Surrounded by dramatic Badlands scenery full of hoodoos, coulees and limestone canyons, the Drumheller valley is one of the most visually impressive locations in Western Canada. But there is far more to experience in Drumheller than just unique landscapes. With a wide range of archaeological wonders, historical attractions and family activities, Drumheller Alberta is a top Canadian bucket list destination.
What is Drumheller known for?
Considered “The Dinosaur Capital of the World”, the Drumheller Badlands features one of the most diverse and geologically important fossil beds on the planet. Visitors can explore exceptional landscapes, see fascinating dinosaur fossils and history at several different museums (including the Royal Tyrrell Museum) or just get a photo taken with the World’s Largest Dinosaur.
Drumheller Travel Guide: 18 Entertaining Things to Do in Drumheller
If you’ve been asking yourself ‘What is there to do in Drumheller Alberta?’, well wonder no longer. There is so much to do in and around Drumheller that it has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Western Canada, especially for families. This Drumheller travel guide will
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Visit the Best Drumheller Museum: Royal Tyrrell Museum
The world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum has been called one of the top dinosaur museums on the planet by Lonely Planet, CNN Travel and Discover Canada. The best of several great Drumheller dinosaur museums, the Royal Tyrell Museum features a huge collection of dinosaur fossils, exhibits and interactive programs. The exhibit covers a long stretch of history including the Jurassic, Triassic and Cenozoic eras.
While an excellent experience for all ages, children will particularly enjoy the huge dinosaur exhibits and fun geological displays. One of the most popular programs is The Dig Experience, where you can participate in a simulated dig site just like paleontologists do, where you actually get to uncover real fossils. Meanwhile, the Raptor Assembly is an interactive program that allows visitors to see a raptor skeleton built from start to finish.
You can pick up a map at the front desk and should expect to spend around an hour and a half to two hours working your way through the entire exhibit. There are also some children’s activity books for purchase that can help keep things interesting.
The Royal Tyrrell Museum is an ideal choice in bad weather or when you simply want to get out of the sun for awhile in the summer or snow in the winter (although there are several nice outdoor displays and trails as well). It is much busier on weekends so it is best to go during the week if possible, or either early or late in the day.
Check out the Drumheller Hoodoos on the Hoodoo Trail
Hoodoos are picturesque rock spires formed over eons of erosion (70-75 million years) that provide some terrific photo ops and awesome hiking areas. The Drumheller Hoodoos Trail is the best and most convenient place to get up close and personal with these fascinating geological marvels.
This popular Drumheller hiking trail is only 1.4 kilometres long and can be completed in just half an hour, or you can spend as much time as you like just wandering among them.
For full details, check out our Guide to the Drumheller Hoodoos Trail.
Hike the Horseshoe Canyon Drumheller
Outstanding Horseshoe Canyon is the most popular Drumheller canyon thanks to its easy access just off Highway 9 between Calgary and Drumheller AB. There are stupendous views from the well-organized viewpoints along the top of the canyon, along with a well-marked trail, covered picnic areas and a set of pit toilets.
Check out all the best hikes in Drumheller
Once you make it down into the canyon – the easiest path down is to the right of the parking lot with steps you can follow the straightforward main trail or simply explore to your heart’s content. Horseshoe Canyon can get fairly busy but you don’t have to get far off the main trail among the ravines, dried creek beds and cacti to feel like you are completely alone. Most people don’t even make it down to the bottom. Just keep in mind that it is usually much hotter down in the canyon than at the top (hat, sunscreen and water recommended) and after a rain the clay mud can get very sticky and slippery.
Horseshoe Canyon is a fantastic place to watch the sunset or, if you are the early bird type, sunrise. It is still possible to uncover fossils here and there are dozens of tiny corners and hidden coulees to explore. If you’re looking for a truly memorable experience try a Horseshoe Canyon helicopter tour with Mountain View Helicopters.
Look Up at the Drumheller World’s Largest Dinosaur
The gigantic Tyrannosaurus Rex that looms over downtown Drumheller is the city’s most iconic image. This massive female T-Rex is actually 4.5 times the size she would have been in real life. It was built in 2000 at a cost of roughly $1 million and is open daily from 9 am to 9 pm in July and August and 10 am to 5:30 pm the rest of the year.
It costs just $5 per person ($15 per family) to go inside and enjoy great views from up top behind the big girl’s teeth (kids under 5 are free). This is probably the most popular of the things to see in Drumheller from most kids point of view.
Seek Out the Little Drumheller Dinosaurs
Sure, a giant novelty T-Rex is pretty cool, obviously, but it is possibly even more fun to explore the Drumheller town area to find all 20 of the little dinosaur statues scattered around town.
Each one represents a dinosaur that has been found in the Drumheller region and tracking them all down can be a great project for kids. Check out the Dino Walk Map to plan out your route.
Drive the 11 Bridges to Eat at the Last Chance Saloon
Just off Highway 10 southeast of Drumheller you can follow small “highway” 10x and explore 11 unique little one-lane bridges criss-crossing the Rosebud River over a short 6-kilometre stretch. The scenery is fantastic, passing a wide range of coal mining leftovers, including abandoned machinery and even homes.
Eventually you will reach the miniscule village of Wayne, famous among motorcyclists as home of the Last Chance Saloon. Located in the vintage Rose Deer Hotel (named after the early 20th century Rose Deer Coal Mine), the Last Chance is a classic relic from the past, offering excellent food, beer and ambience, all while surrounded by a fascinating collection of historic photos and keepsakes.
Find the Little Church
Well, isn’t that just the cutest thing ever? This tiny white chapel built in 1968 sits beautifully amidst the Badlands scenery and makes for a short, easy stop along the Dinosaur Trail (Highway 838).
It is open to the public but holds just 6 people at a time so you may have to take turns. Don’t worry, it doesn’t take long to see it all. It’s a pretty quick stop on your tour of the Drumheller tourist attractions.
While Horseshoe Canyon gets most of the fame and almost all of the tourists, Horsethief Canyon is arguably the more interesting and scenic choice. Dropping suddenly away from flat, featureless canola fields into a deep canyon along the Red Deer River, the harsh, barren maze of hills, hoodoos and coulees is the kind of place adventurous souls can explore for hours.
Unlike the highly organized Horseshoe Canyon, Horsethief Canyon has no facilities and no marked trails, just a very obvious viewpoint next to the parking lot. The real fun, however, begins when you head down into the canyon to get a closer look at this ancient terrain. Since most visitors never venture beyond the viewpoint, down below you are likely to find yourself completely alone.
There are no marked trails and you will need good hiking shoes/boots to navigate the rough, rocky hills. Similar to Horseshoe Canyon, expect it to be hotter than normal down there and dangerously slippery in or after a rain.
Explore the Ghost Towns near Drumheller
Visiting a Drumheller ghost town is an evocative way to experience the history of this fascinating part of Western Canada and is one of the more unique things to do around Drumheller. Among these formerly thriving little towns you’ll find many historic landmarks and cultural relics, as well as a number of nicely restored pioneer buildings and repurposed former businesses.
Formerly busy little Rowley now boasts just 8 permanent residents but a number of interesting old buildings. Some have been restored, such as the Railway Museum, Prairie School Museum and Sam’s Saloon, while many more have been left abandoned, providing an odd atmosphere and some very cool photo ops.
Meanwhile, little Wayne, home of the Rose Deer Hotel and Last Chance Saloon, has seen its population drop from around 3,000 to just 40 over the years. It still has a vast array of ghost town remains and mining artifacts, not to mention a seriously weird tree filled with creepy children’s stuffies.
East Coulee is another good choice whose population has dwindled from 3,000 to just 200. There are lots of abandoned homes but the former school has been transformed into a museum and Atlas Coal Mine has been fully restored for the enjoyment of tourists.
Paddle the Red Deer River
One of the most popular Drumheller activities on a hot summer day is to head out on the Red Deer River with a canoe, kayak or paddleboard. Many people start at the nice, sandy Newcastle Beach Recreation Area just off downtown, where you’ll find nice grassy areas, picnic trees a covered kitchen shelter and a large group BBQ site.
Other popular choices are to set off from near the road in Nacmine or paddle back down to Drumheller from Bleriot Ferry. For something a little more leisurely you can join those slowly drifting by on floaties, usually with several beverages in tow.
Watercraft can be rented from Red Deer River Adventures where they can also give you ideas and advice about where to go and when, plus provide shuttles as needed. They also offer a 4-day downriver paddle if you have a hankering for something more challenging.
Rediscover History at the Atlas Coal Mine
We mentioned Atlas Coal Mine of East Coulee in the ghost town section but it is certainly worth a longer visit on its own. The lovingly restored Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site is open 10 am to 5 pm from May to October and gives you the opportunity to explore the underground mine, tour the classic machinery, ride the train and learn about some of the most sordid details of Alberta’s coal mining past.
There have been a number of movies shot at Atlas Coal Mine over the years, plus it has been the subject of a few paranormal investigations involving some controversial accidents and infamous deaths. I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.
Admission is $12.50 for adults and $9.50 for seniors and kids. You can opt for the self-guided tour to wander on your own, featuring plenty of informative plaques and interesting stories, or choose from a variety of different guided tours that all last around an hour. It is a good idea to buy tickets online in advance.
While you are there you can pop into the East Coulee School Museum just across the bridge. It is a restored schoolhouse with exhibits exploring the area’s coalmining past and also has a cafe & gift shop.
Check Out the Rosebud Theatre for Dinner and a Show
One of the best live theatre experiences in Alberta, it is almost shocking to find this tremendous little theatre with its great acoustics and small-town charm out in the middle of nowhere. The village of Rosebud is worth a wander itself for the scenery, atmosphere and charming selection of gift shops and farmer’s markets. We were struck by just how cute this village is.
The shows typically include a delicious buffet meal to go along with a friendly local welcome and impressively professional performances. They occasionally move the show outside to better enjoy the long summer evenings. You can check out all the upcoming shows on the Rosebud Theatre website.
Hit the Links at the Dinosaur Trail Golf Club
Golfers don’t want to miss this extremely unique and unbelievably scenic golf course built right among the Drumheller hoodoos and Badlands. It is almost like playing two different courses, as the front nine on the Dinosaur Trail golf course is a more classic design among stands of mature trees.
The back nine, however, is where Dinosaur Trail really stands out, winding through the Badlands offering extraordinary views and a much higher level of difficulty.
Considered one of the most challenging nines in all of North America, I’d recommend keeping your expectations low and bringing lots of balls. It is the kind of target track with nasty rough that can really mess with newbies, although it is going to be enjoyable no matter what you shoot. I personally find that having a few drinks along the way tends to ease the pain.
Go on a Hike at Midland Provincial Park
The current location of the Royal Tyrrell Museum and formerly the site of the Midland Coal Mine, this pretty natural area became Midland Provincial Park in 1979. There is an interpretive display at the old Midland Coal Mine office and the region is laced with random paths you can follow at your leisure, or you can stick to the Badlands Interpretive Trail, popular with museum tours and school outings.
The Seven Wonders of the Badlands is a 60-minute guided hike that offers a lot of geological and historical information to go along with the wonderful scenery. From quiet, shaded riverside trails to wild Badlands terrain this a surprisingly varied hiking area.
To top it off, there is even a really cool Badlands disc golf course full of crazy hazards like hoodoos, cacti and washouts. You’ll need to wear good hiking shoes and bring your own discs.
The Badlands Amphitheatre is a fantastic outdoor venue with the standard outstanding Drumheller Badlands scenery and somewhat surprising top-quality acoustics. They put on a variety of entertaining shows and musicals including the Canadian Badlands Passion Play, which takes a new and unique look at the life of Jesus each year.
The Drumheller amphitheatre also host a wide variety of bands and musicians, highlighted by the annual Roots, Blues & Barbeque event. Bear in mind you’ll be outside so dress for the weather and maybe consider bringing a cushion to make those hard wooden benches a little less noticeable.
Cross the River on the Bleriot Ferry
The short ride across the Red Deer River on the Bleriot Ferry is a fun, odd and, best of all, free activity. It was built by Andre Bleriot in 1913 and is one of few remaining cable ferries in Alberta.
The crossing only takes about 10 minutes, although it only holds a few vehicles so in high season it is possible you may have to wait for it to cross and come back again. This kitschy little ferry connects the North Dinosaur Trail highways (#837 and #838) on either side of the river.
Two of the most popular Drumheller attractions are Horsethief Canyon and Orkney Viewpoint, which are found on either side of the Red Deer River directly across from each other. Taking the Bleriot Ferry to connect the two makes for a great outing.
The ferry is a unique and fun Drumheller thing to do.
The Bleriot Ferry only runs about half the year – from 7 am to 11 pm every day from May long weekend (Victoria Day) through the September long weekend (Labour Day), and from 7 to 7 from then to the end of October.
Admire the View from the Orkney Viewpoint
Speaking of the Orkney Viewpoint, obviously it also makes our list of best things to do in Drumheller. This simple but spectacular natural viewpoint on the west side of the river offers expansive views of the Red Deer Valley.
With the river winding its way into the distance in both directions and the wild hills and canyons of Horsethief Canyon located directly across, this privately owned section of red rock cliffs is well worth a stop. The light is best at dawn or dusk and it is even a great spot for night time stargazing. When we arrived around 8:30 pm we accidentally interrupted a very small wedding that was taking place right on the rocky point (wedding crashing 101: pick a wedding with more than 8 people).
There isn’t much there, just a parking lot, a few benches where you can enjoy the view and a basic toilet. There are also no hiking trails as they prefer you stick to the viewing area. The last gravel road to reach Orkney Viewpoint is relatively smooth and it is only about 15 minutes in total from Drumheller.
Rosedale (Star Mine) Suspension Bridge
This photogenic pedestrian bridge has been closed since 2020 due to structural problems and there is currently no timeline for reopening. However, it is still well worth a look and a photo.
The Rosedale Suspension Bridge is 117 metres across and nearly a century old (which makes the structural issues pretty understandable), built for use by Star Mine coal workers.
Go For a Bike and a Picnic
Bikes & Bites rents ebikes that make it easier to explore Drumheller and area. They also sell a wide selection of takeout food and picnic lunches so you have the supplies needed to spend the whole day out enjoying the landscape and views.
They are open Tue-Thur from 10 am to 7 pm and Fri-Sun 8 am to 7 pm. They are closed Mondays except on long weekends. Ebikes can be rented by anyone 12 and up for 2 hrs / 4 hrs / all day for $40 / $65 / $95 and kids under 12 can use pedal bikes ($20 / $35 / $45).
What to do in Drumheller Alberta with Kids
With all the dinosaur stuff, cool Badlands and wonderful hoodoos, Drumheller is naturally popular with families looking for destinations their kids can enjoy. The Dinosaur Capital of the World reaches another level, though, with its diverse range of additional child-friendly attractions that elevate it from “excellent road trip stop” to “top family destination”. Having photos taken with the giant dinosaur is one of my first family road trip memories as a child and now, as adults, nearly all our friends have taken at least one family trip to Drumheller. Besides the list above which can also be done with children there are a few Drumheller attractions that are specifically for kids.
Cool Down in the Drumheller Splash Park
Conveniently located right next to the World’s Largest T-Rex, the Rotary Spray Park is the perfect family outing on a hot Alberta summer day. It is free to visit, is surrounded by grassy areas, benches and picnic tables and even has bathrooms and changing areas.
The various fountains and water cannons of Drumheller spray park open up as soon as it gets warm enough in spring and stay open until it is too cold in the fall (which, for me, is anything under 20C but I probably felt differently when I was 8).
Barney’s Adventure Park
One of the newest Dinosaur Trail attractions is Barney’s Adventure Park, a wildly varied collection of fun activities and sights scattered through three different sections.
Barney’s Barnyard features a corn maze, giant pumpkin patch, sunflower patch and various animals to feed (goats, bunnies, chickens, horses and cows). There are also pedal cart races, a pumpkin Cannon and, obviously, Ma Gilbert’s mini-pig races.
Barney’s Boomtown celebrates Drumheller’s fascinating coal mining history through the Morse Mine, Bleriot Ferry Flyers Zipline, 11 Bridges to Wayne Rope Course and Star Mine Slider.
Finally, Barney’s Boneyard is all about the dinosaurs. During construction a number of fossil discoveries were made on-site and the Dinosaur Conspiracy Walk is a favourite of adults and kids alike.
A single admission fee ($23) covers all three sections (ages 3 and under free) and there are very affordable season passes available ($49) for those staying longer. Barney’s Adventure Park is open from 10 am to 7 pm every day from July 1st to October 31st and they sell drinks and snacks or you can bring your own. You could end up spending a lot of time in the sun so come prepared with hats, sunscreen and plenty of water.
So far kids are finding it one of their favourite places to visit in Drumheller.
Ride the Drumheller Go Karts at Cactus Coulee Fun Park
At Cactus Coulee Fun Park you can test your racing skills on a terrific 500-metre track. There are Bobcat and Super Tomcat single karts and Jaguar two-seaters to choose from and you can pay for 5, 10 or 20 laps ranging from $13 to $50. There are also two different mini golf courses (kids under 6 are free) and a Eurobungy to really get the blood flowing.
Cactus Coulee Fun Park is located on the North Dinosaur Trail 4 kilometres west of the Royal Tyrrell Museum. It is open daily in July and August and on weekends in in May, June and September.
Fossil World Discovery Centre
Fossil World Discovery Centre is a small hands on, interactive museum for kids. The museum has over 1,000 fossils, kids play area and animatronic dinosaurs. There are activities like the mineral mining and a bone dig that cost extra.
The Fossil Shop
Offers a massive selection of fossils, minerals, unique souvenirs and cheap toys, catering to everyone from dinosaur lovers to Christmas shoppers. There is an interesting mix of rare and expensive items and tacky trinkets. Best to carefully obey all the rules signposted inside as the eccentric owner runs a tight ship.
Kirk’s Alpaca Farm
What kid wouldn’t love to rub shoulders with a group of adorable alpacas (61 in total)? They can wander the pastoral countryside and even occasionally feed one of these fuzzy creatures. There are also trampolines, plasma cars, swings, slides and a basketball court. The store sells local products (heavy on the alpaca fibre).
It is open Wednesday to Saturday from 9 am to 5:30 pm, admission is by donation and they are fine with you bringing your own food and drink. Kirk’s Alpaca Farm is about an hour from Drumheller.
Relax at the Riverside Park
This is one of the most popular family hangouts because of the extensive playgrounds and the close proximity to the other main attractions like the giant T-Rex and the Drumheller spray park. There are also a number of nice trails along the river, perfect for getting some exercise or just wandering.
When to Visit Drumheller Canada
Drumheller has hot, sunny summers and long, cold winters, which is why the best time to visit is between June and September. Long summer days mean plenty of opportunities to get outside and enjoy the wild Badlands terrain but it can also get unbearably hot at times so pay attention to the forecast and be sure to get an early start before the heat descends. Many find it works best to explore the canyons and hikes in the morning and save the museums and spray parks for the afternoon.
Drumheller in Winter
Although the vast majority of people visit Drumheller in the summer, there are still many reasons you can enjoy a Drumheller winter. For one thing, you will probably have most of the attractions all to yourself.
The Royal Tyrrell Museum, for example, is just fine at any time of year but you’ll often be the only ones there in November.
Drumheller weather in the winter can be chilly but there are lots of things that you can still do outside including all the hikes.
Or you can go for a skate or some shinny at the Drumheller Memorial Arena. They even offer full-on hockey at certain times of day.
Red Deer River Adventures rents out snowshoes or will take you on a guided tour through some of the region’s most scenic spots.
Meanwhile, the Drumheller Aquaplex has warm, heated indoor pools and steaming hot tubs that can be just the ticket after a day out in the cold. They also offer a range of lessons and programs for children, adults or the whole family.
How many days do you need in Drumheller?
To hit all the highlights you’ll need at least 2 full days. However, giving yourself 3 or 4 will allow you to explore much more leisurely, get in a little extra hiking or take in some farther sites. You’ll also be able to add in some R & R without feeling pressed for time.
Why is Drumheller called the Badlands?
The unique geology itself stems from rapid glacial melting of the Laurentide glacial sheet roughly 13,000 years ago at the tail end of the Wisconsin glacial episode. The massive flooding created the ravines, valley and unusual formations.
The term “badlands” originated with early explorers who encountered the rough terrain and steep gullies and decided they were, most definitely, “bad lands to cross”.
Where to Stay in Drumheller: Best Drumheller Hotels
There is a good range of accommodation choices in Drumheller that should provide options for all price ranges.
Best Drumheller Hotel for Kids
The Ramada by Wyndham is centrally located and has the best pool, water slide and hot tub in town. Every room has a fridge and microwave which can be useful for keeping the family fed and their hefty breakfast comes highly recommended.
Best Budget Drumheller Hotel
On our last stay in Drumheller we were by ourselves and had a car full of camping gear we needed to take into the room so chose the Badlands Motel, where we could back right up to our door. It’s a great budget choice and the rooms have a fridge and microwave. The restaurant, Whifs Flapjack House, has fantastic breakfasts.
Best Drumheller B&B
If you prefer a B&B, the McDougall Lane Bed & Breakfast is a great choice. Enjoy the garden with its pond and furnished patio. There are also amazing homemade breakfasts, friendly owners and a convenient location. You can choose between a shared bathroom or a private bathroom with spa tub.
There are 11 campgrounds to choose from in Drumheller and the surrounding area that come in all sizes, styles and locations. We describe them all in detail in The Best and Worst of Drumheller Campgrounds. With all these choices you will definitely be able to find the best Drumheller camping option for you.
Where to Eat: Best Drumheller Restaurants
Drumheller is just big enough to cover all the bases when it comes to restaurants, while still having plenty charming local choices.
Laynni’s friend lives in Drumheller and assured us that Pho Dinosaur was the place to go for noodle bowls. She was definitely correct on that front, and the spring rolls also featured a tasty twist. We didn’t try the banh mi but she also gave it top marks.
Athens Greek Restaurant
The second recommendation from our inside source was to check out the outstanding Greek food at Athens Greek Restaurant, which also happens to be the highest reviewed restaurant in Drumheller. It is owned and run by a friendly family and has awesome chicken souvlaki and sweet baklava.
Bernie & the Boys Bistro
The Mammoth Burger at Bernie & the Boys was featured on The Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here” for its incredible size and delicious taste. The burger itself boasts a 24 oz homemade beef patty topped with an 8-inch custom bun, mayo, lettuce, tomato and pickles. The current record for finishing the burger is 10 minutes and 11 seconds. Even if you choose to take your time and savour it, though, expect it to be a challenge.
Black Mountain Roasters
The best place in town for a coffee break and maybe a snack is Black Mountain Roasters, with locally roasted coffee and a good selection of tea.
Outstanding Mountain Hiking Within Driving Distance of Drumheller
Many people visit Drumheller on their way to or from the magnificent Rocky Mountains. If that happens to describe your situation, there is a lot of incredible hiking we can recommend (and describe in detail) in the Canmore and Banff areas.
A good place to start is with our Best Hikes Near Canmore post. In addition, phenomenal Lake O’Hara is tough to access but if you can get a spot on the bus or in the campground you can enjoy some of the best hiking in Canada.
Some of our other favourites in the area are Smutwood Peak, Tent Ridge, Rae Glacier and Big Beehive. For something a little more leisurely, check out 15 Easy Hikes Near Canmore and if you find yourself in the mountains in September you should definitely look into the Best Larch Hikes Near Canmore.
Of course, not everyone wants to spend their days sweaty and exhausted (your loss), but thankfully there are other options:
You really can’t go wrong, wherever you choose.
Drumheller is a wonderful destination for scenery lovers, history buffs, hikers and, of course, kids. But it really does stand out from the crowd as a quality family destination because of both its tremendous variety and all the specific attractions aimed at children. Whether you are looking to stop off on a Western Canadian road trip or choose a specific destination to base yourself, Drumheller is an ideal choice for families.