British Columbia: Vancouver, Wintertime Family Vacation Ideas - Stargazing, Fossil Hunting, and Big Screen Movies.
Or maybe you are looking or maybe you are for dinosaurs, pirates, space ships, cowboys, and baby belugas? You will find them all in B.C. anytime of the year, including the winter months when having fun with your kids can be more challenging.
We have just received a roundup of family fun ideas form B.C. Tourism and the list merits passing along. Browse the list it may be useful in making a family vacation getaway plan. Combining education and sharing fun with your kids is always a win, win and in B. C. it is easy to do. First up - dinosaurs.
Not many people know this, but BC was once a dinosaur habitat and the museums here have the fossils and even whole skeletons to prove it.
At the Exploration Place Science Centre and Museum in Prince George, for example, children can learn how to dig for fossils and even pose for a photo with a replica T Rex skull. The museum’s Palaeontology Gallery has one of the best dinosaur exhibits in the province, with several full-size dinosaur models and some of the oldest dinosaur tracks and fossils in Western Canada. There’s also a Children's Gallery with a replica riverboat to play on and explore. (Exploration Place Science Centre and Museum, (250) 562-1612 or www.theexplorationplace.com
East of Prince George, the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery in Tumbler Ridge captivates. In 2000, 11-year-old Mark Turner and eight-year-old Daniel Helm unearthed a rather fortuitous find amid the bedrock next to Flatbed Creek, just below Tumbler Ridge: a series of depressions in the rock were later determined to be a dinosaur trackway. Today, visitors can take a peek at replicas of the creatures that roamed the area at the gallery and even take part in a trackway tour led by a guide. (Dinosaur Discovery Gallery, (250) 242-3466 or www.tumblerridgemuseum.com
More dinosaurs lurk on Vancouver Island where, at the Courtenay & District Museum and Palaeontology Centre, you can see a real Elasmosaur skeleton; the remains of this dinosaur-era sea creature were discovered near Courtenay in 1988. The lucky fossil hunter? Local student Heather Trask, who was just 12 years old at the time. (Courtenay & District Museum and Palaeontology Centre, (250) 334-0686 or www.courtenaymuseum.ca
Further south in Victoria, situated within historic Bastion Square, is the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, where youngsters can learn about the explorers, seafarers, buccaneers and even pirates who once sailed local seas. A visiting Viking show runs until May 11 and, during Spring Break, aspiring Jack Sparrows can learn about ship building, knot tying, and piratical behaviour at the museum’s own Pirate School. (Maritime Museum of British Columbia, (250) 385-4222 or www.mmbc.bc.ca
Of course, if you’re in the province’s capital, you’ll want to save a day for one of the country’s leading museums: The Royal British Columbia Museum. Between the First Nations Big House, the frontier town (complete with a train station and a movie theatre), the natural history displays -- including the museum’s iconic Ice Age mammoth -- and an IMAX theatre with a six-storey-high screen, you’ll need at least a day. In the Ocean Station exhibit, young oceanographers can view BC’s coastal marine life from the bridge of a Jules Verne-style submarine, complete with a periscope. In 20 th Century Hall, they can see the kind of retro technology -- including a turntable and a commodore computer -- that their parents may have used. Bonus points:
And be sure to look for the dinosaur footprints outside the main entrance. They’re not labeled, so you’ll need sharp eyes to find them. Also, if you can, plan a return visit this summer, when the museum hosts the North American premier of Treasures: The World’s Cultures from the British Museum. (Royal British Columbia Museum (250)356-7226 or www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca
) Over on the mainland, dolphins, telescopes, and a film at the OMNIMAX®.
Greater Vancouver has more than enough to keep kids occupied.
At the Vancouver Aquarium, Canada’s largest aquarium, families can get up close and personal with sea lions, dolphins, and sea otters as part of the Animal Encounters program, wander through a tropical rainforest, see a dolphin show, and meet the new baby beluga, Tiqa. (Vancouver Aquarium, (604) 659-3474 or www.vanaqua.org
Across the Burrard Bridge is the H.R. Macmillan Space Centre, where kids can catch star shows in the Planetarium, take a simulated space trip on the virtual voyages motion simulator, and even see what they’d look like as an alien. On Friday and Saturday nights, young astronomers can investigate the real stars above the city through the telescope at the centre’s Gordon MacMillan Southam Observatory. Here’s a tip: the Space Centre shares the building with the Vancouver Museum where vibrant, contemporary displays recall the city’s history from 1910 through the seventies. Cool, man. (H.R. Macmillan Space Centre, (604)738-7827 or www.spacecentre.ca
Also in Vanier Park is the Vancouver Maritime Museum, home to RCMP St. Roch, the first ship to travel both directions through the Northwest Passage and circumnavigate North America. Here, you’ll also find a new exhibit on global warming from a maritime perspective and lots of hands-on displays in the Children's Maritime Discovery Centre. (Vancouver Maritime Museum (604) 257-8300 or www.vancouvermaritimemuseum.com
and Maritime Museum of British Columbia, (250) 385-4222 or www.mmbc.bc.ca
More discoveries await at the highly interactive Science World at TELUS World of Science. Older children can design geared contraptions, use the power of leverage to lift a 200-kilogram hippopotamus, or catch a film at the OMNIMAX® theatre -- all in the name of science -- while preschoolers can explore water, light, colour and movement in their own tot-friendly space. (Science World at TELUS World of Science, (604) 443-7443 or www.scienceworld.ca
A quick Skytrain ride away is BC Place Stadium. Soon to be famous as the venue for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games opening and closing ceremonies, it’s also home to a great attraction for young athletes: The BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. This 20,000-square-foot space honours BC’s sporting heroes, including such luminaries as Terry Fox and Rick Hansen, and gives kids plenty of ways to try their own skill at climbing, running and more. (BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, (604)687-5520 or www.bcsportshalloffame.com
) Beyond the city, cowboys, and railway encounters.
The Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin in Williams Lake, for example, is home to the Cowboy Hall of Fame, which honours the folks who’ve been riding, roping and rodeoing since before BC was a province. Displays include photos, biographies, and memorabilia of the province’s outstanding working cowboys and rodeo stars. (Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin, (250) 392-7404 or www.cowboy-museum.com
Railway fans are also well-served this winter, with three of BC’s major train museums open year-round. At the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish, about an hour north of Vancouver, you can tour authentic railway equipment and, if the weather’s nice, take a mini-train ride around the site. (West Coast Railway Heritage Park, (604) 898-9336 or www.wcra.org
In the Kootenay Rockies region, the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel in Cranbrook displays some of the most luxurious cars ever to ride the rails, while the Revelstoke Railway Museum tells the dramatic story of building a railway through the mountains. (Canadian Museum of Rail Travel, (250)489-3918 or www.trainsdeluxe.com
and Revelstoke, Railway Museum (250) 837-6060 or toll-free 1-877-837-6060 or www.railwaymuseum.com
) Make it happen.
Get out, explore, and have some fun with dinosaurs, ships, stars, or cowboys while you are at it? For more information on other British Columbia destinations and travel information, from North America call toll-free 1-800 HELLO BC ® (1-800-435-5622) or visit www. HelloBC.com