Occupying one of the most iconic buildings in Ottawa, the Canadian Museum of Nature remains a firm favourite among kids of all ages in the capital. Most children simply refer to this museum as “The Castle.”
The historical significance of this building, the first one in Canada built to house a national museum, is magnified by its regal design.
Despite looking quite European in style, there are many aspects of Canadiana hidden in the architecture. See if your little ones can spy the Canadian animals hiding on the entrance facade or on the staircase!
The latest addition to the structure was made in 2010 with the opening of the glass shard known as the Queen’s Lantern. Kids like to stand inside bathed in sunlight or run around the open space and up and down the grand staircase.
What To See and Do With Kids at Ottawa’s Museum of Nature
Here is your complete guide to Ottawa’s Museum of Nature with kids!
The museum has four floors and a basement. Each one is dedicated to a different species or the environment it lives in, including the mammal gallery, water gallery, and bird gallery. Large elevators make navigating the different floors simple with or without a stroller.
The basement is where school groups go for educator-led activities and presentations, but it’s also where you’ll find special exhibitions and temporary displays. The 3D theatre is also down here, for close-up viewing of a range of different nature films. Movies and special exhibits require a separate admission ticket, so make sure you purchase one when you arrive if you want to include this experience in your visit.
The Fossil Gallery is on this floor and is arguably the most popular space in the museum as it’s where the dinosaurs live!
Kids can explore the fossils and 30 complete skeletons before wandering through to observe the lifelike dinosaur models in the swamp forest. Even though children are not actually allowed to touch the life-size displays, it’s still very exciting to stand beside them. A movie depicting the demise of the dinosaurs plays at regular times in both English and French.
Continue up to the second floor to find the Mammal Gallery where kids can pretend that they are a seal and pop their head up into the scene to find a polar bear waiting for them!
Other Canadian large mammals on display include grizzly bears, moose, caribou, cougars, and more.
Across the landing, the Water Gallery features the full skeleton of a blue whale. If your kids are occupied, take a moment to read the plaques detailing how they got the whale’s bones treated, preserved and into the museum—it’s quite fascinating.
Keep walking through to the back of the space where there is an Arctic research vessel play structure for children to enjoy. There are seats supplied so parents can take a much-needed break while the kids play. From this floor, you can also get a good look at the Queen’s Lantern.
Up on the third floor, you’ll find the Earth Gallery, an interactive hands-on exhibition space with opportunities for children to build a volcano, examine a rock cycle diorama, and manipulate a huge animated globe. There’s even a limestone cave concealing a slide which kids just love to discover. It might be hard to get them out of this section!
Cross the hallway to see more than 500 mounted winged creatures in the Bird Gallery. The Nature Live gallery is also very popular because children get to hold live creatures, including giant bugs and creepy crawlies.
On the fourth floor, children can learn all about Canada’s arctic and listen to northern voices sharing indigenous perspectives on the land. Older children, in particular, will find it fascinating to learn all about the culture and traditions of Canada’s aboriginal nations.
Temporary and visiting exhibitions are also shown on this level.
- There is a free cloakroom to use to store your coats, bags, or strollers but everything is left at the owner’s risk. There are also more secure coin-operated lockers.
- The café offers hot and cold food and drinks, while the gift shop tempts with souvenirs of all sorts.
- On-site paid parking is available, or you can take the OC Transpo bus: routes 5, 14, 5, 7, 101, 103, and 401 all stop within a few blocks of the museum.
- The museum also offers birthday party packages for kids aged 4–8.
Senior (65+): $13
Child (3–12): $11
Tiny Tot (0–2): Free
Free admission on Thursdays 5–8 pm
Location & Contact Information
The Museum of Nature
240 McLeod Street
Ottawa, ON (corner of Metcalfe Street)