are so many other reasons to visit this friendly town. Drumheller might not be Vegas, but for my young family, that is a good thing.