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19 Aug, Friday
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Montreal Families

Guided Tour: Canadian Children's Museum

Canadian Children’s Museum (part of the Canadian Museum of Civilization)
Address: 100 Laurier St., Gatineau
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends during summer, till 5 p.m. during fall/winter (check the schedule before going).
Cost: $30 for families, free for children under 3, $8 for children age 3 to 12, $12 for adults.
Parking: There is an underground lot that costs $10. Street parking also a possibility.
Telephone: 1-800-555-5621
Website

We banged on drums in Nigeria, played hide and seek in an Egyptian pyramid, made a shadow puppet in Indonesia and constructed two fine sailboats. A couple of hours in the Canadian Children’s Museum is a round-the-world adventure – for the bargain price of $30 per family.

A visit to the Canadian Children’s Museum is a great reason for a day-trip or one-night trip to Ottawa/Gatineau if you have children about 7 and under. The drive (1.5 to 2 hours) from Montreal is manageable for young ones, and the museum and surrounding area also feels like a getaway for parents. Since this is an indoor attraction, it’s a good trip to keep in mind for rainy and minus-30 days.

As part of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Children’s Museum is in a beautiful building on the Gatineau side of the Ottawa River banks, with a super view of the Parliament buildings. It’s hard to explain the whole “nation’s capital” thing to young children, but they’ll be impressed by what looks like our “nation’s castle.”

Don’t forget your passport
The Children’s Museum, themed around world adventure, has 30 different environments where kids can explore, pretend and create. From the get-go, kids are excited to get  “passports”, which they can stamp at various stations along the way. Similar passports were also a hit with our guys at Granby Zoo – kids about 4 and up love getting their stamps as they go along. Let’s go – there’s a groovy-looking bus waiting!

Off the beaten track
Many of the environments are based on typical homes found around the world, so kids can go into a Nigerian house, try on clothing and bang on drums. There are also homes representing Japan, Mexico, Indonesia and Bedouin culture, each with related, hands-on activities: origami, tortilla-making, shadow puppets and backgammon. Other areas, like the theatre, market, port, and kids’ cafe let kids explore grownup skills and situations, like operating the pulley on the ship, staging a show, or putting a meal together for mom and dad. If you’re feeling déjà-vu at this point, you’ve probably been to the Laval Children’s Museum, which could be considered a warm-up for this museum.

Kids are the centre of attention
What sets the Canadian Children’s Museum apart is that the setup is world class, and that it does an excellent job of catering to younger and older kids. Toddlers as young as 18 months will be happy to bounce from station to station, climbing on and off, running in and out, and trying on costumes, while older ones will be happy to find lots of cool projects on the way. Our older one loved constructing buildings with special architectural blocks, and crafting a little wooden boat in The Studio, a big, bright room just for arts and crafts. We saw other kids who had made their own kites, then took them outside to fly. Staff members stationed along the way are happy to help little ones finish their projects.

Traveling makes us hungry
After a couple of hours in the museum, we didn’t get to every environment before hunger set in. The on-site Caféteria des Voyageurs is almost like a food court, with something for everyone. Plus Second Cup! Outside the restaurant, the kids ran around the beautiful grounds, chasing each other through sculptures and terrorizing seagulls. Until the birds called in backup: a flock of Canada Geese landed. It was a super day.

Tips:

  • You are asked to leave strollers at the entrance to the Children’s Museum, because it would be hard to get around inside with them. If you have an infant, consider bringing a baby carrier.
  • There is a nursing station and diaper-change area.
  • For older kids, there is an IMAX theatre, which shows educational/nature films and recent features, like Iron Man 2.
  • For more tips on getting around Ottawa with kids, go to Frugal Fun Ottawa.
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