Friday, January 9, 2015

Canadian Museum of History (Museum of Civilization) - Ottawa


Posing with some Totem poles in the First Peoples Hall
My family visited Ottawa and went to several great places for kids while we were there which I'll write about in other posts.  I'll start with my kids' favourite place, The Canadian Museum of History which was known as the Museum of Civilization until fairly recently.  I've taken my kids to lots of museums and art galleries and they have liked them all but I would say this was their favourite or at least tied for first with Science North.
Checking out some fancy schmancy snow machines
My kids liked the Grand Hall and the First Peoples Hall which was on the first floor.  You can actually touch some of the big totem poles and statues on display (although not all) which my kids liked.  The exhibit on the second floor about Snow was good but not as exciting for kids as the other exhibits.
They have a stage in the Children's Museum area with lots of costumes to try out.
My older daughter loved controlling the lights and sound for the stage.
The real fun for kids comes in the Children's Museum which is awesome.  My kids loved everything in this area and you could easily spend all day in this area and they wouldn't get bored.  Highlights for my kids were the stage area, the great Pakistani bus and the International Village but there was nothing that they didn't love about it.  
The bus, a highlight for my kids.
In the International Village kids can see how families around the world live.  They can dress up in clothes from around the world, try some games or their hand at drumming.
Trying out the drums in the Nigerian area
They have an area where you can load and unload things from a ship or you can run your own cafe.  
The prices were a little steep in this particular restaurant.
You can even run your own clothing factory or lay around in a Bedouin tent!

Trying out the sewing machine.
Each child gets a passport when they enter the Children's Museum which they can get stamped at various locations around the museum.  My kids loved this and still have their passports tucked away in their "special box" at home.  
Looking thrilled to bits to be learning about whaling in early Canada.
If you do manage to tear your children away from the Children's Museum there is still more to see in the rest of the museum.  When my husband mentioned that he had discovered an interesting exhibit about Canadian history upstairs I was ... skeptical.  I mean, I love learning about collectivized wheat distribution as much as the next gal but a whole floor of stuff devoted to Canadian history?  I didn't know if I was up for it or how big a rebellion I was going to have on my hands when I turned to my kids and said "hey, let's stop dressing up and riding on funky buses and head upstairs to learn about the fur trade in New France!"  
Listening in on some rebels as they plot.
It turned out to be great!  I don't know if I would say my kids liked it as much as the Children's Museum but they did like it and so did I.  The exhibits are fantastic, really well done and they have enough information so that you know what you are looking at but not so much that you feel overwhelmed or like you will be there until the end of time learning about the role of Ukrainians in the settlement of the prairies or whatever.  
Checking out an old timey school.
The exhibits are organized chronologically so you work your way through Canadian history right up to about the 1960s.  Along the way you will visit whaling posts, shops, houses, schools, churches, Chinese laundromats, factories, jails and airport lounges among other things.  You can touch things (although not everything) and listen to things and insert yourself into the action.

There is also an IMAX cinema but we didn't get to that because we spent all day in the museum galleries.  There is an extra fee for the movies.

Things to keep in mind:
  • It is actually not in Ottawa, it is technically in Gatineau, Quebec but it is a short drive from the heart of Ottawa.  In fact, I would say my husband and I could have walked it from our hotel (Lord Elgin) but the kids would have found that too much walking on top of the walking at the museum. Plus it was freezing when we were there.  You can take the bus.
  • They have a restaurant and a snack bar.  They are both about what you would expect to find ina  museum. 
  • The museum is very reasonably priced.  It is $32 for a family of four to go or $55 if you want to see an IMAX film.  They also have a deal if you buy admission to both the Museum of History and the War Museum but personally I can't see why you would take kids to a War Museum.  
  • Parking is extra, $12.50 for the day.  


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