Canadian Museum of Nature Review

Today my husband and I decided to take our daughter Willow (20 months old) to the Canadian Museum of Nature here in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. This is our review of the museum.

The museum is fairly easy to get to as it is just off highway 417 on the Metcalfe exit. The only downside to the museum is that parking is not free – we were there for about an hour and a half and it cost us $7.00 so a three-four hour visit will cost you nearly the price of one person’s admission. It cost us $18 each to get inside as we opted for the special exhibit that was on called “Whales: The Exhibition.” Willow was free as she is under two. The museum is open right now, for summer hours, from 9AM – 6PM and is open a little later on Thursday and Friday evenings.

The museum is broken up into four floors plus the basement. Each floor has two annexes in which exhibits are displayed. In the basement is the animalium and the theatre, the first floor houses the dinosaurs and the cafeteria, the second floor featured the water exhibits and the mammals exhibit while the third floor housed the special exhibit featuring the whales as well as the Earth gallery. On the fourth and final floor, there is a discovery zone and a bird gallery. There are many closed off areas that are only accessible to staff and areas that are open for rentals for special events.


We arrived at around 10AM and we hit up the dinosaurs first as Willow LOVES dinosaurs. The first part is mostly fossils and information about dinosaurs but as you make your way through, you come to a set of real-to-life dinosaurs that were a huge hit with the people passing through. This was really fun for Willow as she loved looking at the model animals versus the fossils and information. She is only twenty months old after all!



After looking at the dinosaurs, we made our way downstairs to the animalium. I was actually sort of disappointed with this area. There are about twelve glass cases in one small(ish) room that house insects. Things like spiders and cockroaches and mealworms. While it was neat to see them, the area was small and you couldn’t find some of the bugs that were on display. I remember visiting the museum years and years ago and the insect gallery was my favourite as it was extensive and more interactive but now it just seems a bit cut off from the museum and underwhelming.


After the insects, we headed up to the second floor where we visited the mammals gallery and the water gallery. These galleries were really neat! The mammals one was probably my favourite next to the dinosaurs. Inside, there are glass cases filled with real-to-life mammals. Mammals such as caribou, wolves, beavers and more. A true homage to Canadian mammalian life. Willow loved running from case to case looking at the animals and throughout that area there were animal sounds and fur that could be touched.



The water gallery was very neat too. When you first walk through the doors, you come straight into a scene with polar bears, which Willow loved. The rest of the exhibit features various fish tanks and a huge fossil of a whale. There are so many different species of fish and water life to look at in here. There is also a really pretty area where there are live cams of dolphins and whales at sea and you can sit and watch them. I actually took a nursing break here with Willow and it was so peaceful, she almost fell asleep! There is also a ship that the kids can play inside of and it features a kitchen and a bed cubby and different things to show them what life at sea is like. Really cute.



We didn’t spend much time in the discovery zone, as Willow was getting pretty tired at that point, but it looks AWESOME for kids! Today, they had set up a few different craft projects which you could do and there were other interactive and fun activities that could be done. The bird gallery was neat to look at also and Willow loved hooting like an owl and caw’ing like a bird as we walked through.


The special exhibit, “Whale: The Exhibition”, was okay but it wasn’t worth the extra $6 per person in my opinion. It would be great if you were a whale fanatic or were teaching kids about whales and the kids were a bit older. However, it was filled with a ton of information and not as many interactive features so it was lost on Willow and since we were chasing around a toddler, it was lost on us too. Next time, I would skip the special exhibit unless it was something that we were REALLY into as a family.

We skipped the films (they have a 3D film as well) as Willow is a bit young.

Overall, I really enjoyed the museum. There are enough things inside to really amuse the little ones and the interactivity is great. There are gorgeous, bright and interactive screens throughout the entire museum, which will be amazing once Willow is a bit older and learning about specific animals or things in nature.


There are also a few little nooks for the little ones that kept her attention. There was a puzzle lying out on a table and a room with a puppet theatre, which Steve went into and did an impromptu puppet show and he even had another family watching him perform!


The museum has just recently had a facelift and it shows. It’s clean, bright and the facilities are wonderful. The architecture is fantastic and there are so many beautiful things to take pictures of. We had a really fantastic time and will definitely go again in the future.


Have you been?  Thinking about going?  Leave a comment below so other parents, who might be thinking of making this a destination with their families, can hear about other people’s opinions!


  1. Chris - Canadian Dad says

    Our kids loved the Nature Museum and all the activities they had to offer for them. My review would have looked a lot like this, not cool with paying for parking either. We skipped the Whale exhibit mostly because I didn’t agree with having to pay extra, lol. Glad it was fun!

    • says

      Thanks for commenting Chris! I’m glad you agree about the paid parking… it was an expensive 1 1/2 hours, that is for sure! Cost us $36 for the tickets and $7 for parking making it a $44 activity. Not sure it’s worth that much.

  2. says

    I took DD5 there a few years ago when it was still under construction, so would love to go back now that it is complete. I am sad that you can’t really tell from the inside that it looks like a castle outside! I remember going on class trips as a kid and it was so spooky and cool! You could picture the dinosaurs coming alive at night and walking through the castle halls! I miss that about the new construction. I also agree, that I remember the insects/reptiles having a much larger area. I was afraid of them way back then! Sad to see some of the history gone, but glad it is nice and fresh too to stay rellevant. Hope to take my 2 soon! Thanks Erin! :)

    • says

      You know, you bring up an excellent point Crystal. It really HAS lost some of its castle-feel. Inside, I remember being a kid and looking up from the bottom floor to the top floor and thinking, “Wow, this place is AWESOME” and now it has a more clinical, modern feel, which doesn’t match the exterior. I do love that they modernized the interactive features but I don’t love that they changed the look and feel of the inside so much so that it’s lost its original appeal.

      • says

        We went today, and it cost us $38 for the tickets (fortunately we had a buy 1 get 1 free admission pass from our entertainment book which saved $12) but then our parking was $12….so $50 for the day. Plus we went for lunch after for another $22, plus cost of gas, so prob closer to $100 total said and done. lol We don’t do stuff like this as a family often and the kids enjoyed it so it was a nice day out.

  3. Tricia says

    Thanks for the review Erin. I would love to go with Carter. Looks like there is a lot for the younger ones too which is great. I will have to keep in mind car pooling to save a bit of money.

    • says

      Took the kids today! Ava LOVED it and Mason had fun running around seeing and touching everything too! I am sure C will love it Tricia!

  4. Julie MacDougall says

    All the Ottawa museums are great for kids of all ages, I hope you all take your kids many times over the years, we did and always enjoyed ourselves. Even last year Keith (20 at the time) and Olivia (14 then) and I all took in the newly reopened Museum of Nature and really enjoyed it. This summer Olivia wanted to visit the Science and Tech museum again, so we did. If you want to save money major money on admittance the Renfrew Public Library has passes for all the Ottawa museums that you can borrow that allow a family of 2 adults and 3 kids free admittance. You can borrow them with your library card and have the pass for 3 days. I think the other valley libraries have these and probably the ottawa ones too. Here’s the link for the renfrew library for more info Maybe the OVM could help promote this more as the library sure doesn’t make it obvious, I couldn’t find the info just by going to their website, but I knew they had them, I’ve used them. I had to do a google search to find the right page!