Best of the Badlands with KIDS: Dinosaur Provincial Park, and Drumheller, Alberta
Updated: Aug 5, 2020
Driving from Calgary, the flat, arid landscape was a stark contrast from the lush forest and towering mountains of the Rockies. With howling coyotes at full moon, bats flying at sunset, and wooden saloon doors at the local tavern, this part of the province certainly took you back in time with that old "wild west" feeling. 3 nights was just the perfect amount of time to explore all that the Badlands had to offer.
1) Royal Tyrrell Museum at Drumheller. Even if you aren't into dinosaurs, it will no doubt leave an impression on you. But seriously. Who ISN'T into dinosaurs. Lots of other cool, prehistoric creatures to make your jaw sore from being wowed. Definitely worth a stop, even though it's far from Dinosaur Provincial Park (1hr 45mins). Be sure to fill up on gas before leaving, because there is absolutely NOTHING between Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park except farmland. We almost made the mistake of running out!!
2) Hikes around the badlands at Dinosaur Provincial Park. All are easy and short, perfect for kiddos. A natural playground full of hoodoos and caves for running, climbing and playing hide-and-seek. It's also worth appreciating this surreal landscape at sunset. Only parts of the park are accessible to the general public. Otherwise you need to book a guided tour.
3) Fossil Safari: We thought if we were lucky we would find a small fossil that MIGHT resemble a bone fragment of some sort. From a tiny, prehistoric, crocodile tooth to a giant femur of a duck-billed dinosaur, there were fossils everywhere!! The bus takes you to a specific spot with a variety of exposed, easy-to-find fossils. This hands-on tour made the kids still feel like a couple of proud paleontologists. There are plenty of guided tours you can book, but this was ideal for young kids as it was just long enough to keep the kids engaged the whole time.
Don't forget to bring water, hats and sunscreen as the heat can be pretty intense in the summer and there is rarely any shade in the badlands.
4) Camping at Dinosaur Provincial Park. After more than 3 weeks since starting our road trip, we finally had a beer-in-the-afternoon kind of warm weather. The kids spent a whole afternoon playing in the river getting wet and muddy by our campsite.
We stayed at campsite S51 , at Dinosaur Provincial Park. A great site right by the river, with lots of deer sightings nearby. Most of the sites are fairly exposed and privacy between sites is lacking. The campground had a cafe, shop, laundry and paid shower ($1/ 2mins). They even had the first firewood vending machine we had seen. As far as the pit toilets, they hands-down win "The Stinkiest" award. The interpretative shows at the amphitheater were the best we've seen though. The kids were thoroughly entertained as were the adults. One unexpected surprise that we discovered on our last night was that there was free wifi in the campground. If your site is near the bathroom, the connection isn't bad. We are traveling without data, so occasional wifi is a good way to stay connected and research our next destination.
Overall, the Badlands exceeded our expectations. We would definitely recommend visiting but book your campground and day tours early because it fills up fast.
NEXT STOP: Edmonton and Calgary