Ontario Science Centre, Toronto

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One of the best children’s museums in the country, the Ontario Science Centre is a perfect blend of innovation and excitement. Built in the 1960s, this institution has undergone a number of renovations and updates since then, resulting in a thoroughly modern and truly fascinating visiting experience. Today the Centre hosts hundreds of interactive and passive permanent exhibits in addition to a series of well-regarded temporary exhibitions that have included popular topics like MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition, Harry Potter the Exhibition, Da Vinci’s Workshop, and more.

Located on the eastern edge of Toronto on a picturesque ravine, this family-friendly institution is also quite striking architecturally. Six distinct levels are built to descend on the side of the ravine, bringing a bit of nature sightseeing into your explorations of the attraction. There’s also a massive IMAX Theatre showing multiple films a day that can offer something of interest to viewers of all ages.

The Ontario Science Center is also known for their support of local schools, offering opportunities for class trips, group sleepovers, and the prestigious Weston Youth Innovation Award, given to a promising young Canadian innovator each year.

A visit here is perfect for families with younger children, although teens may find the exhibits enjoyable as well. With exhibits featuring topics as diverse as global rainforests, the human body, outer space, and the makings of a tornado, you’re bound to find something to appeal to everyone in your group.

What’s at the Science Center

The Ontario Science Centre is divided into six floors, five of which contain the primary exhibit space. Floors are divided roughly thematically, although the sixth floor is the most substantial with a variety of exhibits. Here’s an overview of the major exhibitions and their themes, including what’s available in each section and any major highlights from the exhibit.

The AstraZeneca Human Edge

Exploring the limits and potential of human body, the AstraZeneca Human Edge experience is a marvel for those interested in human anatomy. In addition to fascinating exhibits and displays, you’ll also find a number of interactive opportunities like a low-key rock-climbing wall. A particularly fun detail is the exhibit comparing historical hockey players with modern ones.

A Question of Truth

This large exhibit focuses on one of the more crucial issues to scientific innovation in our time – the question of how our personal biases and presuppositions influence our pursuit of scientific knowledge. In particular, the exhibit emphasizes the ways in which perceived cultural differences between people influence our approach to interacting with them, raising issues such as racism. It’s a thought-provoking exhibit to be sure.

Science Arcade

One of the original components of the Ontario Science Centre when it first opened in the late 1960s, the Science Arcade is among the most popular permanent exhibits today. The exhibits in here are often interactive, offering chances for kids to explore concepts like speed, electricity, sound, magnetism and balance.

Space at the Ontario Science Center

Another favorite among kids of all ages, the Space exhibit focuses on everyone’s favorite scientific passion – the study of all things outer space. Explore a state-of-the-art planetarium, fascinating exhibits detailing the creation and destruction of stellar bodies, examine meteorites from Mars, and sit in a space chair. Don’t forget to scope out the models of various space-related tech including a Columbia shuttle and a space telescope.

KidSpark

A massive exhibit taking up the bulk of the fourth floor, KidSpark is a must visit for children 8 and under. This thoroughly interactive space is the place where everything can be touched, played with, examined, and evaluated by little hands. By learning through play, kids are exposed to a variety of the most basic but most important scientific topics and concepts. Shop in a tiny market to practice counting and sorting, join a construction crew to work on coordination, or play with model dinosaur bones to mimic patterns.

The Living Earth

This is the hall where natural science is brought to life – literally. Step into a miniature rainforest, scope out real exotic specimens like lizards and cockroaches, and peer into a self-sufficient coral reef tank. Visitors also have the opportunity to examine the skull of a deer and look up at the bones of a fin whale – the second largest creature to have ever lived on earth!

Omnimax Theatre

A massive dome capable of delivering 13,000 watts of sound to a giant screen, this Omnimax Theatre is a thrilling experience regardless of the film you choose. With more than 300 available seats, it’s also a perfect size for large groups and accommodates significant crowds. Films vary in content, but all touch on scientific or natural topics such as the National Parks or the view of Earth from space.

Weston Family Innovation Centre

A thoroughly interactive experience, the Weston Family Innovation Centre encourages kids to get hands-on and creative with a variety of materials and circumstances. Problem-solving challenges exercise their critical thinking skills, just as “citizen science projects” feed their inspiration.

Ontario Science Center Dining & Shopping Options

There are a wide variety of dining options available at the Ontario Science Centre, ranging from a number of cafes to cafeteria-style dining to sit-down meals. Cafés typically offer snacks, salads, and sandwiches, often alongside Tim Horton’s tea, coffee, and pastries.

The Terrace Grill on level 3 is an outdoor dining venue, offering a number of casual entrees cooked on the grill like burgers, hotdogs, and corn. A favorite with families is the KidSpark Café, which offers child-friendly fare in a bright and colorful setting. Here you’ll find everything from pizza to sandwiches to hotdogs. Finally, the Valley Restaurant offers the widest selection of options, including the standard pizza and sandwich fare, as well as pastas, stir-fry, quiche, and more.

At this time, the Ontario Science Centre does not offer a gift shop.

Tips for Visiting

  • It takes about 1.5 – 2 hours to explore the entire Centre; perhaps more if you have younger children who get immersed in the exhibits.
  • The Ontario Science Centre is busiest in the heart of the day, so arrive right when they open for the best experience.
  • If you’ve chosen the Toronto Zoo as your “either/or” option, be sure to use the coupon in the back of your CityPass booklet for 20% off Ontario Science Centre admission.
  • Omnimax Theatre tickets are not included with CityPass admission, but they are only a small upcharge since you’ve already got regular admission covered.
  • Their planetarium is one of the best around, so be sure to stop by the Space exhibit area even if it’s just to see a planetarium show.
  • The Ontario Science Centre is primarily aimed at young children, but teens and adults will enjoy the Omnimax films.

 

Where to Buy It

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to Ontario Science Centre.

1. Purchase a ticket from Ontario Science Centre when you get there.

2. Purchase a Tourist pass. The Ontario Science Centre is available on the Toronto CityPass.