Royal Tyrrell Museum: 7 Reasons You Should Visit This Fascinating Drumheller Museum

The impressive Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology is one of the main destinations for visitors to Drumheller. Featuring one of the largest dinosaur displays in the world, this Drumheller museum is an absolute must-see for those interested in the rise and fall of these amazing ancient creatures.

The best dinosaur museum in Alberta, and really, one of the best in the world, the Royal Tyrrell centre of paleontological research is famous for its massive collection of hundreds of thousands of fossils. It is actually the only museum in Canada exclusively focused on paleontology.

It opened in 1985 as the Tyrrell Museum and saw over 500,000 visitors that first year. It is named for Joseph Tyrrell, the geologist who discovered the very first dinosaur remains in the Red Deer River Valley way back in 1884. Then in 1990 Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the all-important “Royal” status on the museum, adding another level of prominence to this fantastic Alberta dinosaur museum.

Entrance and sign to the Drumheller royal tyrrell museum of palaeontology

The museum is huge – over 11,000 square metres – and boasts 8 chronological gallery exhibits covering the entire 3.7-billion-year history of life on Earth. It houses an unbelievable 130,000 fossils.

What makes the Royal Tyrrell Museum really special, though, is the fabulous Badlands landscape. The wild, rugged terrain around Drumheller is unique, incredibly scenic and absolutely loaded with Cretaceous Period fossils. Most of the fossils in the museum were excavated from either the Drumheller area or nearby Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Also, unlike most museums, the Royal Tyrrell is specifically designed to be fun for kids, with plenty of lower displays for young children, plus a wide range of interactive displays, games and puzzles to work their way through and explore.

Related Post: Ultimate Guide to Drumheller

Kids in from of dinosaur bones at the Drumheller royal tyrrell museum of palaeontology

How much does it cost to go to the Royal Tyrrell Museum?

Considering it is one of the top dinosaur museums in the world, the Royal Tyrrell Museum tickets are very reasonable.
Royal Tyrrell Museum Tickets
Adult (18 – 64)  $21    
Senior (65+)       $14            
Youth (7 – 17) $10               
Children 6 and under  Free  
Family (2 adults their children, max 8 total) $50 
 If you live in the Drumheller area or plan to visit at least 3 times you should consider buying an annual membership:
Adult $50
Senior $40
Youth $40
Family $110
It is also possible to purchase Tyrrell Museum tickets with Air Miles.  

What are the Royal Tyrrell Museum Hours?

From July 1st to August 31st, the Tyrrell Museum is open from 9 am to 9 pm every day.

Then, from September 1st to December 31st it is open from 10 am to 5 pm Tuesday to Sunday and is closed on Mondays (except holidays). 2022 Tyrrell Museum hours have not yet been announced.

Is there a Royal Tyrrell Museum Gift Shop?

You betcha. The Royal Tyrrell Museum Shop is the perfect place to buy basically anything dinosaur-related. And, while dinosaur-related often just means a dinosaur logo, there are plenty of more unique and interesting toys and souvenirs as well.

7 Reasons to Visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology

Seeing the Royal Tyrrell Museum Dinosaurs Up Close

The dinosaurs are obviously the number one attraction and the main reason people visit. The extraordinary Dinosaur Hall features over 40 mounted dinosaur skeletons offering a vivid glimpse back into time.

Family looking at a dinosaur at the Drumheller royal tyrrell museum of palaeontology
Royal Tyrrell Museum T-Rex

Even dinosaur beginners will immediately recognize the Royal Tyrrell Museum T-Rex, along with some of its less famous cousins like Triceratops, Stegasaurus and the monstrous Camasaurus. There is even a Woolly Mammoth to ogle.

2 kids looking at dinosaur bones at the Drumheller museum

Usually the first thing visitors notice is the immense size of these ancient creatures, and kids are endlessly fascinated by how small they feel next to the gigantic skeletons. The best part for children, though, is the clever way they have created entire historical scenes around the dinosaurs that help tell a story and bring the whole concept to life.

In 2011 the Drumheller museum added one of the most unique and fascinating dinosaur fossils in the world to their collection when a heavy-equipment operator in Fort McMurray, Alberta stumbled across the incredibly lifelike mummified fossil of a 110-million-year-old nodosaur. It was soon excavated, transported to the Royal Tyrrell Museum and, after more than 5 years of meticulous archaeological work, christened Borealopelta and given a place of honour in the Dinosaur Hall.

Taking a Trip Through Time

One of our favourite things about the Royal Tyrrell Museum is the comprehensive way they walk us through the history of Earth, starting with the introduction of dinosaurs. The timeline tunnel leads us through every dinosaur age and exhibits include the Cenozoic Gallery, Cretaceous Alberta, Cretaceous Garden, Palaeozoic Era and Terrestrial Palaeozoic.

Sign for the Cenozoic era and dinosaur bones at the Drumheller royal tyrrell museum of palaeontology

The exhibits find the perfect balance between entertaining and informing, with lots of videos and interactive displays that let you (and your kids) experience millions of years in just hours. Kids particularly like walking on the glass floor of the Devonian Reef and the colourful Burgess Shale exhibit has a very cool underwater display that features a whopping 46 different fossils from Yoho National Park – one of the most important finds in history. The display highlights individual creatures and provides detailed information on each one.

Experiencing a Fossil Dig or Fossil Casting

Fossil Dig

What better way to see what it’s like to be a paleontologist than to experience the excitement of excavation through the magic of a simulated fossil dig? During this wonderfully interactive activity anyone ages 5 and up can use real archaeological tools to dig up real fossils.

Children under 12 need to be accompanied by an adult registered in the program and there are two options for groups up to 6 people:

$75 per group for 75 minutes

$50 per group for 45 minutes

Fossil Casting

You may also want to try your hand at Fossil Casting. In this program, you learn the difference between fossils and casts, find out why casts are important and get to make your own fossil replica using real fossils.

It is available to anyone ages 4 and up and costs $50 for 45 minutes for up to 6 people.

Both the Fossil Dig and Fossil Casting need to be booked ahead of time.

Watching Palaeontology at Work at the Drumheller Dinosaur Museum

To see the pros in action you can visit the “Preparation Lab” where you can watch expert technicians working on fossils to get them ready for research and exhibits. Most of which have been discovered right here in Alberta.

Looking through the preparation lab windows at the Drumheller dinosaur museum

Seeing the Badlands on the Drumheller Museum Trails

The museum is located in Midland Provincial Park which features a bunch of fun hikes criss-crossing the tremendous Badlands terrain. Formerly the site of the Midland Coal Mine – famous for a fatal mining explosion in the 1920’s – that was eventually repurposed and designated as a provincial park in 1979. Unlike the Atlas Coal Mine, there isn’t much left of Midland’s mining past. However, the vast array of hiking trails now draws a very different crowd to the area.

Drumheller Dinosaur Museum Viewpoint

There is an easy and scenic viewpoint just above the parking lot.

Royal Tyrrell Museum Loop / Badlands Interpretive Trail

1.6 km / 30 min

AllTrails: Badlands Interpretive Trail

The Royal Tyrrell Museum Loop (also called the Badlands Interpretive Trail) is the most popular hike in the area. Everyone who visits the museum should head out on this easy, half-hour informative stroll through the Badlands. It is particularly gorgeous around sunrise or sunset.

Person hiking on path behind Royal Tyrrell Museum one of Drumheller hikes

It is open all the time (even when the museum is closed) and follows a fairly flat gravel path past cacti, coulees, hoodoos and ravines. It is even possible to take strollers on it, although you will have to carry them up a few stairs at one point.

The Seven Wonders of the Badlands Tour

Join a Seven Wonders of the Badlands guided hike. On this fun adventure you’ll learn all about the fascinating landscape, how it has evolved over the ages and what the geology can tell us about the history of the Badlands. It is suitable for all ages, takes about an hour and costs $8 per person.

Dinosite Tour

On this guided tour you get to find actual dinosaur bones, search for fossils and learn even more about Alberta history. This one takes about 90 minutes, costs $10 per person and is for ages 4 and up.

These trails can be walked year-round but are hot and exposed in summer so be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat and drink plenty of water. After a rain they can get a bit slippery so keep that in mind. And in winter they are almost always icy and slippery, especially on the stairs and steeper spots.

For detailed info on all the best hikes in the Drumheller area check out:

7 Amazing Drumheller Hiking Trails

Touring at Your Own Speed with the Royal Tyrrell Museum App

The excellent Royal Tyrrell Museum mobile app lets you enjoy a leisurely and interactive tour through all the galleries. While you wander the exhibits and displays the app will provide you with maps, info and multilingual content. It even uses your phone’s GPS to identify which display you are at (although keep in mind this will burn through your battery faster than normal).

If you can’t make it to Drumheller Alberta you can use the app and these Youtube videos to have a Royal Tyrrell Museum virtual tour.

Taking a Break with the Kids at the Palaeo Play Park

Every kid loves a good playground, and if that playground happens to have an uncannily realistic Tyrannosaurus Rex buried in the sand, well, even better. They can do their best to dig the big fella out or just run off some energy in the multi-story playground.

The playground is free and open to the public.

How long does it take to go through Royal Tyrrell Museum?

Just to work your way through all of the galleries you are probably looking at roughly 2 hours. Then you should allow extra time for other activities like the Fossil Dig, the playground or any of the hikes.

Dinosaur bones at the Drumheller dinosaur museum in Alberta

Tips for Your Visit

  • It can get busy in the middle of the day. Try to visit early or late and avoid weekends if possible.
  • Military personnel and new Canadian citizens are eligible for discounts.
  • Get a free map at the front desk.
  • You may want to buy an activity book to keep kids engaged along the way.
  • It involves a lot of walking so bring a stroller for small kids, or you can rent one there.
  • There is a cafeteria to buy food and drinks or you can bring your own and eat in the picnic area or a variety of spots inside the museum.
  • In summer there is usually a food truck parked outside.
  • Bring a water bottle and refill it at their water bottle filling stations.
  • Don’t miss getting some photos by the interesting dinosaur statues near the entrance (keep an eye out for the baby dinos).
  • About halfway through is a kids room focused on the Albertosaurus with lots of interactive displays that works as a nice break for little guys. Plus, they can learn all about the first carnivorous dinosaur in Canada.
Small dinosaur statue outside the Drumheller museum
Dinosaurs outside the Drumheller Dinosaur Musum

Where is the Drumheller Dinosaur Museum in Alberta?

The Royal Tyrrell Museum is located just 6 kilometres northwest of Drumheller, Alberta in Midland Provincial Park. This is in the middle of Badlands country and there is plenty to see and do all around it as well.

Parking at the museum is spacious and free, with sites to fits every type of vehicle including motorcycles, cars, trucks, RVs, buses and even pedal bikes. In the summer there is a courtesy shuttle that runs from the parking lot to the entrance for visitors with limited mobility.

Other Things to do in Drumheller

Every visitor to Drumheller needs to set aside some time to wander around in the crazy hoodoos on the Drumheller Hoodoos Trail.

Two Drumheller hoodoos

Horseshoe Canyon also shouldn’t be missed. You can go for a hike in the canyon itself or just stay up top and enjoy the views.

If you’ve got kids you definitely need to stop off at the World’s Largest Dinosaur (and maybe save some time for the Spray Park next to it).

View from inside the World’s Largest dinosaur

In the valley on either side of Drumheller you can ride the Bleriot Ferry, check out the 11 Bridges on the way to Last Chance Saloon, tour the Atlas Coal Mine, explore a tiny church or golf one of the most unique courses in Canada. Just to name a few things. For more ideas and everything you need to plan your visit to Drumheller check out:

Drumheller: The Ultimate Guide to Alberta’s Dinosaur Capital

Camping Near the Drumheller Museum Alberta

You cannot camp or park overnight in the Drumheller dinosaur museum parking lot but there are a couple good Drumheller camping choices nearby. Check out all the Drumheller camping options here:

The Best and Worst of Drumheller Campgrounds

Conclusion

The Royal Tyrrell Museum didn’t get that fancy “Royal” added to its name for nothing. It is one of the most thorough and impressive dinosaur museums in the world, made even more fascinating by the fact that most of the featured material was collected in the surrounding Drumheller Badlands. It is a great place to spend half a day with the kids and if you throw in lunch and maybe a hike or two it can be an all-day adventure.

Special thanks to Jamie Angus Milton of Uniglobe Carefree Travel Group Saskatchewan for generously allowing us to use her photos to fill in some of our photographic gaps.

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