Since Ottawa is my permanent home base, I thought I would periodically include posts about the city and events within the city throughout my usual travel-related blog posts. Without further ado, here are my thoughts on a few of the museums I’ve been to in Ottawa since moving here!
Please note: I am not affiliated with any of these museums and no one has paid me to write this post. My opinions about these places are just to be helpful for visitors to the Ottawa area! Should I ever become affiliated with a company or product and write a post or review for them, I will always make that clear.
I thought I would start things off with one of my favorite museums in Ottawa (and the world, actually) – the Canadian War Museum. This was the first museum I checked out in Ottawa, and I have been back several times in my almost four years here. It fascinated me from the first, and between the copious amount of presented history (seriously, the place seems huge) and the interesting special exhibits, it holds my number one spot for museum suggestions to Ottawa visitors.
The War Museum makes you feel as though history has come to life through their sometimes immersive displays. In a museum where you can walk through an area made to look like the tragic Battle of Passchendaele, pass through partially destroyed buildings in the Battle of Ortona, and hold your breath as you walk through a life-sized trench, you’ll be hard-pressed not to feel the reality of the situation sinking in heavily. This museum is seriously amazing in its construction, and offers an informative outlook on Canada’s part in war throughout history – even the horrific actions made by Canadians themselves.
Reading the stories of the courageous men and women whose lives were affected by the war is a sobering experience. The museum does an excellent job of infusing the overall tragedy of war with a semblance of hope, but I often find myself becoming emotional any time I visit.
The Canadian Museum of History also offered me an experience like nowhere before – I had the sobering realization that I was standing before one of Hitler’s actual cars. I’m sure I cannot properly explain the conflicting emotions I felt staring at it, except to someone who has experienced it as well. It was definitely one of the most surreal moments of my life.
Best thing about it: The layout, special exhibits, information, and immersive environments make this museum a must-see. It ranges from pre-settlement Native Americans through Confederation to Canada’s war efforts and beyond to current events and the future. Be sure to check out the lower level as well, for a spectacular up close and personal look at various tanks.
Worst thing about it: It can be incredibly depressing. Stories of lost love, sons who never returned home, and the tragic fate of George Price, who died two minutes before the signing of the Armistice in World War One, can weigh you down in misery.
Museum of Nature
Welcome to another of my favorite museums – the Canadian Museum of Nature. Why do I love this museum? Dinosaurs, mostly. Biology has always been my favorite of the three veins of high school science, and animals and people have always fascinated me.
Did I mention it’s basically housed in a castle-like building? At least – it looks castle-like from the outside.
A great thing about the Nature Museum is that it’s fun to play in. I don’t mean running around playing tag or hide and seek; the museum has several interactive exhibits, allowing for your creative and imaginative side to win over. Plus, they have the monthly October to May event – Nature Nocturne.
This multi-level museum boasts countless examples, fossils, and recreations of mineral, plant, and animal life dating back to the dinosaurs. It also showcases the bones of an impressively sized whale, a sight that reaffirms my healthy respect for whatever creatures are lurking in ocean depths.
Best thing about it: Nature Nocturne is an awesome event, made doubly so by the fact that you are given access to the entire museum throughout the night. The museum itself is stunning in its displays, and boasts a wide range of topics for your interests.
Worst thing about it: It’s hard to choose a ‘worst’ thing about this museum, since I love it so much, but in the past I have been slightly disappointed in their special exhibits. To be fair, I haven’t even been to this museum in awhile, and definitely not as many times as the War Museum.
Aviation and Space Museum
If you have a thing for planes and space, this is your museum. The Canada Aviation and Space Museum is home to some pretty cool planes and helicopters. They range from biplane to jet, from commercial airplane (small sets) to rocket, and beyond. This museum is different from most of the others in that there is less information to read, but definitely still countless things to fascinate you.
One of the coolest moments had to be getting to sit inside a jet. My friend Sylvan and I eagerly ran for it, once we noticed it was allowed. The amount of controls inside the cockpit were mind-boggling, and I knew without a doubt I could never be a fighter pilot. At an earlier fighter pilot safety demonstration, we learned that when flying, fighter pilots have to take in large breaths of air, let it out quickly, and immediately begin inhaling once again, or else they run the risk of having their lungs collapse. Call me crazy but that – combined with the buttons and the style of job you have to complete – does not sound remotely appealing to me.
As with my previous two listings, this museum has several interactive displays, ranging from the fighter jet you can sit in to quizzes you can take to outfits you can try on. This museum is also where I made the discovery that helicopters look like they have faces.
Don’t believe me? Check out the picture below!
An interesting feature of this museum is that it boasts an area dedicated to potential future designs of planes, most created in an effort to provide a more sustainable and eco-friendly version of flying.
Best thing about it: Space travel has always fascinated me, and being above the clouds (in a plane) is one of my happy places (claustrophobia aside). I enjoyed learning about the history of certain aircraft and the pilots/astronauts who fly them. It’s an added bonus in my books that this museum once hosted a special Star Wars exhibit.
Worst thing about it: It’s difficult to get to if you don’t have a car. Mind you, I’ve only had to take the bus there once (the other two times I’ve been with people who visited me with a vehicle), but unless it’s high season (summer), the bus doesn’t drive right in to the museum parking lot. Instead, you’re looking at a good 20 minute walk in from the nearest main street.
This is only my first post about Ottawa’s museums. At some point in the future, I will have another post to continue them! Until next time!
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