“ROOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR! Chomp, chomp, chomp!” A ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex takes no prisoners as he stomps through the Royal Alberta Museum Children’s Gallery, his voice supplied, admirably, by a cute boy of about 3 years.
“These dinosaurs are best friends, and they’re going to sing a song together.” My 4-year-old daughter tells me, and proceeds to belt out a tune in her best dino voice.
I can’t help but smile at the striking difference in dinosaur activities. I love watching kids imaginations at work – and this facility is, without a doubt, one of the best places in the city of Edmonton for them to explore and discover, to play and create.
The Children’s Gallery at the Royal Alberta Museum is bright and colourful and vast. It’s giant windows bring in plenty of light, and offer visitors a view of City Hall, the Art Gallery of Alberta and Ice District – a downtown undergoing great change – just like the eager young minds inside.
Everywhere you turn there is something to see – but make no mistake, this is not a stuffy setup meant to be viewed. This gallery is all about engagement. Kids giggle wildly as they match puppet animals to a sound board of noises. They build log cabins and ice caverns, navigate railroad construction and battle for control of conveyor belts. They mimic mother nature’s power at the wind wall and send scarves sky-high with currents of air.
There’s a retro toy area and a beautiful performance space, called the Chautauqua, with a puppet theatre, costumes and more. (A stuffed otter was the star of many shows during our visit.) A fenced-in toddler area, for kids 3 and under, is padded with plenty of mats so little ones can do their own exploring safely.
The far end of the gallery holds the Maker Space, where kids can draw with chalk or construct with magnets, wood slices and other building supplies. A sectioned-off area serves as a home for field trip students to get creative.
Our museum visits have already revealed there are two gallery features that stand out from the rest. The first is called The Big Machine – a system of pipes, pulleys and conveyor belts filled with a plethora of plastic pellets. Kids can transport them from one section to the other, and even deliver them up to the top pipe, to see where gravity will take them next. We were lucky enough to have this area mostly to ourselves for a long stretch on our most recent visit, but if the Children’s Gallery is crowded, the masses generally congregate here.
The second top draw is an incredible sand table, with a projector above that displays images that respond to changes in the sand. As you pile sand higher, a volcano forms. Spread the sand out and fish will “swim” in your water. Listen closely – a thunderstorm just might roll in. It’s truly unique and captured the attention of all the kids, and grownups, that took the time to check out this space, known as the cave, near the gallery entrance.
Know before you go:
-The Children’s Gallery is located right next to the Bug Gallery, and offers stroller parking and bathrooms just outside the doors. There is another set of bathrooms, as well as a mothers’ room, at the far end of the gallery near the maker space.
-Eating is not allowed inside the galleries, but there are ample benches in the common areas, and water fountains with bottle fill up stations located near every bathroom. There is also a cafe in the main lobby.
-The museum has lockers you can rent for $0.25 for a medium size, or $0.50 for a large locker. We used a quarter locker that easily accommodated three bulky winter jackets with room to spare.
-There is no onsite parking at the museum. We like to take the LRT when we visit. ETS is free for kids 12 and under who are travelling with a paying grownup. Get off at the Churchill Station, and follow the pedway signs right into the Museum – no need to go outside!
-Visitors under 6 get FREE entry. Adult or family Mammoth annual passes can be purchased for equal-to or less-than the cost of 2 visits. (The Mammoth pass also offers a 10% discount on purchases made in the Museum store or cafe.)