A GeekDad Guide to Ottawa Part 2: Canadian Museum of Nature and Canada Aviation and Space Museum


Last week, I posted about a family trip to Ottawa, the capital of Canada. There was a bit too much to fit into a single post (it’s not that big of a city, but packs a lot for families with young kids to do), so this is part two of our visit to Ottawa.

Ottawa's historic Canadian Museum of NatureOttawa's historic Canadian Museum of Nature

The Canadian Museum of Nature. Photo by Brad Moon

I love natural history museums and so do my kids. Animal exhibits, dinosaurs, hands on activities, it’s all good. Ottawa’s Canadian Museum of Nature may not be quite the size of others we’ve visited (like New York City‘s American Museum of Natural History, for example), but it’s well worth a visit and easily kept our trio occupied for the better part of a day. The museum is housed in a stately old stone building, referred to as “the castle” that’s recently been renovated to include a large, glass atrium; stone carvings of animals and stained glass are everywhere. I don’t know what it’s like on weekends, but we found that with a weekday visit, crowds were not an issue at all, giving everyone plenty of time to enjoy the exhibits. I highly recommend the weekday visit, by the way —no crowds (just some class groups), lots of parking, no wait for elevators and lots of room in the cafeteria. The admission fee for a family is a reasonable $25, although we bought a multi-museum pass that included admission to this site. While the sheer quantity of exhibits might be underwhelming compared to AMNH, the quality is certainly on par with what we’ve come to expect at better museums.

Dinosaurs at the Canadian Museum of NatureDinosaurs at the Canadian Museum of Nature

First stop, the dinosaur exhibit. Photo by Brad Moon.

We closed out our final day with a visit to yet another museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Once again, admission was part of our multi-museum pass, but rates for a family are $18. This was one of my favorite places to visit. Besides the feeling of being surrounded by so much equipment and technology, the museum is a sprawling affair with expansive walking areas that defy over-crowding. There is so much room in here that the biggest issue is keeping track of everyone. The aircraft collection is very impressive, covering everything from the early days of flights, through to space travel. War planes are well represented and cover World War I through current models, with offerings from many national armed forces besides Canada, including the US, Britain, Germany and Russia). Commercial planes and even search and rescue aircraft are represented as well. Displays include aircraft that are suspended from the ceiling, versions with cutaways to show mechanical details and interiors and plenty of interactive stations. Museum staff offer activities for kids (the boys spent an hour tearing through the building trying to spot emblems to check them off a list) and the gift shop is one of the more interesting I’ve been in; so long as you’re interesting in aviation, that is.

A view of the sprawling Canada Aviation and Space Museum in OttawaA view of the sprawling Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa

Inside the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Photo by Brad Moon

If you have the opportunity, Ottawa is well worth a visit. It’s a great city for kids, with a huge number of museums, shopping areas and points of interest packed within a very small area. In fact, other than the Aviation and Space Museum (which we stopped at on the drive home) and a tour on an amphibious bus, we walked to all of our destinations and left the truck in the hotel parking lot. We plan on returning, maybe in the winter next time, when the Rideau Canal is frozen, becoming the world’s largest skating rink.

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