It’s getting to be that time of year again. A time when the weather is either too cold to go outside and have some fun with the kids, or too warm, making the outdoor rinks too melty and the tobbaggan hills too slushy. A time when kids spend way more time indoors than they should. And if they’re “motivated for fun” like my grand-daughter Ashton, both kids and parents alike, are probably getting pretty fed up with winter and are just about ready to snap.
To save parents the hassle of snapping, I suggest instead, a little road trip to the Town of Eastend. Here lies one of Saskatchewan’s greatest secrets, and one of your greatest allies in your “anti-Cabin Fever” arsenal: the T-Rex Discovery Centre.
This is where you’ll find the story of “Scotty” the T-Rex, and where you’ll find many specimens of Scotty’s pre-historic friends. Something that’s sure to give them a thrill, because I haven’t met a kid yet, who doesn’t get a little excited about going to see a dinosaur!
Open throughout the year, the Discovery Centre offers FREE admission with a voucher you can download off their website. Normal costs are: adults – $8.95, youths (6-17) – $6.00, while kids 5 and under get in free. (You also have the added opportunity to purchase a “Family” pass for a larger family of 2 adults and their dependent children for $26.50). For those interested there’s also the opportunity to let kids have a little experience unearthing fossils with the Centre’s Paleo Practise Program ($3), where kids are given the tools that allow them to chip away at a plaster cast and discover the prehistoric secrets hidden inside.
Tour the Centre at your own pace, or ask one of the staff to give you a more personalized tour – something that is included with the price of admission.
It’s a chance for kids to get out of the house away from the “screens,” a chance to stretch their legs and roam, and a chance to get entranced in the process of “Discovery,” (Don’t tell them it’s educational – you’ll spoil their fun!). Head down on a Sunday and you’ll have the added bonus of being able to take in a movie at the Discovery Theatre.
Here you can settle in with a $2 bag of popcorn and watch a family-friendly matinee. (full listing of upcoming films can be found on the www.trexcentre.ca website).
If you want to make a day of it, stop for lunch at one of the many places to eat that Eastend has to offer, enjoying either a dinosaur-sized T-Rex burger at the Loft Cafe in the Cypress Hotel, or the fabulous murals to be found in Jack’s Cafe. (Kids will probably spend more time oogling the murals than they will eating, I know I did!).
If the weather’s nice enough, I’d even suggest taking a little family hike into the surrounding hills. (Motivate them to walk by telling them the story of how someone was just out “walking” when they found Scotty!). If you do decide to hike, just be sure to head to the Town’s website first where a full list of hikes available can be found at: www.dinocountry.com).
For those really brave parents, there’s even an opportunity to host your child’s Birthday party at the T-Rex. You bring the cake and ice cream, and they’ll provide the venue, entertainment and, best of all, the clean-up! With two packages available you can either choose 3 program activities that equal an hour’s worth of activities with use of the program room for another hour (for cake and presents and the like), or watch the movie of your choice with free popcorn and equal use of the program room. Each option costs $10 for the space rental and $5 for each child attending. Pretty cheap if you can load a mini-van of kids up and haul them out there!
Winters in Saskatchewan tend to be long and cold and a little hard to take sometimes. If you’re looking for something a little different to do, don’t head into the big noisy city, head instead to a place of wonder and Discovery. And with any luck the kids will fall asleep on the way home at the end of a successful day. A day that will bring us one day closer to spring.
How to GoHere: If you’re visiting the Cypress Hills/Maple Creek area, you can follow the Red Coat Trail down Highway 21, turning left at Highway 13 to Eastend. Signs posted in town will direct you up into the hills where the T-Rex Discovery Centre is located. Coming from Highway #1, you’re best bet is to turn at the Junction of Hwy 1 and 37, head into Shaunavon, and just before you exit town, turn right on Hwy 13, past Dollard onwards to Eastend. Or just follow our map here.
Gotta Go?: There are beautiful, clean modern bathrooms at the T-Rex Discovery Centre, and seeing as they cater to families and young children there’s even a change table and toilets that are low to the ground.
Good to Know:
- Scotty’s Coming HOME!! Near the end of February, beginning of March, Scotty the T-Rex will be coming home to roost in a new permanent exhibit. Currently having his bones cast in Ontario, soon he’ll be making the journey back to his home in Eastend, where all will be able to take in the enormity that is Scotty. (For those grownups interested they are hosting a Gala to welcome Scotty home on March 16th. Tickets are $75 ea.
- The T-Rex Discovery Centre’s website has all sorts of information to help you prepare for your trip. You can even get the kids into the spirit by downloading one of their many “Dinosaur Colouring Pages.”
Like most museum’s Mom and Dad’s beware, the Discovery Centre has a store with fun and unusual gifts and toys. If it’s not in the budget, prepare you’re “No” speech before you’ve even left home. But if you are open to the idea of purchasing something, now’s a great time to do it, as many of their items are 10%-20% off.
- If you aren’t there to take in a matinee on the Sunday, you can still enjoy the Centre’s theatre and a great little 30 min film they’ve made on the Discovery of Scotty, with commentary by then and still current paleontologist Dr. Tim Tokaryk.
- The Discovery Centre is also a Fossil Research Station and an extension of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, and you may even glimpse some research work being done through the big glass walls that separate the lab from the museum.
Learn to swear Dinosaur-style in front of your kids – say “Coprolite Happens” instead of that other phrase with the same meaning. (I’ll let you Google Coprolite).