Our recent spring break consisted of:
the boys eating everything in the house, playing outside, playing inside, and a short trip to Ottawa thanks to a Groupon hotel deal that was hard to resist.
With just one night in Ottawa and a list of places that sounded fun and educational (…two birds, one stone), we settled on the Canadian Museum of Nature (review to come) and the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. Trying to fit everything in was going to be tricky (and expensive), so we opted to visit the Aviation museum during their short free hour (between 4 & 5pm everyday). Hooray for free! You can see the regular admission fees HERE.
p.s. If you’re in Ottawa for a while, check out the Museums Passport valid for 7 museums in 7 days.
The drive from the hotel in mid-Ottawa to the museum was easy and there’s a ton of outdoor parking spaces right in front of the entrance. Parking is $1 per half hour to a daily maximum of $6. The museum’s website says that the average visit lasts 2 hours.
Two different kinds of strollers as well as regular and motorized wheelchairs are available to borrow for free and the museum is accessible throughout with flat carpeted walkways and elevators to the second floor. You can walk around on your own with the help of the museum floor plan available at the admission desk, or take a free 30-45 minute guided tour for individuals or small groups and families.
My husband took off with the 3-year old while I stayed with the older boys. I’m not a huge plane enthusiast, but upon entering the immense hanger I was floored by the collection of aircraft, their colours, and size. You can view examples of early aviation, planes from the First and Second World Wars, bush planes, jets, and helicopters. We saw the ‘Canadarm 201’ which was launched aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1981 and flew its final mission aboard the Endeavour in 2011, and a replica of an extravehicular mobility unit (I’ll just call it a space suit!).
The boys crammed themselves into the mini wooden space shuttles and then we explored the exhibition Life in Orbit: The International Space Station, where we learned about life on board the ISS. There were doors to climb through, helmets and gloves to try out, and things to look at like a space toilet, exercise equipment and a chance to stand inside the cupola from the ISS; it was a great intro to life on board.
We then wandered around the Main Exhibition Hall looking at the planes, reading the bilingual signs, dressing up in goggles and hats, sitting in aircraft and trying our hand at flying in the Cessna 150 simulator. The boys loved the various cockpits and the Ace Academy Flight Experience where they “flew” the plane using their arms. If you want an even more immersive experience, take the controls of the Redbird FMX flight simulator, or see one of the demonstrations happening throughout the day. In the summer you can stand outside on the Runway Observation Area and watch planes taking off and landing.
I caught sporadic glimpses of my husband and toddler as they buzzed around. The little guy loves all things that fly/drive/float and was in his element. He could touch things, sit on things, and try things on! Two weeks later and he’s still talking about flying the plane 🙂 Young kids will also enjoy the Hang Glider Studio with Lego, puppets and puzzles, or try out the wooden planes in the middle of the hall. The Childrens’ Programming includes specially designed kids’ tours for children ages 4 to 7 every Saturday at 11am, a March Break Camp, summer camps, and there’s also: Rocket Adventures (ages 4-7), Zoom to the Moon (ages 3 to 7), Manna from the Sky, and The Kuujjuaq Christmas Candy Drop.
There are also concerts, sleepovers for kids 5-18, birthday party options, and special exhibitions throughout the year like the upcoming Starfleet Gala with William Shatner!!
On your way out visit the RCAF Hall of Tribute, the Aeronautica Boutique and Café La Vigilance. AND, just outside the museum you’ll find an outdoor plane-themed play structure complete with stairs, slides, climbing wall and wall panels.
It was a bit of a whirlwind experience, and we could have used another hour or two, but judging from what we saw, we all want to come back in the summer for a longer visit to see some of the outdoor sections and maybe even try a vintage biplane ride!
Ottawa-Canadian Aviation and Space MuseumSee images (click the first image for full screen) »