Ottawa Museums are built around unique themes that offer a wide variety of educational opportunities in our National Capital Region. With many museums to choose from (several of which are National museums), you could easily spend your entire visit just going from one museum to another. Most of the museums require a good afternoon to browse through the interesting exhibits, so if you have little kids, it’s always nice to bring a stroller along for them. Kinda makes you wish they’d invent one for adults… Be sure to wear comfortable shoes!
TIP: If you will be spending a week in the Ottawa area, and Museums are your passion, consider buying yourself a Ottawa museum passport. These passports cost $35 per individual or $85 for a family. The passport will give you admission to the following museums: Canada Agriculture Museum, Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Canada Science and Technology Museum, Canaadian Museum of Civilization, Canadian Museum of Nature, Canadian War Museum, Laurier House, National Gallery of Canada, and the Royal Canadian Mint. Purchase of the passport also entitles you to a 20% discount to a performance at the National Arts Centre. You can buy these passes at any of the participating museums or at the Capital Infocentre at 90 Wellington Street.
Ottawa museums are often housed in unique architectural buildings of interest. This museum is no different. It has the distinction of being housed in a fanciful castle-like structure that was originally designed to mirror the Centre Block of Canada’s Parliament Buildings. Where is the matching clock tower you ask? In 1915, the top of the tower was removed because the foundation could not support the tower’s weight. Fast-forward to May 2010, when the new tower, called “the Lantern”, finally replaced this missing tower. This museum is located on 240 McLeod Street, about 20 minutes (on foot) south of Parliament Hill. Claim to fame: it’s larger-than-life inhabitants–the dinosaur exhibit–among others.
“Science and Tech” is a favourite among children, with lots of interactive exhibits, fun demonstrations and special events. It is located south-east of downtown Ottawa at 1867 St. Laurent Boulevard–just watch for the bright red and white checked lighthouse. Lighthouse?? That’s right–a working one at that! Rumour has it that local residents complained that the lighthouse beam was keeping them up at night, so the bulb was switched out for a lower-wattage one. Coolest exhibit: tie between the Connexions (Digital Networks) exhibit and the old classic, the Crazy Kitchen.
Canadian Museum of History (formerly Canadian Museum of Civilization)
While this museum is not officially located in Ottawa, it’s traditionally included on lists of Ottawa Museums because of easy access from the downtown core. Just across from Parliament Hill, on 100 Laurier Street in Gatineau, Quebec, the museum building’s distinctive curvy shape hugs the banks of the Ottawa River. The museum includes the Canadian Children’s Museum, the Canadian Postal Museum, and an Imax theatre under one roof–not to mention a spectacular view of the Ottawa River, Parliament Hill, outdoor Zen garden, luscious landscaping and water fountains. Famous feature: a dozen full-scale totem poles in the museum’s Grand Hall.
Starting June 27, 2014 to June 26, 2015, the Canadian Museum of History will be hosting the Currency Museum exhibition entitled “CENTimental Journey”. The event costs are as follows : Adult $13, Senior $11, Student $10, Child (3-12) $8, Family (5 pers. – max 2 adults) $32. The exhibition walks you through more than 150 years of the Canadian 1 cent piece. Featuring 12 significant coins, this exhibition evokes Canadian and world history even as it profiles our humble pennies. The coins are backed up with entertaining graphics in a fun catalogue format demonstrating the enormous change in the buying power of the cent over the last 100 years. Come and see both the first and the last pennies struck at the Royal Canadian Mint. Come see what they could buy.
The Canadian War Museum opened its new building in 2005. A welcome addition to the Ottawa museums in the area, this national museum presents the theme of Canada’s military history from earliest times to the present. The unique architecture houses artifacts of national significance, including a Voodoo jet and the headstone of the Unknown Soldier from the First World War. Visitors will gain new appreciation for Canadian veterans’ service and sacrifice. It’s location is at 1 Vimy Place, on LeBreton Flats, west of Parliament Hill.
Canada Aviation and Space Museum
Explore the wonders of flight and how aviation played a part in transforming and developing Canada. With the most extensive collection of aircraft and aviation artifacts in Canada, it’s exciting to see that they decided to expand and include the theme of human space flight. This museum can be found at 11 Aviation Parkway. Coolest thing ever? You can hire a helicopter (the Robinson R44) to tour Parliament Hill or Gatineau Hills. Vintage more your style? They also offer tours in the Waco UPF-7: an open cockpit biplane circa 1939. (Loop-de-loops, anyone?)
The Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada presents exhibitions on the history of money in Canada and abroad. It is located inside the historic Bank of Canada building at 245 Sparks Street. The museum is home to the National Currency Collection, which is the largest collection of Canadian bank notes, coins and tokens in the world. The museum will be closing on JULY 2, 2013 for a three year period. During this time period, the museum will be completely re-designed and modernized. They will also be organizing several travelling exhibitions–check their website for complete details. Special bonus: the Currency Museum is FREE!
This national historic site is a museum in the 1829 home of the Billings family–a founding family that settled in Gloucester Township in the 1800’s. This little gem features exhibits and artifacts from five generations of the Billings family.