Nature Sleepovers - Museum Memories for the win!

Kids in the Capital is pleased to welcome back Antonia Cetin to the blog. Antonia is an educator and the author of You’ve Got This, Mom! A Mother’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Today’s Modern. She returns with a special post about the new Nature Sleepovers program offered by the Canadian Museum of Nature.

How do you spend quality time with family? Our family lives can easily become a race from one organized activity to another, a series of ticks on a list of things to do. We won’t remember the activities as much as the effort it took to get there. That’s why it’s so important to have family time to do simple ordinary things: reading together, playing a board game together, cooking, making a snowman, relaxing at home. Those are the times that will leave a lasting impression of what home feels like cozy, warm and comfortable.

We also want to create special memories that we can look back on as adventures or markers of special events. Those will be the instances we talk about as, “remember the time...” conversations.

The Canadian Museum of Nature now offers families a memorable evening that we can reminisce about with our kids: a sleepover with the dinosaurs!  

Gotta say when I suggested this activity to my family, I was surprised at the enthusiasm: WE GET TO SLEEP WITH THE DINOSAURS? And, that was just the co-parent! I was actually afraid that the program wouldn’t live up to our expectations because they were so high. However, there was nothing to worry about: the museum did not disappoint. The whole evening was so well organized everything went off without a hitch.

Nature Sleepovers at the Canadian Museum of Nature

There were people welcoming us, guiding us, and even staying over in case we needed them during the night. We enjoyed a guided flashlight tour of the dinosaurs in the dark - who knew they were even more fascinating in the dark! We got to examine and hold some pretty cool insects including stick insects who walked across our hands. I drew the line at the huge cockroach, but you know, that’s just me. We also did scavenger hunts in the mammal area that got us moving around before we got a private viewing of a 3D movie about a night at the museum! So cool. By the way, when your name is Kaz, falling asleep in your sleeping bag with a view of the Kazmasaurus can’t be beat! And, when your name isn’t Kaz, it’s fun to look up and see the dinosaur watching over you as you drift off.

Nature Sleepovers at the Canadian Museum of Nature - Dinosaurs

The whole experience was amazing and super well orchestrated by the friendly and informative staff. They really had everything covered - even snack time and breakfast. And, thank goodness for coffee in the morning at the museum because when the museum doors opened to the public, we had time to explore on our own.  

When I asked my family members how they enjoyed the visit, they each had a special memory to share. And, then they asked if we could do it again next month! Memorable moment success! Thanks Canadian Museum of Nature.

Nature Sleepovers at the Canadian Museum of Nature - Sleeping with Dinosaurs

Check out the Canadian Museum of Nature website for other memorable experiences including their sleepovers, themed birthdays and special events such as Butterflies in Flight and Survival of the Slowest. If you’re looking for an adult getaway activity, they have Nature Nocturne (a night of science and dancing), Nature tastes (cider and whiskey) and an Escape room. Go and create some great memories!

Family-Friendly Activities for Canada Day in Ottawa

Canada Day in Ottawa
photo courtesy of connie paris

photo courtesy of connie paris

It's #Canada151 this year and we have everything you need to know to plan a memorable Canada Day with your family. 

Parliament Hill

On Canada Day, dress up in red and white and join thousands of other Canadians in downtown Ottawa on Parliament Hill.  It’s the place where Canada Day festivities officially kick off (usually with the raising of the flag at 9 a.m. and the Changing of the Guard at 9:30 a.m.) and it’s the place to be if you want to listen to dignitaries and ceremonies commemorating Canada Day (this usually takes place from about noon to 1:30 p.m.).

If live musical entertainment is what you’re looking for, visit Major's Hill Park but return to the Hill in the evening as live bands countdown the fireworks display that typically goes off around 10 p.m.

Major’s Hill Park

Photo courtesy of Jenn Beyak

Photo courtesy of Jenn Beyak

photo courtesy of cynthia mar

photo courtesy of cynthia mar

Major’s Hill Park is the hubbub of family-friendly Canada Day activities in Ottawa’s downtown core. Visit the park for face painting, live musical and cultural performances, pop up shops, exhibitions, and so much more. This year the Tim Horton's stage will feature rising Canadian artists Elijah Woods and Jamie Fine! At the end of the day, this is a great spot to watch the spectacular display of Canada Day fireworks over the Ottawa River.

The National Arts Centre

The National Arts Centre (NAC) opens its doors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Canada Day offering various free activities, including music and dance performances, as well as kids crafts! If you’re hungry, join us for burgers and hot dogs at our Canada Day BBQ from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Jazz Festival – Confederation Park

Photo courtesy of jenn beyak

Photo courtesy of jenn beyak

Located right across from City Hall, Confederation Park on Canada Day is home to food trucks, activities and is your ticket to some of the world's most recognized jazz artists, presented by the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival. If your family enjoys good music, Confederation Park is a must-stop on Canada Day and the entire weekend!

Mackenzie-King Estate

Mackenzie-King Estate is in the heart of Gatineau Park and makes for great photos any time of year. If your family loves the outdoors, take a walk through the wooded paths or gardens, visit historical ruins from the early 1900s or enjoy a cup of tea at the Mackenzie King Café and Tearoom. 

Photo courtesy of Olivia Lamarre.

Photo courtesy of Olivia Lamarre.

Ottawa Champions Baseball Game

Take your kids to a ball game! The Ottawa Champions have a game at 1:30 p.m. on Canada Day. Enjoy ball game food, cheer on the local team and sing with the mascot! Seats prices are economical and it’s fun for the entire family, regardless of age (or whether or not they like baseball).

Scotiabank Canada Day Road Races

If you and your family love to run join Run Ottawa for the Scotiabank Canada Day Road Races at Walter Baker Park as part of the official Kanata Canada Day celebrations. There will be fun and friendly running events, including 5K, 10K, 1.5K Fun Run for kids aged 5 to 11 and a 100 Meter Tow Trot for kids ages 4 and under. A fun and healthy way to start Canada Day!

Visit a Museum!

Most museums in Ottawa have free admission to their general exhibitions all day July 1st and many have special events taking place just for Canada Day! This includes the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian War Museum, the Canada Space and Aviation museum, as well as the following museums:

Photo courtesy of Lida Wellman.

Photo courtesy of Lida Wellman.

Canada Aviation and Science Museum

Over 20 organizations and special guests will be celebrating Canada Day at the Canada Aviation and Science Museum, and many visiting aircrafts will be flying in for Museum visitors. There may even be a chance to speak to the pilots! Admission is free all day on July 1, but donations are welcome.

Canadian Museum of History

On July 1st, the Canadian Museum of History will host a variety of indoor and outdoor activities with guest, Parks Canada. Get free airbrush tattoos, play trivia, and join General Patente for board and chain reaction games.

Bytown Museum

Located on the Lower Locks of the Rideau Canal, the Bytown Museum is a great little museum that also has ice cream, freshly squeezed lemonade, souvenirs, and more available in their café and boutique. Admission is free on Canada Day.

Canada Science and Technology Museum

Rain or shine, kids and adults alike will have fun exploring the newly renovated Canada Science and Technology Museum. There is always something to see and  Canada Day is a great day to check out their fantastic new special exhibition, The Art of Brick

Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

In addition to the animal barns and incredible play structure, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum will offer visitors the chance to learn about Canadian agriculture and learn about different Canadian breeds of livestock. There will be games, a craft, ice cream making and tasting, as well samples of the Canadian classic: Nanaimo bars.

Canadian Museum of Nature

If you haven’t been to the Canadian Museum of Nature in awhile, Canada Day is the perfect chance to do so for free. Visit dinosaurs, mammals, minerals and sea life, the Canada Good Arctic Gallery and their new special exhibition Brain: The Inside Story.

Photo courtesy of Lida Wellman.

Photo courtesy of Lida Wellman.

Celebrate Canada Day in Your Community!

If you are looking to avoid the huge crowds of Canadians in downtown Ottawa, but still want to celebrate Canada Day with others, there are plenty of community events across Ottawa, including:


Sponsored by Mattamy Homes, join your Barrhaven neighbours at Clarke Fields, 93 Houlahan for a midway, food trucks, live music, amazing fireworks and much, much more! For more information:


Celebrate Canada Day at the Diefenbunker from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.!  This year they are excited to offer Little Ray’s Reptiles, reptile show from 11:00 to 12:00. There will be lizards, snakes, spiders and more! They will also have a BBQ with hot dogs and veggie dogs. As well as frozen treats and drinks for an affordable price! For more information:


Canada Day at Petrie Island is BACK, and East end residents are excited! Hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Orleans, the beach opens at 11am, and party-goers can expect games, children's activities, entertainment and so much more! For more information:


Canada Day in Kanata take place at Walter Baker Park in Kanata and includes live entertainment, a large family fun zone, live bands and more. Crowds of over 30,000 are known to attend this popular west Ottawa Canada Day celebration! Fireworks start around 10 p.m. For more information visit:

photo courtesy of cynthia mar

photo courtesy of cynthia mar


Celebrate Canada Day in Osgoode Village at the Osgoode Community Centre starting at 2 pm on July 1st. Events include a parade, entertainment, kids activities, and fireworks! For information:

Riverside South

Join the community of Riverside South at Claudette Cain Park as they celebrate Canada Day with family-friendly activities for all ages and of course, a fireworks show to finish off the day! Stay tuned to the website for information:


Hosted on the grounds of Sttitsville’s Sacred Heart Highschool, Stittville’s family-friendly Canada Day celebration gets bigger and better every year with activities and fun for the whole family including fireworks! For more information:

How to get around on Canada Day



Regardless of where or how you decide to celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa, OC Transpo offers free transit all day long and after the fireworks. STO offers free transit after 10 p.m. Check out their website for more information and remember to leave lots of time for travel and to have fun – Canada Day with kids make for some great memories.

How does your family traditionally celebrate Canada Day? Leave a comment and let me know!

Give the Gift of Experience: The Canadian Museum of Nature

The Canadian Museum of Nature is known at our house as "the castle." Every time we pass the stately structure on the 417, my girls catch a glimpse and cry "the castle, the castle!"

Although it does not house any royals (of the human kind,) the Museum of Nature takes children on a wild ride through natural history, with world-class galleries featuring dinosaurs, mammals, birds, dazzling minerals and rocks, live invertebrates, and a water gallery with a 19 metre-long blue whale skeleton!

The 100 year-old museum building is 4 stories high, and children love to climb the stairs or ride the giant elevators. Each floor has permanent exhibits, as well as special exhibits that are open for months at a time (one of our favourites was Bugs Outside the Box, and we're excited to check out Reptiles).

In the fossil gallery, travel back in time to meet the dinosaurs

The water gallery holds a skeleton of the largest animal in the world, and is a family favourite.

The beautiful dioramas in the Mammal Gallery create life-like scenes of animals' habitats.

The Bird Gallery is my daughters' favourite

That's where they get to play "veterinarian" to all the sick birds. While they're distracted, I get to sneak over and read a bit about some of my favourite birds.


Bug-loving kids will love Nature Live, where they can view live insects and participate in scientific activities.

And that's just the beginning! There is the Stone Wall Gallery, Earth Gallery, Canadian Wildlife Photography of the Year, and 3D movies. There are also the super popular adult programs, such as Nature Nocturne (with themes such as Chinese New Year or Halloween), and special brunches on New Year's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day and Easter.

So if you are looking for an experiential gift for your children (or pssst, grandparents! This makes a great gift for you and the kiddos too!) look no further than a yearly membership to "the castle."

And don't forget!! You have TWO MORE DAYS to enter our Holiday Giveaway, where you get a chance to win a yearly membership to the Canadian Museum of Nature!

This post is part of our 2016 Holiday Campaign, with support from Tag Along ToysThe Canadian Museum of NatureSaunders Farm and Ooka Island. Make sure to enter our giveaway!

Visiting the Vale Earth Gallery

By AndreaMy daughter and I had the opportunity to attend the newly renovated Vale Earth Gallery opening at The Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. This Gallery is open to the public on November 30th but we had the chance to see it the day before.

Our family has been members of this museum for two years now. Having this membership is one of the best educational investments we’ve made for our children ages 8, 4 and 8 months. The child-friendly and interactive displays pertaining to natural history and natural sciences have lent a hand to school projects, personal interest and regularly satisfy the inquisitive minds of two of my three oldest children with their countless questions relating to our natural world.

I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive when found out which exhibit was reopening. This particular exhibit was not one we visited regularly – not because it wasn’t well done, The Canadian Museum of Nature does not do anything poorly – but because it hadn’t appealed to the kids who were always with me. I’d enjoyed seeing the beautiful glass-encased minerals but just found myself imagining what beautiful earrings they’d have made.

That being said, I am not an expert on this or any topic of natural science. I am just a mom who wants to foster her children’s interests and provide them access to the information and experiences this museum has to offer.

My oldest daughter, Hannah, age 8, (aka. Nature Girl) has had a rock collection since she was two. I think every child has hunted for beautiful stones on a beach, a forest or a park at some point in their lives. I borrowed books to help identify these rocks but found the task of identifying and classifying minerals to be daunting.

To my delight, I found this new exhibition helped fill gaps in our knowledge and understanding of mineralogy. Even better, my daughter was completely engaged in the displays and interactive features this permanent display has to offer. Fortunately when my children are engaged, I have time read and learn myself. The gallery starts at the beginning – literally. We read about the “big bang”, touched and examined meteorites that have fallen to earth and learned about the earth’s layers. She was particularly captivated by learning the consequences of a change in the solar system (ie. the absence of Jupiter or change in distance of between earth and the moon).

Around the corner she had the opportunity to control a 6-ft animated globe. She discovered how the plates divide and what the world would look like if the water evaporated.

This exhibition allowed us to see some of the most extraordinary mineral formations, some of which she has in her own personal collection. You have the opportunity to see an animation of how rocks and minerals form and what makes a mineral a mineral. A favourite highlight included the opportunity to view minerals under fluorescent light. You will be pleasantly surprised in what happens!

A compliment to the current Nature Unleashed temporary exhibit is an interactive opportunity to make a volcano or cause an earthquake. Visitors can also make different rocks with the Sedimentator (which makes sedimentary rock), Magmanator (makes magmatic rock) and the Metaporphicator (makes metamorphic rock). Another complimentary feature was the sedimentary rock face from Saskatchewan featuring embedded fossils. Children love to search for items – especially when they’re looking for a T-Rex’s tooth!

Hands down, the most popular part of the display was the replica of a limestone cave. The opportunity to be immersed into this realistic environment with dripping waterfalls and the challenge of identifying cave features and creatures was a great experience.

I feel this exhibition was designed with children in mind. The gallery used video, interactive consoles, comic strips, experiments, actual samples and simulated environments to engage children and their senses at their height level. I also feel it filled a huge hole in the museum’s content.

Every visit to this museum involved a mandatory “visit to the dinos!” but I suspect we’ll be adding a “visit to the rocks!” as well.

PS – Ok, I did find the earrings I’d like too! ;)

I am a wife and loving mom to three amazing children ages 8, 4 and 8 months, who continue to fascinate me with their inquiring minds and desire to discover. I learn through them.

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Whales Tohorā at the Canadian Museum of Nature

The Canadian Museum of Nature has a new exhibit, Whales Tohorā, that is sure to be a hit with your children. E and I had the opportunity to attend a preview event before the exhibit opened on March 2nd and we can't wait to go back for more!

As we approached the Museum our excitement grew with the view of the large inflatable blue whale in the Queen's Lantern.  We soon learned that the whale has not been named and the Museum is currently holding a Name-the-Whale contest. Check out the website to vote or suggest a name - you could win a free one year membership or a special souvenir!

The exhibit highlights three elements - Whale Lab, Whale People and Strandings. The gigantic whale skeleton that hung above us throughout the exhibit was amazing. We loved reading the facts posted, viewing the large whale teeth and skulls and following the whale trail stations (ideal for children older than my almost 3 year old). Another one of the neat features was the life-sized model of the blue whale heart (the largest on the planet!) that the children especially loved to explore.

There are a number of interactive activities to keep the children busy including touch-screen games and short videos. We stayed and watched a sperm whale on the hunt for a squid in the Search and Destroy video a few times because E found it absolutely exhilirating.

While we were at the Museum we were also sure to visit the dinosaurs, polar bear, grizzly bears and the rest of our favourites.  E and I are especially looking forward to go back to watch the new 3D Movie, Turtle Vision.

During March Break, the Museum will be hosting a number of activites from a Whale Dinner, Whale Bingo, Whale Crafts and Ocean Curiosities. For more information about Whales Tohorā visit the Musem's website and pack up the kids for a visit!

Alicia is mother to E (2 ¾) and blogs at I Found My Feet.

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