Great Whales: Up Close and Personal

GeekDad Visits the ROM’s Great Whales Exhibit in Toronto

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After a year in which all vacations were canceled and travel pretty much shut down (I know, first world problems), it was nice to be able to start making some short trips this summer. One of our stops was Toronto. And when in Toronto, a visit to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is always in order. It’s right on the subway line, so it couldn’t be easier to reach. We were able to see old favorites, including the dinosaurs, along with the new Great Wales: Up Close and Personal exhibit.

ROM general admission rates are currently $23.00 (Cdn) for adults and $14.00 for kids aged 4-14. Admission plus the Great Wales exhibit is $35.00 for adults and $21.00 for children. The ROM also offers youth, student, and senior rates.

Great Whales: Up Close and Personal
Great Whales: Up Close and Personal at Toronto’s ROM. (Photo by Brad Moon)

Great Whales: Up Close and Personal

The ROM always has a featured exhibition or two in addition to its regular offerings. They are an additional cost for admission, but any that I’ve seen have been well worth paying a little extra for. I wrote about one of these, called Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants From Gondwana, way back in 2021. The great whales exhibit was something we’d been really looking forward to. Whenever we go to Provincetown, we’re sure to stop at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, which has a program focused on whale rescues.

The centerpiece of the ROM’s whale exhibit is a blue whale skeleton, one of nine blue whales that died in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2014. There are also skeletons of other whales, including a North Atlantic right whale and a sperm whale on display, along with specimens showing the evolution of whales from land mammals to ocean-dwellers. Everything about whales, from how they sleep to how they eat, is shown. I had never seen krill in person before and was surprised at how large they are—for some reason I had always assumed that they are barely visible… The image of sperm whales sleeping while suspended vertically in the water was another mind-blower.

Great Whales: Up Close and Personal
Sperm whale skeleton at the ROM. (Photo by Brad Moon)

Organs such as the brain are on display, as is the world’s first and only preserved blue whale heart. That was something to see, and the comparison showing the amount of blood pumped by the whale’s heart compared to that of other creatures like humans was fascinating.

There are also sections that outline conservation efforts.

In all, we spent maybe 45 minutes in this specific exhibit, including the time spent watching several video presentations. It was definitely worth the extra cost. And, of course, there is the whale-themed gift gallery on the way out.


We can’t talk about visiting an attraction these days without talking about safety. The ROM was limiting admissions and booking tickets by time slots to reduce crowding. This seemed to be working well. We were there on a weekday and there was nothing approaching a crowd. Masks are required. In nearly four hours there I only encountered one person who had pulled his mask down below his nose—that’s a much lower ratio than I see in grocery stores and other public spaces.

Interactive elements of exhibits have been shut down and replaced where possible with QR codes (bring your phone or tablet). Having videos play is not quite the same for kids, but it’s better than nothing. There are frequent reminders to maintain physical distancing, including one-way routes through exhibits. These were less successful, at least when it came to the younger crowd. We frequently encountered clusters of young kids running in packs, as often as not going the wrong way…

Great Whales: Up Close and Personal
Favorites like the T-Rex skeleton in the dinosaur exhibit are still there as well. (Photo by Brad Moon)

Well Worth the Visit

Great Whales: Up Close and Personal
The ROM’s blue whale skeleton. (Photo by Brad Moon)

The bottom line? If you’re visiting Toronto—with kids or without—the ROM remains a must-see, and the Great Whales: Up Close and Personal exhibit is worth paying extra for. And if you live in or around Toronto and haven’t been able to visit the museum for a few years, the timed entries mean it’s a lot less crowded, so you can take the time to get reacquainted.

Great Whales: Up Close and Personal runs until March 20, 2022.

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