The brilliant thing about living in Canberra is that there are so many things to do. The bad thing about living in Canberra is that the kids know that there are so many things to do.
Since we arrived, five weeks ago, mini-CBRbound and maxi-CBRbound have taken every opportunity to let us know that a visit to the National Dinosaur Museum was high on their wish list. So, mildly encouraged by vouchers offering free entry for children accompanied by an adult, we finally gave in and headed back in time a few million years.
Thankfully, prehistory has a car park and is air-conditioned these days, and our vouchers were waved away on account of it being ‘kids get in free’ day anyway.
We arrived just in time for one of the regular guided tours of the museum. Now, I’m usually one to spurn these – in my experience, they shuffle round at a snail’s pace and anyway, you end up at the back not being able to see or hear what’s being explained, but the tour leader, Mitchell, seemed enthusiastic so we tagged along.
I can’t vouch for the other tour guides, but Mitchell was outstanding. Despite obviously fighting a cold, he enthused and elaborated about the dinosaurs, their amazing diversity and the likely cause of their demise. He also hung around for a full 20 minutes after the tour ended to take questions from wide-eyed children and adults alike.
Here’s what I learnt – that Australia is woefully under-explored when it comes to fossils, and that we know relatively little about the ancient monsters that once roamed the outback, and that, at the time of the dinosaurs, Australia was still joined to Asia by a land bridge, and had yet to break away to become the island continent we know today.
Oh, and I got an answer to the question I’ve always wondered about: how come, when I was at school, all the dinosaurs were green, and now they’re gloriously colourful? It turns out that recently discovered fossilised dinosaur feathers contained tiny fragments of pigment, which tell us that Jurassic Park was something of a black and white movie compared to what we know now.
“Oh,” added Mitchell, “and we now reckon that T-Rex was probably feathered, too.”
The boys were spellbound. So much so, that when they found Mitchell taking a break downstairs, they started asking lots more questions and, gentleman that he is, he answered them all and took them off to show them a model of a giant sloth.
The museum has most of its exhibits on the upper floor of a building the size of a large detached house. Downstairs, there’s an activity centre, a few more exhibits which look at geology and human evolution, plus the mandatory shop. If you join a guided tour and then complete the museum quiz (there’s a different one for kids and adults), it’s about a two-hour experience, but allow another half an hour for the kids to enjoy the outdoor collection of dinosaur models.
After the museum, it’s just a few hundred metres to the Adore Tea teashop, where we satisfied the primal appetite we’d built up with a nice cream tea and a pile of pancakes for the boys. The perfect end to a roaring good day out.
Both the National Dinosaur Museum and Adore Tea can be found in Gold Creek Village, which I learnt has neither a creek, nor any gold but is, in fact, named after a racehorse.