Ottawa: How to Have a Great Adventure at the Canadian Museum of Nature

Our family has had the pleasure, these past couple of years, of visiting some of the great museums around our nation’s lovely capital. Including the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Canadian Children’s Museum and Canadian Science and Technology Museum but our recent exploration of the Canadian Museum of Nature had a huge impact on my son, because there were dinosaurs! Seeing him walk through the Fossil Gallery (featuring 30 complete skeletons from the end of the dinosaur era-85 to 65 million years ago), with that perfect 5 year old’s mixture of wonderment and shock was a pleasure and to say that he was in awe would be an understatement. Whether you have a 5 year old or you’re a grown-up, the life-sized models of these dinosaurs are certainly something to see (when my husband went later with me to an intimate dinner hosted at the Museum of Nature, he was as fascinated as my son looking at the dinosaurs). 

From stomping around pretending to be dinosaurs we moved on to the Water Gallery (which has a real skeleton of a blue whale—the largest animal ever to live on our great blue planet), there are lots of fun attractions in this part of the museum including interactive displays and videos, which makes it both entertaining and educational! 

After the Water Gallery our adventure turned to discovering many of our planet’s geological wonders, my son loved to play with the 1.8 metre-high animated globe, using the controls to shift the landscape (fascinating both of us). 

If you’re in or visiting the Ottawa area I strongly recommend you stop by the Museum of Nature and start your visit like us on the first floor – exploring the Talisman Energy Fossil Gallery, then head up to the second level to see both the Water Gallery and Mammal Gallery (here’s where animals seem to come to life!), afterwards head off towards the Earth Gallery on the third floor. After plenty of time enjoyed there, you can move on to the Special Exhibition – which for us meant we saw Bugs: Outside the Box, on exhibition until March 28th 2016. 

“Bugs: Outside the Box” like the rest of the museum is exciting to see. You get up close and personal with 16 large scale realistic models created by Italian sculptor Lorenzo Possenti. It is really incredible to see these realistic models in such detail, my son and I are still talking and laughing about the all the wild bugs we saw at the exhibition! We also got to see live monarch butterflies fluttering around in a beautiful habitat, as well as other pinned moths and butterflies from a collection. Both my son and I were completely engrossed in the exhibition.

After many hours spent in the galleries, we took a much needed break from our explorations and got a snack at the Nature Café. He got fresh powered donuts and I had a salad and espresso. The ambiance of the cafe is refreshingly easy-going, spacious and inviting. We sat for a while, discussing all that we had seen and enjoying some time off our feet.

Before coming to the museum, I had discussed with Little A. the different galleries and what our “action plan” was, so that he had an understanding of how long we would spend in each spot, as well as what the rules of conduct were in a museum. Here are a few things we went over to ensure a successful and fun visit.

5 Ways to Help You Have a Great Time at the Museum with your kids:
  1. Plan in advance: take a look at the museum website. Make a list of what galleries and exhibits you’re hoping to see. 
  2. Go over the rules: just like school and the library, museums have conduct rules. Go over them with your children so they understand that the museum is no different. Otherwise it might seem to them like a very cool play area!
  3. Be clear about food: in my experience, food is always a weak spot for melt downs and confusion. Whether you are bringing your own snacks or lunch, or buying it at the museum, be clear beforehand about what your child should expect and what they shouldn’t expect. Having a meltdown, pre-outing is better than at the museum when they get hungry.
  4. Remember your camera: make sure your phone or camera is charged and ready to go. You definitely want to capture these memories on film. We took several mini-videos of our day.
  5. Walk through the museum & return to favourite spots: inevitably there will be some favourite activities or exhibitions that your kids will want to hang out at forever. Explain to them before going to the museum that they can choose 1 or 2 favourite activities to return to. That way, you can tell them when they get “stuck” at one spot that this can be one of their picks and at the end of the museum tour, you’ll come back to this spot for some extra time. This way they don’t miss seeing the rest of the museum and also don’t panic that they won’t get to come back to it. 

It was during our discussion that we decided we just had to see the 3-D Bug movie, which was absolutely frightful, as it was educational. We learned all about heroic bugs in nature (and some super creepy ones too).

If you are looking for a fun place to go with your family, the Canadian Museum of Nature should be on your list! There is so much to explore and discover, it never gets old.

We are excited to go back in June for the “Ultimate Dinosaurs” Exhibition featuring the unique dinosaurs that once roamed the ancient continent of Gondwana in the Southern Hemisphere.

The kind folks at the Canadian Museum of Nature are super friendly and helpful. You can reach out to them via social media or visit their website to better help you plan your very own adventure at the museum.

More info: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Have fun on your visit!

Emily Smith
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One Comment

  1. My family and I love visiting the Canadian Museum of Nature! It is such a gorgeous building and there is so much to see and learn!

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