Two years ago, Big Guy and I visited Toronto. I was there for a conference, he was there for the Hockey Hall of Fame. We didn’t have a lot of time to sight-see, but one of the places we did visit was the Ontario Science Centre. Having worked at the Boston Museum of Science, my bar is pretty high, and I wasn’t expecting much. Still, I knew it was something that we’d both enjoy doing for an afternoon, so we gave it a shot. I was in for a shock. The Ontario Science Centre is fantastic! We spent the entire day there checking out all of the exhibits. By the time we were finished, I knew I had to come back with the kids. In fact, it inspired our recent road trip to Toronto as a family.
The Ontario Science Centre, which is just outside of Toronto proper, just celebrated 45 years of discovery. The building outside doesn’t look like much, but you and your kids are in for a treat when you step inside…
One of our first (and favorite) stops was the Weston Family Innovation Centre. This large area houses a range of hands-on exhibits that are all about real-world science solutions and experiments. There are spots for creating stop motion animation, and recycling materials to make a new creation. You can race cars, or see what sound waves look like. We could have spent another hour in there exploring and playing. Here’s Bug practicing his flying skills.
Big Guy and Bug exploring together.
LadyBug getting her science on!
This is a popular (and messy) spot. Kids create planes out of paper and place them in air tubes. They shoot up into the sky and flutter back down. There was a dad there tearing up bits of paper to throw in the tubes. It was equally fun and obnoxious. Just be prepared to be showered with scraps of paper while you’re in the area!
The museum recently opened a new exhibit that was all about the body. It was under construction when we were there the first time, so it was exciting to see it in action. Here the kids are dancing and jumping to help generate enough electricity to light up this floor. LadyBug and I were drawn over by image of a woman doing silks (her favorite circus skill) hanging above, but “Let It Go” started playing, I knew she wasn’t going anywhere!
LadyBug took to the climbing wall. This is a temporary wall while they complete the full-scale version. Most of the kids were just having fun jumping around on the padded floor!
There were a lot of great exhibits here on health and how the body works when you’re doing different tasks. The kids set out to race on this rowing machine, but I’m not sure either of them ever got the rhythm down.
Once you’re past the exhibit on the body, you might meander into the rainforest area. Both times I visited, it was so quiet and relaxing in there. Be prepared for plenty of humidity, though.
This is obviously one of the older areas of the museum, but it was still a lot of fun. My family is getting a workout trying to light those light bulbs. There’s also an electricity show in this area and a cool wind model of a tornado. It’s all very hands-on and engaging.
The exhibits never seem to stop! We wandered upstairs to find this bird exhibit in the hallway. You lie down in the wire bird head that’s suspended over the ceiling and look into the glasses. It mimics the view a bird has while in flight (the screen on the right is the image, but it’s blurry without the glasses). I think Big Guy wanted to take a nap in there, but Bug wanted a turn, too.
There are also two highly interactive play areas for younger kids (8 and younger). One seemed to be focused more on science (natural, biological, etc.), while the other seemed geared (ahem) toward engineering skills. LadyBug is trying to reassemble this poor person’s internal organs!
This is the water play area. We were here for quite awhile as they build all sorts of pipe systems for the water to flow through. If we lived nearby, I could see just coming here for an afternoon.
The engineering area has a two-story play house where kids can act like construction worker, a grocery store, and lots of building activities. Our favorite section has a bunch of rubber balls and all sorts of track to put together. The kids really enjoyed making their own little “roller coasters” for the balls. LadyBug even decided to create a ramp for the ball to jump off of before landing on a new piece of track.
Much like other museums, the Ontario Science Centre has a large space for traveling exhibits. Visit their website to see the current exhibit in that space. There is a permanent exhibit (just around the corner from the bird experience) about race, society, differences/similarities, etc. It was a bit old for our kids, but was fascinating when Big Guy and I visited on our own. I wasn’t joking when I said this place goes on and on and on. There are interactive images displayed on floor, a tunnel of color, a papermaking demo, an IMAX theater, a gift shop and they’ve even turned the hallways into exhibits. The cafeteria isn’t huge, but the food was fairly good. Both times we were there, they had themed it to match the current traveling exhibit. You’ll find a small snack shop in the lobby, as well as one in the interactive zone for younger kids.
This is a must-visit spot for families while into Toronto, especially if you need an indoor activity. It’s not far outside of downtown Toronto – you can get there via public transportation, but Big Guy and I took a cab during our first trip with no car. I honestly love it there. Do expect there to be exhibits that are out of order on any given day… I have never been to an interactive science museum where that isn’t the case. There are always plenty of other things to do.
Toronto Science Centre
770 Don Mills Road
- Non-Member tickets for adults: $22
- Teens: $16
- Kids (3-12): $13
- Infants (2 & under): Free
- Parking: $10 (EV Charging is available, too!)
If you have an ASTC (Association of Science-Technology Centers) membership in the US, or a CASC membership in Canada, admission is free for a specified number of people.