I hadn’t been to Drumheller since I was a kid and all I recall from that trip was spraining my ankle in a gopher hole and going to a really big museum. Needless to say, Drumheller wasn’t really on my radar. It wasn’t until Ford Canada gave us a sweet truck to drive around for the weekend and I started researching fun places within Alberta for a weekend trip that I rediscovered this amazing family destination.
Easy to travel to from Edmonton for a weekend, Drumheller is about 3 hours away. Our family loaded up the gorgeous F-150 Limited with tons of room in the backseat for our car seat, a cot, a massive suitcase for the 3 of us and all sorts of other games and toys to keep the 3 year old busy. That’s one of the many things I love about the F-150, space! Time went by quickly as we drove in comfort (massage seats all the way!), lots of legroom and an amazing Sony stereo that provided the soundtrack for our family sing alongs. A must for highway drivers is the adaptive cruise control feature. The truck actually automatically adjusts the speed when approaching another vehicle. This took a little getting used to at first, but soon became a favourite.
After hours of driving on flat prairie roads the landscape drastically changes into one of amazing valleys, coulees and of course hoodoos. It is as though you have left the country in an instant and been transported to another world. It reminded me a lot of a road trip we once took through Arizona when my son was just 4 months old.
The actual town of Drumheller is not that large, but has all the amenities one could need. We stayed at the Ramada Hotel. During our visit the pool was unfortunately closed for renovations- but it looked amazing and has a water slide! We were also treated to fresh popcorn each night as well as herbal teas in the breakfast room.
We had one full day to explore all that was available to us, so here’s how we made the most of it:
Breakfast at the hotel. Most hotel chains seem to be offering hot breakfast these days. This is a great way to save some money, and it is super convenient when travelling with kids. The Ramada offered sausage, eggs, bagels, waffles, fresh fruit and more. I was impressed!
We loaded up the F-150 Limited and headed out to the world famous Royal Tyrrell Museum. There’s lots to see and do here including fossils, history and the amazing assembly of dinosaur bones. We also spent some time checking out some really cool turtles and fish towards the end. Tip: about halfway through the museum you can stop at the cafeteria and there is a beautiful outdoor patio. We had our own snacks from home and there were no issues with this. Our 3 year old was entertained by the museum, but I felt like it could have been a little more hands on for the younger crowd. There is also an outdoor playground so kids can run off some energy mid-way. Once we were finished exploring the exhibits we climbed the stairs across the parking lot to the lookout. We were impressed by the expansive views of gorgeous landscape and the town. I would say we spent close to 2.5 hours at the Museum. If we had an older child with a larger attention span, we could have stayed much longer.
We had a late night on Friday and I was sure we would have another late night ahead of us so we picked up some McDonald’s which is right beside the Ramada (I know, I know, but sometimes it’s just the easiest) and then headed back to the hotel for a family nap. There’s lots of cool lunch spots in town, but we had a ticking time bomb of a toddler on our hands and didn’t want to risk it!
After a glorious rest (hotels are always so nice and quiet in the middle of the day) we headed to the world’s largest dinosaur! My son though this was the coolest thing ever. Simply drive to the Visitor Centre, you can’t miss the T-Rex staring back at you, it’s 82 feet tall! You can climb up the dino to the top where there is a view point from the mouth. You do have to play for this, but I think it was worth it.
Next, we decided to put the F-150 Limited to work! The first stop was the Hoodoos on Highway 10. We drove around the backside for a while before the road ends- it’s breathtaking! Had we not stopped for lunch and a nap, I would have had a picnic lunch here. There’s a roped off area that is not to be touch in order to preserve this natural wonder, so please obey the signs. On the areas that you can explore, be careful. There is a fine sand on everything which makes for a slippery climb! We loved roaming around and peeking into little caves and crevasses.
Take the highway back towards the town and hit up the Rosedale Suspension Bridge. A 117 meter long pedestrian bridge across the Red Deer River takes explorers to another great spot where you can climb and catch more amazing views. There are also some remains of an old coal mining area that you can check out. A baby carrier for the young ones is a must have for this trip- not stroller friendly at all.
After all the walking and climbing, we were ready for refreshments. We headed to the ghost town of Wayne, which is just a short drive southwest of Drumheller. On your scenic drive you will cross 11 single lane bridges, it’s fun to count along. Stop at the Last Chance Saloon at the Rosedeer Hotel, the hub of the town. We enjoyed a drink and some deep fried pickles on the patio. Things were pretty child friendly when we were there in the late afternoon, but I would suspect things become a little more adult oriented in the evening!
Dinner time brought us to The Beef Club, a small family friendly restaurant in Drumheller. We enjoyed the calzone, kids pizza and steak sandwich. They also have this awesome Desert Beer on tap, which really hit the spot after a dusty and sunny day in the southern Alberta heat!
Exhausted, we grabbed some hot popcorn on the way back to our room and settled in for some a few TV shows and glow stick fun (always a hit in dark hotel rooms) before drifting off to sleep.
On Sunday, after another awesome hotel breakfast we did a little more sight seeing and drove to Horse Thief Canyon- a beautiful, vast area with lots of hiking trails and gorgeous views. The hike in this area was a bit steep and we didn’t have hiking shoes and weren’t confident in our little guys ability so we skipped it and just enjoyed chasing gophers from the view point.
On the way to the Canyon there’s a ferry called the Bleriot Ferry, which crosses the river and is literally on then off. It is a piece of history in this area and worth checking out if you go, but only runs in the summer.
On the way back through town we stopped at a local play ground and ran free for a bit. The fun part about Drumheller is all of the dinosaur characters everywhere, especially the parks.
And just like that, our getaway ended. Not before a short shopping detour to Cross Iron Mills near Calgary though! Things that we didn’t get to see or do that I would stop for next time would be the Atlas Coal Mine and the spray park right by the giant T-Rex.
Drumheller was a fabulous weekend family destination that I can see us going back to time and time again. The interesting part will be seeing what our son is interested in the next time we visit, through the lens of an older child. I am sure the experience will change with each trip!