When researching places to visit during our recent Squamish, BC trip, we were told over and over again not to skip the Britannia Mine Museum. With two kids squarely in the Mine Museum's target demographic and one child who can literally find fun anywhere, it was basically a no-brainer that we would visit it at some point on our vacation. But, what I didn't expect was that my husband and I would love it as much as we did.
Britannia was once the largest copper mine in the British Empire. It may not be a working mine these days, but visiting the mine is a great way to get a glimpse into the little-seen world of mining. With lots of activities and exhibits created for adults and children alike, you could easily spend a whole day there. Watching the kiddos learn about the history of the Britannia mine was really fun, and we enjoyed delving into what life must have been like for mine workers and their families back when the mine was bustling. You know, back when workers comp didn't exist and heading into the mine shaft was sometimes a crapshoot that could leave you with all sorts of health problems. Just like miners did over 100 years ago, visitors to Britannia Mine will climb aboard a mine train and head inside an early haulage tunnel. Inside, you will find working drills, a mucking machine, and an interactive experience that allows you to see what the working conditions would have been like and what life as a miner must have been like at the different stages of the mine lifespan. The kids especially loved seeing inside Mill 3. This 20 story building is that huge building you see while driving along the Sea to Sky Highway, and that is where our tour concluded. Inside this industrial landmark was a dizzyingly steep mine cart and stairs as far as you could see. The kids were excited to find that this is where the ore was once processed, and they loved the demonstration of how they would extract the ore that they would export. Pro tip: For the underground tour, I wish I would have planned more time between our tour and when we arrived at Britannia. I would have liked to have the kids go to the bathroom first, and I definitely would have grabbed a sweater for the littler ones. When you are done with your underground tour, you can pop around the grounds of Britannia and check out their interactive and fun exhibits, watch films, and view artifacts that can bring the mine to life for you and your kiddos. Our kids loved that almost everything was interactive in some way, helping them grasp abstract concepts and get a better feel for the tools of the trade and the history of the mine. After we explored the museum a bit and played in the exhibits, we headed to the much-anticipated gold panning station that is regularly stocked with gold and other small stones that you can actually take home with you. After arriving at the station, I realized quickly that I had absolutely no idea how to pan for gold, so I really appreciated the detailed instructions on the signs that walked me through it so I could explain it to the kids. The kids ended up loving the gold panning station and could have easily spent hours there, but after our middle child dumped water all over himself we realized that we should give up and walk away with our measly findings while 2/3 of our children weren't soaked.
Pro tip: If you have an overly exuberant child, I would highly recommend a change of clothing after gold panning. If nothing else, it might be a good idea to keep a change of clothes in the car, just in case. Our day at Britannia concluded with a visit to the gift shop where we loved seeing all the mining-themed gifts and souvenirs. My kids love rocks of all kinds, so of course we had to each pick out a bag of polished stones, and we also got them little vials filled with gold flakes to make up for the little we got panning. To find out more, visit britanniaminemuseum.ca. You can purchase day passes, or if you are close enough to drive you can even get museum memberships for your family and visit over and over again throughout the year.