Ottawa Museums: Why I love our Ingenium Membership

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One of the things about big days out doing fun activities is that I find them kind of exhausting. You pay a bunch of money to get your family into a museum or attraction and then you want to stay as long as possible and get the most out of your money because "money doesn't grow on trees" and all that fun stuff :)

One of the reasons we got an Ingenium membership (a membership that let's us into the Science and Tech Museum, the Aviation Museum and the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum) was that 1) it was a good deal - we've more than gotten the value out of the membership in a few months already 2) it took the pressure out of our trips to the museums.

Short and fun outings

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When I want to go out with the kids and do something fun I like to suggest one of the museums because I know it won't cost us anything (we got the parking pass as part of our membership too!) and I know there will be fun activities for the kids, and I know I'll plan to leave before they even have a chance to start fraying my nerves or getting bored ;)

We typically visit one of the museums for about an hour to an hour and a half. We get in, the kids explore, if there are presentations we visit a couple, and then we leave.

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It's beautiful. Nobody has gotten overtired or started complaining about not wanting to do this or that. I don't feel guilty that we haven't gotten more out of the money we spent to get in. We're spreading out our enjoyment of the museums over the year. 

The museum also has a reciprocal agreement with 360 other museums, which means you can spread the value out all over the place. 

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Cost

It was about $160 for the year with parking for my family of 5. As a comparison, it would cost me $42 plus parking to get in to the Aviation museum without the membership and $50 plus parking for Science and Tech. It's a pretty simple decision to opt for the pass when all the museums are so close by.

Other bonuses

We got a discount and first access to summer camps (my kids are heading to City Farm camp this summer and are so excited to get to interact with the animals in a more personal way than you get to as a regular visitor!) and first invites to other special events, and 10% off in the cafeteria and in the gift shops.

And look at how much fun we've been having!!

The Art of the Brick at the Canada Science and Technology Museum

We all grew up with LEGO® and our kids are doing the same. Which means the both the kids and the kid in you are going to love the Canada Science and Technology Museum’s brick-buster exhibition, THE ART OF THE BRICK.   

Named one of CNN's Top Ten "Global Must-See Exhibitions", THE ART OF THE BRICK by artist Nathan Sawaya is a critically acclaimed collection of inspiring artworks made exclusively from one of the most recognizable toys in the world: the LEGO® brick.

It is literally the world’s largest display of LEGO® art, with original pieces including an immense Tyrannosaurus Rex and re-imagined versions of the world’s most famous art masterpieces, including Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. 

The exhibit features a gallery showcasing an innovative, multimedia collection of LEGO brick infused photography produced in tandem with award-winning photographer Dean West and kid-friendly, hands-on LEGO® fun at the Brick-Party.

From child's toy to sophisticated art form and beyond! ART OF THE BRICK is on now through September 3 at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. For more information visit 

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by the Canada Science and Technology Museum (one of our favourite Ottawa museums!)

The New Canada Science and Technology Museum

After three years the Canada Science and Technology Museum reopened its doors in November offering new exhibits and an updated look. If you’re wondering what you can expect from the newly built museum and how to make the most out of your visit there, here’s what we noticed on our recent visit:

What’s familiar

The Crazy Kitchen

The Crazy Kitchen is back and looks just like it did prior to the museum having to shut its doors. It’s located toward the back of the museum and still has a computer screen where you can watch visitors challenged by the entertaining illusion that is the Crazy Kitchen. The kids still love it as much as they always did too!

The Trains

Trains - Canada Science and Technology Museum

The steam locomotives are back in the museum’s new “Steam: A World in Motion” gallery. Visitors can still walk through them and sit in one of them. The sheer massive sizes of the locomotives will make young children stare in awe, and will be difficult to keep the older kids from climbing on.

The layout

If you recall how the original museum was laid out, the new Canada Science and Technology Museum is laid out in a similar manner with the admission desk at the very front, bathrooms to the left and the gift shop to the right – with a wide open entrance to the museum exhibits. There is also a café, but there is ample seating around the museum, which makes snack time with little ones easy.

Canada Science and Technology Museum

What’s new

The new LED canopy entrance to the museum is eye-catching and is a great way to get ready for the museum’s many new science and technology exhibits. Parking is in the same location as it always was, but there is also a secondary parking lot up by the lighthouse (and the museum was busy enough on the day we were there that both lots were very full!) These are just a few of the highlights:

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Zooom: Zooom is a hands-on area where children, ages 0-8, can create, imagine, test and play with technology. It’s an immersive space that is a popular spot for kids! They can put together puzzles, climb the rock wall, or build a race car and then test it out on different tracks. This is a great place to sit and let the kids explore and play once they've gotten tired (just my kids?) of the more traditional exhibits.

Wearable Tech: This area reminds me of just how much technology has changed, even in the three years since the museum was last opened. The Wearable Tech gallery displays innovative technologies for the body – and not just for human beings!

Sound by Design at the Canada Science and Technology Museum

Sound by Design: This is an interactive experience that invites visitors to take a spin as DJ on an oversized turntable and dance to motion-activated sound. It’s a fun hands-on area visitors of any age will enjoy! There is also a Quiet Cube, which explores the sound of silence – a great place to visit on busy days at the museum ;)

Artifacts: Everywhere you look (up, down and all around) you will find historical artefacts. From bicycles to telephones, to printing presses and more; you may find yourself asking, “What is that?” more than once during your visit to the museum. You may also find yourself pointing out all the things in the museum your kids have never seen, but that you had when you were young. Thanks for dating us museum!

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Video game special exhibit: This is one of the reasons we need to make it back to the museum SOON - it was so busy that the kids weren't able to play all the of the "old-timey" video games (the lines were SO long to try Space Invaders and the original Donkey Kong, and no amount of promises that they could play them at home would convince them they weren't worth waiting in line for ;) 

What’s gone

We noticed that the fibre optic tunnel with slides is gone, as is the space exhibit with the Canada Arm. The museum is more focused on science and technology now than it previously was – as evident by the large displays of how appliances, gadgets, and technology have changed, developed and improved over the years.

What you need to know

Artefacts - Canada Science and Technology Museum

Admission is $17 per adult and $11 a child BUT it’s $43 for family admission – and that covers two adults and 4 kids – handy if you’re two friends visiting with your kids.

Parking is now $3 an hour or $8 for the day, but there is a flat rate $5 parking lot next to the lighthouse.

There is a coat room, which is handy for those bulky winter coats as well as a cafe and lounge area.

There are many new hands-on activities, interactive experiences and interesting facts at the new Canada Science and Technology Museum. The museum is a great place to educate kids on how far technology has come and how modern gadgets and technologies shape many aspects of our lives – including in the great outdoors! There is so much for visitors (of all ages) to see and do that you will need more than just a couple of hours to do it all!

We've definitely missed having this museum open and are excited to have it back - we're probably going to be buying a membership this year in fact.

Have you been to the newly reopened Canada Science and Technology Museum? If so, leave us a comment with your favourite exhibits and must-do activities!

Canada Science and Technology Museum

The Castle of Nature

by Mike

What we’ve realized since the birth of our second child is that family outings are made just as much for us parents as they are for our children. In fact, when one child is only a few months old and has no chance of remembering anything of our visit in her later years, it’s possible that outings at this point are almost exclusively for our benefit.

So, needless to say, we were pretty excited when on my birthday, we decided a family outing was in order and that said family outing would take place at the Museum of Nature’s new Whales Tohora exhibit.

Now, the Museum of Nature, in my opinion, is the best museum in the city (although the Museum of Science and Technology, if for the Crazy Kitchen alone, is pretty close). And, neither me nor my wife had been since the not-so-recent-anymore renovations were completed.

So, like any parent who has a favourite, be it a hockey team, fast food joint, anything, I wanted my kids to like the museum so we'd be able to go back as often as I wanted.

As soon as we got out of the car Leah started calling the museum “the castle” and I knew the day would be won. Still, I wanted to spend the morning actually looking inside the castle as opposed to standing in the unseasonably cool outside the castle temperatures and used the massive whale hanging inside the massive glass showcase window as a temptress.

“Look at how huge that whale is Leah, we have to go inside to see it.”

“Inside the castle daddy?”

“Yes, to see all the whales.”

“Can I ride one like a horse?”

“You can ride one like a pretend horse,” I answered with my fingers crossed behind my back like I used to do when I was five (and 25).

“Let’s go.”

So, we did get into the castle and I swear forevermore that I will visit the museum on school-year, weekday mornings for the rest of my life. The lines were non-existent, the elevators easy to call and the staff were eager to cater to the needs of anyone who even had the appearance of having a question.

In no time, we were on the fourth floor, one child resting neatly in a carrier with mommy and the other running on the spot like the Road Runner, ready to explore the whales.

When you have the run of the exhibit and all the time in the world to play with the interactive features, Whales Tohora is outstanding. The half of the fourth floor of the castle is filled with whales big and small, baleen and toothed and skeletal and skinned.

The first thing we spotted was a massive whale replica used in the movie Whale Rider, which Leah has never seen. No matter though, her observations on the whale had nothing to do with the movie.

“The whale is soft daddy?”

“How do you know? You haven't touched it.” And I swear museum staff that she didn’t.

“The whale has no bum.”

She was right, the replica only covered the front portion of the whale. Still, that in no way explained why the whale was soft.And judging by the way she had moved onto the next stop in the exhibit, she had no intentions of explaining any further.

Next we played a little game that allowed us to, through use of a 1980s style joystick, navigate a whale, or dolphin, through the ocean without killing it. In five tries, we managed to get the dolphin eight feet from its launching spot, killing it twice on plastic bags, twice in a tuna net and once on a bottom of the ocean floor with no water for hours excursion.

Sadly, Leah didn’t seem too put off by the dolphin murders and moved on to pictures of non-dead looking whales and continued to do so until we found another interactive game---a design your own dolphin and see if they’d live game.

Not too worried that this trip was turning into a “create your own dolphin and whale demise adventure” we let Leah pick the size of the dolphin, the size of the whale’s tale and the positioning of the dorsal fin.

“Do you think it’s going to be able to swim to the top of the water Leah?” I asked, quite certain it would not seeing how the fin and the tail were placed almost side by side and the dolphin was the size of a cruiseliner in the middle.

“I think he'll swim to the bottom and eat there.”

And so she pressed the green button to loose the dolphin and watched as it, as predicted, fell quickly to the bottom of the ocean floor “to eat.”

“See daddy, it’s eating on the bottom. And it’s upside down.”

Next, my wife took a turn, making modifications to every setting. Her dolphin at least reached the surface before attempting to, and failing, jump out a la Free Willy. It bobbed on the surface for a moment before making its way down to eat with Leah’s dolphin.

Saving the day, I stepped up to the drawing board and used my ample marine intelligence to put everything exactly where it should be. My dolphin almost jumped out of the screen to kiss me it was so happy to have survived where his friends had not.

With a still good humoured family in tow, we moved to the next portion of the display---a massive model of a whale’s heart that was just big enough for a child to climb into and just small enough for an adult to not be able to climb into.

Leah spent minutes in there, crawling from one side to the next, always just out of reach. So, we took a peek at the rest of the exhibit while she educated herself on the inner workings of a whale heart.

Without a shred of doubt, my favourite part was the baleen display which looked like waves upon waves of wigs that had been left outside for too long. While she didn’t buy the idea, I suggested to my wife that I might try eating that way for a while. Kind of just taking the hair from one of my daughter’s dolls and gluing it to the roof of my mouth to filter my food. I was genuinely that impressed with it.

But, like all good things, our time at the castle had to come to an end, our knell sounding an awful lot like a hungry two-month old. But our time there was well spent and we’re likely to be back some other weekday morning.

Upon leaving, I asked Leah what her favourite part was.

“Just getting to spend time with you daddy,” was exactly what she didn’t say.

What she did say was:

“I liked feeding my dolphin at the bottom of the ocean.”

So at least she knows that dolphins live in the ocean.

Mike Reynolds (blog/Twitter) is an Ottawa born-and-raised husband and father to two beautiful girls. He’s obsessed with making sure his daughter says ‘daddy and mommy’ and not ‘mommy and daddy’ and with finding junk he thinks will one day be considered an antique. He also blogs about his admitted cluelessness when it comes to raising children.