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23 best science and discovery centres across Canada

Gather up your budding physicists and cunning chemists. We’ve found the best spots to mix up some family-friendly fun.

By Lisa van de Geyn

23 best science and discovery centres across Canada

Best science and discovery centres across Canada

Educational fun

Round up your magnifying glasses and thinking caps because we’ve found the coolest (and educational) science and discovery centres across the country. 

A version of this article appeared in our October 2013 issue with the headline “All the best: Science & discovery centres,” pp.135-43.

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre

YK: Northern Lights Centre

This centre was built to showcase the brilliant northern lights, so if your family has never seen the aurora borealis and you’re heading out to the Yukon, you’re in luck: Scientists say the best “auroral activity” happens every 11 years, and this year’s show will be the best it’s been since 2002. The prime time to see the lights are on clear, dark winter nights. High season is from late August to mid-April, so if you’re visiting in the summer, you can head inside and watch a video of the the lights streamed on a 360-degree dome screen in a theatre. 

Admission to the centre is free. For the show: general admission,$9; kids seven to 16, $6; children younger than seven get in free.

807 Frank Trail, Watson Lake. 867-536-7827

Get more information at northernlightscentre.ca 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Northern Lights Centre

BC: SHAW Ocean Discovery Centre

The touch pools (filled with sea urchins and sea stars that visitors are encouraged to pet) and underwater views into the award-winning aquarium of the Salish Sea are exciting sites for young and old. But what we love most about the centre is Tot Tuesdays, where preschoolers and their parents can create ocean-themed crafts and play games.

Admission: Adults, $15; kids four to 12, $7.50; youth 13 to 18, $10; children younger than three get in free.

9811 Seaport Pl., Sidney. 250-665-7511

Get more information at oceandiscovery.ca 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre

BC: HR MacMillan Space Centre

If your kids followed Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s once- in-a-lifetime journey through the galaxy earlier this year, they’ll be blown away by a visit to the space centre, where they can explore the solar system in the planetarium, throughout the exhibit gallery and at some pretty awesome live shows (like Day in Space and Planet Hunters). The centre hosts sleepovers and even has a Not Quite an Overnight Adventure starting at 6 p.m., so younger children can take part, too. Head next door, and you’ll find the Gordon MacMillan Southam Observatory, where little stargazers can watch the Vancouver sky.

Admission: Adults, $18; kids five to 11, $13; youth 12 to 18, $15; children younger than five get in free. (Additional fees for most programs.) 1100 Chestnut St., Vancouver. 604-738-7827 Get more information at spacecentre.ca 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: H.R. MacMillan Space Centre

BC: Science World at Telus World of Science

There are seven permanent galleries at Science World, as well as feature exhibits, a Science Theatre and an OMNIMAX Theatre, but it’s the Kidspace gallery that will catch your tot’s attention. Young explorers ages two to six can learn about water, light, movement and colour; the three- to five-year-old set can join the Preschool Curiosity Club and participate in age-appropriate programs in the Discovery Lab. Wee ones can also have a sleepover, where they’ll see a live science show and get late-night and early-morning snacks ($70 per camper). When your crew gets peckish, you’ll find vending machines throughout the centre, as well as the Snack Lab (at the OMNIMAX Theatre) and a restaurant with a healthy children’s menu.

Admission: Adults, $23.25; kids three to 12, $15.25; youth 13 to 18, $18.50.

1455 Quebec St., Vancouver. 604-443-7440

Get more information at scienceworld.ca 

Crowd looking at installation at Science World at Telus World of SciencePhoto: Science World at Telus World of Science

BC: Okanagan Science Centre

Families in the Okanagan Valley flock to the OSC to witness how the centre works to conserve the environmental health of their community – OSC houses the province’s air-monitoring station that tests the air residents breathe, and partners with Okanagan WaterWise to teach students about one of our most important resources. There are also a slew of fabulous kids’ programs (suited to budding astronomers, engineers, biologists and chemists).

Admission: Adults, $12; kids three to 18, $9; children younger than two get in free.

2704 Hwy 6, Vernon. 250-545-3644

Get more information at okscience.ca 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Okanagan Science Centre

AB: Fossil World Dinosaur Discovery Centre

There’s a ton to do here: Children can dig for real fossils, mine for minerals, chill out at the Dino Cinema, get artsy at the creation stations, climb the fossil wall, and meet the scariest T. Rex in the country – the world’s most impressive animatronic dinosaur. Drumheller, the aptly named dinosaur capital of the world, was on the dino migratory route 65 million years ago, and it’s believed that there are still thousands of undiscovered prehistoric remains in the town. (Just don’t search for bones outside of the centre’s fossil station – anyone digging for bygone beasts in Drumheller can face up to $50,000 in fines.) Admission: General admission, $7; children younger than two get in free. (Fossil dig, $15 and mineral mine, $7.)
1381 N. Dinosaur Trail, Drumheller. 403-823-6666 Get more information at fossilworld.com 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Fossil World Dinosaur Discovery Centre

AB: Telus World of Science

Besides travelling exhibits that visit the Edmonton museum, there’s a Health Gallery, Space Gallery and a cool Robotics Lab. There’s also Discoveryland (aimed at newborns to eight-year-olds), which has a Tot Galaxy play area for toddlers, and Sky High, where wee ones can pretend to be plane engineers, pilots and passengers. The newest exhibit is Body Worlds & The Cycle of Life, where kids will get up close and personal with the human body and how we age. March break and summer camps are offered for a fee.

Admission: Adults, $19.95; children three to 12, $13.95; youth 13 to 17, $16.95.

11211 142 St. N.W., Edmonton. 780-451-3344

Get more information at telusworldofscienceedmonton.com 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Telus World of Science

AB Oil Sands Discovery Centre

Check out the world’s biggest single oil deposit while learning about science, technology and Alberta’s rich history. Families should make the trek on weekends, when the discovery lab runs fun experiments and activities for kids.

Admission: Adults, $11; kids seven to 17, $7; children younger than seven get in free.

515 MacKenzie Blvd., Fort McMurray. 780-743-7167

Get more information at history.alberta.ca/oilsands 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Oil Sands Discovery Centre

AB: The Telus Spark Science Centre

There are plenty of things for kids to explore and ways to use their growing imaginations at this six-year-old facility, including the Earth & Sky gallery (where your brood can recreate a thunderstorm or cause an avalanche); the Being Human gallery (do you know whether you’re right-eyed or left-eyed? You’ll find out here); and the Open Studio Workshop (where kids of all ages can experiment and test ideas with staff, from 1-3 p.m.). There are also drop-in workshops and live demos on a variety of science-based topics designed for students, and a cool Creative Kids Museum, which has a climbing structure and a spot for tots to build their own inventions on-site.

Admission: Adults, $19.95, kids three to 12, $12.95; youth 13 to 17, $15.95; children younger than three get in free.

220 St. George’s Dr. N.E., Calgary. 403-817-6800

Get more information at sparkscience.ca 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: The Telus Spark Science Centre

SK: Saskatchewan Science Centre

With three exhibit-filled floors, kids can learn about everything from their bodies (Anatomy Academy) to what life is like on the red planet (Mars Trek). The Ag-grow-land exhibit is all about Saskatchewan’s agriculture industry, and it explores how the province’s farmers feed the world. There are also stage shows (like the Cotton Candy Sugar Show and a demo about Cryogenics), an IMAX theatre and a climbing wall for kids ages eight and older. If you’re a member of the centre and have a preschooler, she can participate in Science Time with Tots on Tuesday mornings. Families can enjoy activities at 2 p.m. (crafts, experiments and games) on most days.

Admission: Adults, $10; kids three to 12, $8; teens 13 to 17, $9; children younger than two get in free.

2903 Powerhouse Dr., Regina. 306-522-4629

Get more information at sasksciencecentre.com 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Saskatchewan Science Centre

SK: T.Rex Discovery Centre

Home to Scotty, Canada’s largest Tyrannosaurus Rex (he’s 65 million years old), the Discovery Centre teaches kids all about the enormous herbivores and carnivores that once roamed the earth. Exhibits and activities include finding fossils and visiting the full-scale diorama that showcases what Saskatchewan would’ve looked like – and the life-sized animals that remained – after the dinosaurs became extinct. The facility is open seasonally from Victoria Day long weekend to Labour Day.

Admission: By donation.

1 T-rex Dr., Eastend. 306-295-4009

Get more information at trexcentre.ca 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: T.Rex Discovery Centre

MB: Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

Tween palaeontologists are sure to find remains when they head out on the centre’s fossil dig (there are half-day, one-, two- and five-day excursions). But it’s not the bones of velociraptors or brachiosauruses they’ll be hunting for, it’s the fossils of the marine reptiles and fish that once ruled the sea. (Manitoba was submerged with saltwater in the Cretaceous period.) You’ll also find plenty of these remains in the centre’s gallery, which boasts the largest collection of sea reptile fossils in the country. Kids can also check out shark and bird fossils, as well as the interactive Nintendo Wii exhibit.

Admission: Adults, $8; students five to 18, $5; preschoolers get in free. (Fossil dig excursions are for kids 10 and older; prices range from $50 to $525.)

111-B Gilmour St., Morden. 204-822-3406

Get more information at discoverfossils.com 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

MB: Planetarium at the Manitoba Museum

Visit the Manitoba Museum’s digital planetarium – it’s the first in Canada that uses two projectors to create a single picture that covers the inside of the dome. The images are 3-D, so kids will feel like they’re floating through the cosmos while they’re sitting in their seats. There are several shows throughout the day – some more suitable to younger viewers than others, so check the listings online before leaving home. The on-site Science Gallery offers more than 100 different exhibits.

Admission to the planetarium section: Adults, $11; kids three to 11, $7.50; youth 12 to 17, $9; children two and younger get in free. (You can visit other galleries at the museum for an extra fee.)

190 Rupert Ave., Winnipeg. 204-956-2830

Get more information at manitobamuseum.ca/main/planetarium-intro/ 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Planetarium at the Manitoba Museum

ON: Ontario Science Centre

With more than 600 things to see and do in the 10 exhibition halls, the Science Centre is a pretty cool place for the whole family. The Amazing Aging Machine, where software will show your kid what she’ll look like decades from now, is a must-see. Check out The Living Earth (where you can take a walk through a rainforest and see inside a cave) and the Science Arcade (where the famous hair-raising electricity show takes place). Don't worry about packing lunch – there are plenty of meal options on-site, from hot dogs and pizza slices, to pasta and grilled-cheese sandwiches. (Parents can get a caffeine jolt from Starbucks.) For local kids, there are day camps offered on PA days. For a truly awesome experience, sign up to participate in one of their sleepovers, which includes a PJ party with DJ, evening snack, breakfast and an IMAX flick ($64 per person). Admission: Adults, $22; kids three to 12, $13; youth 13 to 17, $16; children younger than two get in free.
770 Don Mills Rd., Toronto. 416-696-1000 Get more information at ontariosciencecentre.ca 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Ontario Science Centre

ON: Science North and Dynamic Earth

Check out the IMAX theatre, butterfly gallery and planetarium at Science North. Here, little ones can play in the Toddler’s Treehouse while older siblings can explore four floors of exhibits like the Genetics and Wetland labs; there’s also Constellation Corner, where they can learn about Canadian astronauts and look at images taken from a Canadian satellite. At Dynamic North (their neighbouring centre), there are two levels of Ontario rocks and gems, and the Earth Gallery, where visitors can relive how the impact from a meteorite created the Sudbury Basin. A definite must-see is the underground tour – travel down into rock to see what a mine looks like. And your family won’t want to miss one of the most recognizeable photo-ops with the Big Nickel at Dynamic North. Admission for one attraction: Adults (several packages to choose from), from $21; youth 13 to 17, from $19, kids 12 and under, from $17. 100 Ramsey Lake Rd., Sudbury. 122 Big Nickel Rd., Sudbury. 705-522-3701 Get more information at sciencenorth.ca 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Science North and Dynamic Earth

ON: Aquatarium

The new Aquatarium in Brockville opened it's doors in spring 2014. This huge interactive discovery centre is right on the St. Lawrence River, and it’s all about the history and ecology of the famous Thousand Islands region in Ontario. Tots will want to watch the otters in their glass-enclosed habitat, then sit in the theatre and have a “virtual visit” with sturgeon and muskies caught on the underwater camera that feeds onto the screen. 

Admission: Adults, $19.99; youth 13 to 17, $14.99, kids 12 and under, $9.99.

6 Broad St., Brockville

Get more information on the opening, programs, admission and hours at aquatarium.ca

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Aquatarium

QC: Insectarium

Did someone say bugs? If your kids are into creepy-crawlies, the Insectarium is North America’s largest insect museum, where budding entomologists can see about 160,000 types of insects – from creatures with up to a few dozen legs and antennae, to winged ones that buzz, flap and flutter. Kids can get up close while experts explain how bugs find mates, what they eat and how they defend themselves. They’ll also get a kick out of The BuzzGround, the museum’s outdoor play area and discovery zone.

Admission (discounts for Quebec residents): Families from $44.25; adults from $15.75; kids five to 17 from $8; students (18+ with student card) from $12; children younger than five get in free.

4581, rue Sherbrooke est, Montreal. 514-872-1400

Get more information at espacepourlavie.ca/insectarium 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Insectarium

QC: Cosmodôme

Kids can explore the red planet, see a spacesuit worn by astronauts on the Apollo missions, check out model rockets and take off on a journey into the cosmos from the comfort of their space capsule. What makes this museum truly one-of-a-kind is their space camp – nine- to 15-year-olds can sign up for three- or six-day camps and enjoy an authentic astronaut training program where they’ll experiment with replicas of NASA simulators, launch a mini rocket, attend workshops and sleep in a module like the ones in the International Space Station. Five- to 12-year-olds can also sign up for spring and summer day camps.

Admission: Adults, $16.50; kids seven and older from $13; children younger than seven get in free.

2150 Laurentian Highway, Laval. 450-978-3600

Get more information at cosmodome.org 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Cosmodôme

QC: Montreal Science Centre

Four- to seven-year-olds are in for a treat at the MSC – “Clic! The Zone for Curious Young Minds” is the colourful space created for school-agers where they can flex their imagination muscles by designing a roller coaster, building a house and playing with patterns.

Admission: Adults, from $15; kids four to 12, from $8.50; teens 13 to 17, from $13; children younger than three get in free. 

2 Commune St. W., Montreal. 514-496-4724

Get more information at montrealsciencecentre.com 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Montreal Science Centre

NS: Discovery Centre

Perfect for promising scientists, the Centre has live science demos (the kinetic energy “bed of nails” show is the most popular), a life-sized suspension bridge, and even an exhibit where future engineers can try building their own roller coaster. There are camps offered throughout the year, including age-appropriate clubs that revolve around building with Lego. For small scientists, the Little Learners program (for three- to five-year- olds and their caregivers) lets tots have fun in a hands-on, educational environment.

Admission: Adults, $12; kids three to 18, $10; children younger than two get in free.

1593 Barrington St., Halifax. 902-492-4422

Get more information at discoverycentre.ns.ca 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Discovery Centre

NFLD: The Suncor Energy Fluvarium

Fluvarium means flowing water, so kids actually get to watch how marine life exists in their truly natural habitat through the nine large viewing windows where fish swim freely into the building. This open system allows all kinds of aquatic species to move in and out of the Fluvarium from Nagle’s Hill Brook, which connects to Rennie’s River, Quidi Vidi Lake and out to the Atlantic. Enroll your kids in the Fluvarium Kids Club, where five- to 10-year-olds can collect stickers and earn a “Fresh Water Friends” certificate for attending four weekend programs each year. (The club is free with the price of admission.)

Admission: Families (two adults and two children) $25; adults, $8; kids four to 14, $5; children younger than four get in free.

5 Nagle’s Place, St. John’s. 709-754-3474

Get more information at fluvarium.ca 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: The Suncor Energy Fluvarium

NB: Science East

There’s plenty to see here, including a planetarium, and the only science-themed playground in Atlantic Canada, with a climbing wall and a human gyroscope. Sign up for Robo-Families, which takes place one Saturday afternoon each month, where parents and kids can build themed robots together. It’s the perfect antidote for wintery “we’re bored!” weekends. The centre also offers sleepovers and school, March break and summer camp programs.

Admission: Adults, $10; kids three to 16, $6.50; children younger than three get in free.

668 Brunswick St., Fredericton. 506-457-2340

Get more information at scienceeast.nb.ca 

23 best science and discovery centres across CanadaPhoto: Science East

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This article was originally published on Nov 05, 2013
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