Connect with Nature: Visit a Natural History Museum

On my trip to the Museum of Nature,
I got to see frogs from around
the world. Photo by J. Desilets.

If the winter weather is too cold or snowy for you to get outside and explore nature, it’s the perfect time to head to your local natural history museum! Natural history museums showcase Canada’s rich and diverse natural history from coast to coast to coast. They preserve the past so that we can gain insights into the possible future. And they allow us to discover aspects of Canadian nature that we might not otherwise have a chance to see.

A giant sea turtle skeleton swims through
the air at the museum. Photo by J. Desilets.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit the newly renovated Museum of Nature in Ottawa twice in the past six months. The historical building has four floors (plus a basement!) full of natural history treasures from Canada. Separated by theme, each gallery tells a story about nature in Canada; whether your interest is birds, marine life, mammals, insects or geology you’re sure to find something interesting in their many displays and interactive exhibits. My favourite gallery is still the dinosaurs, since new discoveries are still being made that help us learn about how animals evolved.

Plan your next trip to a museum near you! (If you’re not sure where to start, try the Alliance of Natural History Museums of Canada.)

Our top tips for museum visits:

The RBC Blue Water gallery at the museum
features a live tank of starfish and other
sea life. Photo by J. Lim.
  • Leave yourself plenty of time to explore the museum. Depending on the size of the exhibits and your specific interests, you want the chance to see everything without feeling rushed. At the Museum of Nature, we budgeted about an hour per floor (30 minutes per gallery).
  • Wear comfortable shoes. If you’ll be walking around for even a couple of hours, you don’t want to have to stop because your feet are sore. If you’re planning a family trip with younger children, make sure to space out energy-intensive activities with some quieter periods for rest.
  • Know the museum guidelines about outside food and drink. Most museums will have designated areas where you can sit and eat your lunch or a snack. Make sure to find these on your map and plan your route accordingly.
  • Bring your camera. Many museums will allow you to take pictures of the exhibits. Since so many of the experiences are interactive, you will be able to bring home some great memories!
  • On a budget? Check to see if there are periods of discounted or free entry to your local natural history museum. In Ottawa, it’s also possible to borrow a museum pass from the public library (that’s how I was able to go).

Remember to share your own natural history museum experiences with us in the comments below!