I can still remember the first time I visited the Royal B.C. museum as a child; standing, awestruck, in front of the life sized woolly mammoth for the first time still holds a vivid place in my memory. Because of this, I knew that a visit to the museum was one of the first things I wanted to do on our family trip to Vancouver Island.
Walking into the Royal B.C. Museum really does feel like you are stepping back in time. The museum houses an impressive array of authentic artifacts, which are displayed in highly realistic settings, making visitors feel like they are experiencing another time and place.
Natural History Gallery
This huge gallery begins with a tour of B.C.’s coastal forest. To enter this gallery is to feel like you have just stepped into the middle of the woods; while bird calls echo in the distance, life sized elk feed at the base of giant Douglas Firs, and a grizzly snags a salmon from a trickling stream. At several points throughout this gallery, you will feel the need to remind yourself that the animals are not actually alive.
Moving along, you enter an area focused on the rugged seashore of British Columbia. Our kids loved checking out the sea lions, and peering into the tidal pools to see what they could discover.
A little further down, you enter into a large replica of a Victorian-era submarine – you can peer through portholes, look through the periscope, and see lots of examples of the underwater world off of B.C.’s coast. There are a lot of things for the kids to do here, from examining specimens to playing with microscopes. Our kids could have spent all day here, and it was one of the highlights of the museum.
Near the end of the gallery, you enter into the Ice Age. This has always been my favorite part of the museum. Here, you can touch fossil replicas and view a towering woolly mammoth. Sections of the walls here are even made of actual ice. The kids really liked the fossils, although they were a bit grossed out when they discovered that one of the replicas they had been playing with was actually fossilized dinosaur poop.
First People’s Gallery
Magnificent carvings tower above you as you enter into Totem Hall, at the start of the First People’s Gallery. There is a feeling of hushed calm in this section of the museum, as people gaze, open mouthed, at the awe-inspiring totems above. The totems are impressive, and viewing the collection is a great way to see the different pole types and carving styles. As you venture through this gallery, you will get to see authentic cedar baskets, traditional masks, a life sized pit house, and a variety of stone carvings.
Modern History Gallery
In what is perhaps the most detailed and elaborate gallery in the museum, the Modern History Gallery invites you to step aboard Captain Vancouver’s ship, pan for gold during the B.C. Gold Rush, and stroll down cobbled streets.
The Old Town section of this gallery transports you back in time as you to walk through a train station, a replica of Nanaimo’s Royal Hotel, and streets representing Victoria’s Chinatown. The attention to detail in this section of the museum is impressive; the kids loved peering through the windows of the different shops, and seeing what life was like during this time period. This comprehensive gallery offers many opportunities to learn about and reflect on our storied past.
The Royal B.C. Museum is clearly one of Canada’s greatest cultural treasures. You can easily spend an entire day here, as the different environments offered by each of the elaborate galleries make it an engaging experience for all ages and preferences. Our kids absolutely loved the museum, and are already asking about when they can go back.
Adult $16, Youth $11, Under 5 free
10am – 5, Summer hours 10am -10 (late May – late September)
For more information on the Royal B.C. Museum, or to purchase tickets, click here.
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