Canadian Children’s Museum

Canadian Children’s Museum

The Canadian Children’s Museum is located in Gatineau, Quebec, just across the river from the Parliament Buildings and Art Gallery. It opened in 1989 as a permanent exhibition housed in the Canadian Museum of Civilization. The Children’s Museum is specifically targeted for kids up to 16, but I think it is also suitable for grown-ups who are in touch with their inner child! We’ve had the opportunity to visit this “museum-within-a-museum” several times and watched as it has expanded over the years.

The museum-within-a-museum: the entrance to the Canadian Children's Museum inside the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

We love that it is designed especially for children and the way they learn. And we love that the staff are so good with kids. How do we know this? We’ve had the opportunity to visit during their busy time on Thursday nights (when it is free from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.). Despite having put in a long day, the museum staff were pleasant, cheerful and helpful.


The central theme of the museum is The Great Adventure. The fully-interactive Canadian Children’s Museum is beautifully and thoughtfully designed with hands-on learning in mind.

Over 30 permanent exhibits give children the opportunity to “travel the world.” Pick up your “passport” at the front desk and make your way from exhibit to exhibit, collecting passport stamps along the way.

The adventure is interesting to children of all ages (but specifically designed to serve children up to age 16) with props, costumes, hands-on artifacts, group interaction by exploring and learning through role playing. The kids are having so much fun, they don’t even notice they are learning! You can tell that a lot of thought went into each exhibit and they are specifically tailored to cover different styles of learning and processing. We could easily spend a few hours there, especially if you catch an Imax film and or have food in their Voyageurs Cafeteria, Bistro Boreal, or Cafe Express. For those on a budget, there is a designated place called “The Lunchbox” for individuals or groups with their own lunches. Your children can also participate in craft workshops that they hold throughout the day.


There was really so much to see and do, the kids were cheerfully entranced for the entire time we spent there. On one trip, we stayed there for over four hours–no mean trick with a toddler of two (at the time), plus his two older siblings!

There’s a great theatre with tons of props and costumes to try on. A stage to act out starring roles, and a control booth with lighting and sound effects. The kids also enjoyed the International Village where everything is child sized and comes with numerous props to play with. Different countries are represented with little playhouses that teach about the people, culture and customs of that country.

They tried on kimonos at the Japanese house, sat in a child-size Bedouin tent, shopped in the Greek farmer’s market, tried writing Hieroglyphs in the Egyptian pyramid, played a keyboard mallet instrument and watched a shadow play in Thailand.

They “painted” walls, tried their hand at plumbing, tiling, and architecture in the Building section. At the Port of Entry, a huge ship with a crane allowed young ones to cooperate with others and practice loading freight from the dock, or “swabbing the decks” with play mops and buckets. A play kitchen allows them to cook and serve their restaurant customers. An out of the way corner offers them the chance to be puppeteers with an old-fashioned puppet show box. Honestly, I can’t pick a favourite!

Mystery Message at the Port of Entry


A mystery message in International Flag Code is strung across the freight ship.
The symbols found in the International Flag Code

Flags hang from the mast of the ship at the Port of Entry exhibit. Can you figure out what the mystery message says?

Hint: Use the International Flag Code to help you.
(Click to see the larger picture)


  • the Canadian Children’s Museum currently occupies 8036 square metres (86,502 square feet) of indoor and outdoor exhibit areas
  • the museum has welcomed over 8 million children and their families since 1989
  • average annual attendance of 500,000


Canadian Museum of Civilization
100 Laurier Street
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0M8


May 1 to September 1, 2013
Monday to Wednesday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
July 1 (Canada Day): 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

September 2 to October 14, 2013
Monday to Wednesday: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday: 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday to Sunday: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

October 15, 2013 to March 31, 2014
Monday to Wednesday: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Thursday: 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday to Sunday: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
December 24: 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
December 25: CLOSED
January 6 to 10, 2014: CLOSED for the Museum Annual Maintenance


Admission fees for the Museum of Civilization grants you access to the Children’s Museum, special exhibitions and all the Museum’s galleries. Packages are available in various combinations, depending on if you want to add a visit to their partner museum, the Canadian War Museum. You can also add IMAX films to your admission. They offer packages for families of five and group pricing. And a museum membership is available which gives you admission to the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Canadian Children’s Museum, and the Canadian War Museum plus discounts on parking, IMAX tickets, and restaurant and boutiques in the museum.

IGtO TIP: If you are a member of the Ottawa Public Library, you can borrow a museum pass that will allow you to visit the museum for free. (Usually you have to be pretty patient though, there are a limited number of passes available and usually a long wait for them!)

It is free at all times for members and volunteers (except IMAX), and every Thursday from 4 – 8 p.m. (general admission). You’ll also gain free admission on Canada Day (July 1), and Remembrance Day (November 11). Free admission is given to all Aboriginal peoples upon presentation of an Indian Status Card.

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