This summer, Manitoba has been taken over by dinosaurs. The roaring, stomping, giant and ancient creatures have come to life at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, the Manitoba Museum and Morden’s Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in three distinct exhibits that are sure to thrill the dinosaur obsessed 3, 10, or 62-year-old in your life.
Recently, I embarked on a tour of Manitoba’s resident dino population with my own dinosaur loving 2-year-old, Nicky, and his curious big sister, Alice (age 5). Like many things in life (though certainly not all), it’s just more fun to experience things through the eyes of little ones.
The Ancient Ones
It’s hard to believe that the prairies were once home to an ancient ocean, where prehistoric aquatic creatures roamed. But believe it, because this museum housed in the basement of the Access Event Centre in the city of Morden is home to the largest collection of marine reptile fossils in Canada. Technically, these aren’t dinosaurs, but rather prehistoric marine reptiles, but we won’t quibble.
One sunny Saturday, we loaded up the car (well two cars in this case, because we took friend Aidyn and her family along with us) and made the short 1 hour and 20 minute drive to Morden.
The kids had fun exploring the detailed exhibits and dioramas of the space that included a shark vertabra and a squid fossil. Older kids would easily be able to spend an hour here reading all of the in-depth stories scattered throughout (please take note of Nicky’s shirt below. It’s one of his favourites).
Naturally, the star of the museum for the kids was Bruce, who’s been hanging around these parts for about 80 million years–give or take. He’s the largest mosasaur in Canada at 43 feet long and tends to mesmerize visitors with his huge jaws and massive hands and feet.
For little ones, the next highlight was the climbable mosasaur, perfect for a photo op, and the activity area complete with sand box for digging up dino bones, supplies for craft-making, puzzles and more.
If you’ve got older kids, then CFDC takes it to the next level by offering fossil digs at one of 30 sites in the Morden area where you can hunt for your very own fossil (sorry, you can’t keep it). You can also try your hand at Cretaceous Park, an escape room experience where you’ll try to stop a band of fossil thieves or plug in to their new augmented reality app that will put you in a room with a full-sized Bruce who will swim with life-like detail before your very eyes.
Monday to Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday/Sunday 10 am – 5 pm
Students $5.00 (5 – 18 y/o)
Family $18.00 (2 adults, 3 children)
The Roaring Ones
Next, I took Alice and Nicky to visit the prehistoric residents at the zoo. As we approached the dino zone, roars and grunts and screams could be heard in the distance, a hint of what was to come. Wide eyed, my kids proceeded with caution, not quite sure what to expect. That’s Alice roaring like a dinosaur in the photo below.
As the kids rounded the corner, what awaited was a host of animatronic dinosaurs, so lifelike, you’d think you’d stepped back in time a few million years. Of course, one of their favourite parts was pushing the buttons to make different parts of the dinosaurs roar and move. Older kids will like pushing buttons too (because even adults can’t resist it), but will also enjoy reading the signs that give you all the details of every dinosaur you meet.
Alice was especially excited to see this guy, who she pointed to and shouted ‘Bruce!’ thanks to our visit to the CFDC the week before. See? This isn’t just fun–it’s educational too!
The star of the show was of course, the towering T-Rex. Seen at first poking through the bushes, his roars carrying over everyone, the kids ran towards him, absolutely amazed.
Once they got over their awe of this big guy, they made their way to the sand pit where they dug for fossils and visited the last few dinosaurs in the exhibit. Was it a hit? I think this face says it all:
Open daily 9 am to 5 pm
Dinosaurs Alive runs until October 9
Included with regular zoo admission
Adults (18 – 59) – $19.95
Seniors (60+) – $17.75
Students (with valid student ID) – $17.75
Youth (13 – 17 years) – $17.75
Children (3 – 12 years) – $11.00
Under 3 years – FREE *
The Enormous Ones
And finally, the biggest ones of all. Housed inside Alloway Hall at the Manitoba Museum, this exhibit also features animatronic dinosaurs, but the dim lighting and echoing sounds reverberating off the walls gives this version a completely different ambiance.
My kids were a little nervous walking in, approaching slowly as we rounded on the first dinosaur. The mood was lightened when we discovered this guy, pictured below on the left, wasn’t actually roaring, but rather was making sounds from his other end. What kid doesn’t love a farting dinosaur?
The thing you’ll notice here as you round the next corner, is the incredible size of these dinosaurs. They weren’t kidding when they said world’s largest. These guys soared to the ceiling, so big I couldn’t even get them all in the frame.
There was, though, a little tiny dinosaur kids can hop on and ride. (If you’re a parent, you know that getting two small children to look at the camera and smile at the same time is about as likely as finding a T-Rex in your backyard when you get home.)
And of course, with goggles and brushes in hand, the kids hopped in the sand box for their final fossil dig of our tour. I loved the sparkly, crystalline sand that filled this box. There was also a ‘chalkboard’ dinosaur that kids can write their name on and colouring tables, as well.
At one point, Nicky decided to wander off a bit on his own. We were about to follow after him when ear piercing screams filled the space as he realized a huge dinosaur was roaring and towering over him. He ran at breakneck speed back to his dad. I wish I’d gotten a video to play at his future wedding. There’s no doubt World’s Giant Dinosaurs is effective!
A few days later and he doesn’t seem permanently scarred… we think. Luckily, everyone still went home with smiles and Alice even made a new friend.
Monday to Thursday, Saturday & Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm
Friday (Except for Friday, July 7): 10 am – 9 pm
World’s Giant Dinosaurs runs until September 4
Ticket prices vary based on which areas of the museum you want to see. Visit here to purchase.