Lisa Thornbury: Party Mummy


Ultimate Dinosaurs are the Ultimate Family Fun!

Take Your Family to experience the Giants from Gondwana at the ROM

My son and his dad have been collecting dino replicas from the time our boy was a toddler. His bedroom has since been transformed from a 'dino den' to a 'space station' (with a special spot reserved for his beloved collection). After all these years, his fascination with these giant reptiles hasn’t waned.

When we were offered the chance to visit the ROM’s world premiere exhibit Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants from Gondwana, I nearly turned it down because we were getting set to leave for a family vacation. The look of disappointment on my boys’ faces (the little boy AND the big boy/man) was too much to bear, so we pushed our summer vacation back by a day. The outlet mall and poolside pina coladas would have to wait.

Yes, this is the level of dino mania that exists in my house.

I’m talking about my nine-year-old (who asked me to PLEASE stop chanting, “Dinohs for nine-ooooohs” on the drive to museum) and my older child (aka my dino loving husband).

Upon entering the ROM's main entrance, we were greeted by the largest dinosaur ever mounted in Canada (mounted as in erected, not saddled up and ridden. Though, what a ride THAT would be). The Futalognkosauras, a giant long-necked sauropod and one of the biggest animals to have ever walked the Earth, stretched 110 ft. long and would have weighed as much as ten elephants, was too big to fit in the exhibition hall! This blurry shot (sorry) is the Thornbury family posing in the shadow of this impressive beast.

As a former elementary school teacher I know the ROM like the back of my hand. Bi-yearly field trips with my students stand out as some of my favourite teacher moments (minus the bus ride... ask any teacher, they're a migraine in the making).

I thought I'd seen it all, but this new exhibit exceeded my expectations. Specifically, the cutting edge technology and hands-on activities. Even the whirling dervish five year old was entertained.

My uber tactile daughter enjoyed the hands-on activities like the touchable bronze casts and dino lab with real fossils and the self-contained discovery area within the exhibition geared for kids ages two-to-eight with plenty of touchable objects.

The exhibition is presented in five sections, starting with the Triassic section and ending with what are perhaps the largest land predators to have ever lived—Gigantosauras and Tyrannosaurus rex.

Ever the elementary school teacher, I had certain goals for this outing.

For my daughter? Basically, not to lose her and for her not to knock anything over.

For my son, for him to simply explore and enjoy. Armed with an iPhone, he took photos at will and used the notepad to take notes to later refer to for his blog. HIS idea. What can I say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the pedagogical tree...

As we wandered through the various periods, my son imparted facts and knowledge upon us that—frankly—I couldn’t believe he knew by heart. I could barely remember where we’d parked the car.

His favourite feature was the interactive learning pods. There are iPad stations set up around the exhibit that use cutting-edge Augmented Reality technology (AR) to bring dinosaurs to life, layering virtual experiences over the real environment.

The whole family enjoyed the reactive walls. These giant displays use body-scanning technology to show dinosaurs as they react to visitor’s movement as they approach. I couldn’t help but think these HUGE screens would be perfect for a private screening of Magic Mike...

If you get a chance to visit the exhibit, be sure to download the free ROM Ultimate Dinosaurs app from the App store and point at the specified dino images to bring them to life. It's VERY cool.

You may be wondering where my daughter is in this shot. Poor girl was eaten by a t-rex. I kid! She was scarfing down a hot dog around the corner.

My son LOVED this experience and told me to add, "You'll learn a lot!"

Will we go again? Yes.

Will I bring my daughter again? Once was enough for her.

There was a lot to keep her interested, but after an hour she was ready to go. My son however could have stayed all day. So, he and I will go back and explore some more another day.

I fear I wasn't able to convey the true cool factor of the AR technology, so I'm including a short video clip below so you can see it for yourself.

Oh, and one final tip—wear comfy shoes. You'll be doing a lot of walking and you wouldn't want your feet to get dino-sore!