Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Science North - Sudbury

The kids watching their dad on the Gyroscope.  My oldest daughter has informed me that we will be heading back to Science North the minute she is five feet tall so you she can have a turn.
There are actually two attractions that make up Science North in Sudbury, the one called Science North and Dynamic Earth which is where you can find the Big Nickel.  I will cover Dynamic Earth in a separate post.
Petting a giant beetle.
Let me start by saying that Science North is one of the best places I have taken my kids.  It is so good that it has inspired me to create a totally subjective Top 5 Attractions in Ontario (that I have been to) list for the blog and I will definitely put Science North on that list (when I get around to making the list!)

Once you go through the rock walled tunnel you find yourself at the a theatre where  Wildfires: A Firefighting Adventure in 4D  is playing.  It runs quite frequently throughout the day and it is worth checking out.  The theatre does get smoky though so if that might scare your little one you may want to warn them.  Don't worry, it is fake smoke. Also, sit in the middle batch of seats, they are the ones that move and shake.
Trying chocolate covered bee larvae in the Nature Exchange area.
Once you head upstairs you will find yourself in the Nature Exchange which is an area with bins, boxes and drawers full of shells, bugs, leaves, fossils etc.  Kids (and adults!) can look through them to their heart's content.  You can not only look at and touch the items but also take them home with you.  As the name suggests, you can exchange your natural items for items in the Nature Exchange.  Each item has a value assigned to it and you can pick out an item that is equal in value to whatever you bring in.  This is genius and I wish I had known about it before hand so that my kids could have brought a rock or two to trade in.  As it was they had fun just looking at and touching everything anyway. 

One of the many giant creepy crawlers that you can hold in the Nature Exchange area.
In the same area you can find the habitats for many large creepy crawling creatures like millipedes, stick insects etc.  There are lots of people in blue coats wandering in the area and if you ask them about any of the creatures they will tell you all about them and take them out and let you hold them, or at least get a better look at the ones with delicate constitutions.
Getting a closer look at a butterfly in the conservatory.
There is also a lapidary lab in this area where kids can polish and tumble stones.  We had to head back to the Wildfires movie so we didn't get to try this out but it looked like a lot of fun.  Once you are done with the Nature Exchange area you can head to the Butterfly Gallery where there are tropical plants and hundreds of butterflies flying around.  It is similar to the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory but smaller.

Petting a porcupine!  I lined up to pet him too. Don't judge me!
On the third floor they have beavers, turtles, snakes and porcupines among other animals that you can look at.  They also have feeding and petting times throughout the day so check the schedule that they have posted near the entrance to this floor if there is a particular animal you are interested in.  The porcupine petting was a big hit with my kids (and me).  They are not as prickly as you would expect.  They also have microscopes and a display of antlers and poop and things like that.  My kids particularly liked the snake handler who told them all about snakes whilst handling a rattler and let them hold a milk snake.
My daughter likes puzzles and she viewed this human torso as a 3D puzzle that needed to be put back together.
The fourth floor has the human body exhibit which I am sure is the same one (with a few updates) that they had at the Toronto Science Centre when I went on a field trip in 1990 or so.  That is not a complaint, I remember the exhibit because it was a good one.  My kids had fun taking apart brains and guts and putting them back together as well as discovering how long the small intestine is and hearing all of the weird and wonderful sounds a body can make.
Doing a newscast in the Cyberzone on the fourth floor. I think it is safe to say they are not ready for prime time.
The fourth floor also has a Cyberzone with some computer games, smart boards and other electronic doodads.  My oldest daughter loved the DJ station and would have happily spent the whole afternoon there. I doubt the other patrons would have been quite so thrilled to hear her 101 remixes of The Lazy Song though, so as a public service I shuffled her along to another exhibit.  I thought the news casting booth complete with green screen and Teleprompter (in French or English) was hilarious but my kids were a bit befuddled because they have never watched the news and couldn't figure out what they were supposed to be doing.  This, of course, only added to my amusement!  You can have the finished product emailed to you when it is done.

Playing a stringless harp on the fourth floor.
The fourth floor also has all kinds of typical science centre type stuff like magnets and experiments and electronic thingies so you could spend a whole day on this one floor if you wanted.  They also have a 3D printer on this floor and a chess set that they made on it.  The space exhibit, including the human gyroscope is on this floor too.  There is also a theatre where you can watch a movie about how the universe was created. It will be beyond most little kids but it is not terribly long and most kids like watching movies so you can give it a shot.
Robert Wadlow, still tall. 
We accidentally sneaked (I think it should be snuck but spellcheck is telling me that isn't a word) into Science North via the cafeteria (we were starving after a long drive and figured we would get something to eat so followed the signs to the cafeteria which get you into the actual gallery!).  By the time we got to the Butterfly Gallery I was like, I think we should have passed the admission booth by now, so we eventually wandered back to the front which is where we also found the featured exhibit, The Science of Ripley's Believe it or Not.  My kids liked this well enough, but in my opinion, this is the weakest exhibit at Science North.  Now, I admit that I am biased.  When I was a kid I saw a Ripley's Beleive it or Not exhibit in Niagara Falls and this guy scared the pants off me and let's be real, Jack Palance was creepy as hell. I actually debated about even taking my kids in based on the posters since they are still trotting out Robert Wadlow and the Kayan women. I am happy to report though that they have toned down the whole freak show vibe that they used to unapologetically rock back in the day.

Some things to keep in mind:
  • You need at least a full day at Science North and you could easily spend two days there.  We had about 5 hours and we didn't get to see any of the many science shows they had throughout the day, visit the planetarium or the imax movies.  My kids would also have spent more time at a few of the exhibits if we had been able to stay longer.  The Dynamic Duo Passport allows you to visit both Science North and Dynamic Earth over three days.
  • Parking is $5 so have some cash on hand.
  • There is a cafeteria on site that sells things like pizza and chicken fingers and paninis.  
  • There is a boardwalk down by the lake right outside Science North and you can take the Cortina cruise of the lake there too.
  • They have camps and birthday parties too.
  • Sudbury does not like to coddle its people, so they don't put up things like street signs.  I think they think it builds character to have to find things using nothing but your wits and the sun or something. Maybe the Big Nickel is actually a navigational tool and everything is laid out in relation to it?  We actually asked a local at a gas station why they didn't have any street signs on major roads and he was quite defensive about it, so apparently it is part of their cultural identity or something. Maybe they get stolen and thrown in the smelter?  Anyway, be prepared to drive around in circles for a while before or after visiting Science North.  Sidenote, During our lost wandering I did come across not one but two "adult" stores and not one but two party supply stores which leads me to believe that Sudburians (Sudburites, Sudburogians?) are a fun loving bunch.   

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