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Must-Visit Exhibits at the Ontario Science Centre

June 30, 2023 By CityPASS

Toronto is known for its waterfront activities, diverse population and cuisine, vibrant city lifestyle, and iconic downtown skyline featuring the CN Tower, Rogers Centre Stadium, and the Toronto Islands.

However, as you continue through the city, you come across areas that rise from decades past, where brick homes with ornate turrets brush against modern, clean-cut buildings paying homage to nature. You see pockets of mature trees and great swathes of Greenbelt forests. You also see the Ontario Science Centre, a beloved Toronto institution that blends advances in science and tech into a unique, hands-on experience.

Introduction to the Ontario Science Centre

Back in the 1960s, Torontonians had plenty of traditional museums and attractions, but they didn’t have an educational science space where you could see and touch the exhibits. They didn’t have dedicated science museums in Toronto. Talks began in 1964 between city officials, the provincial government, and top designers.

Their plan? Construct a center for science, a place to complement the public’s interest in the space race and the newest approach to science. Architect Raymond Moriyama designed the structure, creating three buildings connected with walking paths that wound around many existing trees.

Since 1969, the Ontario Science Centre has wowed visitors with its live science demonstrations and exhibits on science and tech innovations. It’s a center for kids and adults, where school trips are a daily event and the air pulses with excitement. It also offers the best way to learn by touching, moving, rolling, and seeing it for yourself.

Here are the must-see exhibits and interactive experiences when you next visit Toronto and the Science Centre.

The Science Arcade

Ask anyone who went to the Ontario Science Centre as a kid what they loved, and they’ll tell you the Science Arcade. Found on Level 6, this area is one of the original permanent exhibits, where you can play with electricity using the Van De Graaff generator, push and pull levers and pulleys, go through the shadowed tunnel, and get lost in a distorted room. There are plenty of optical illusions, racing and video games, artifacts of science, and even bike-powered generators.

The Space Hall and Toronto’s Only Public Planetarium

If you love astronomical science, head to the Space Hall on Level 4 and check out the planetarium. Since the 2005 closure of the McLaughlin Planetarium (which stood next to the Royal Ontario Museum), you won’t find this type of attraction at any other Toronto museums.

The Ontario Science Centre planetarium hosts different shows that take guests on a journey through space. Each show has a speaker who walks you through the show and enhances the immersive experience.

The Space Hall itself extends past the planetarium, with galaxy-filled displays about meteorites, black holes, and other wonders. You can even see exhibits about astronauts and get close to the collection of moon rocks and Martian rocks.

The Bruce Poon Tip Living Earth Hall

Natural environments and the science of nature is all around you at the Living Earth Hall. In this exhibit found on Level 6, you can walk into a rainforest and experience the sights and sounds of a tropical landscape — complete with roaring waterfalls and a quest to find the poison dart frogs.

As another must-see interactive exhibit at the Ontario Science Centre, the Living Earth Hall lets guests test the feel of a tornado, inspect a fin whale skeleton, and crawl through the darkness of a cave.

The AstraZeneca Human Edge (Replaced space hall - goes with planetarium)

If you guessed that the Human Edge would be about the human body, you’re right. This permanent exhibit takes you under the water to give you a diver’s perspective on scuba diving. It also gets hands-on with physical fitness, letting you climb a wall that mimics a Mount Everest ascent.

Need more ways to test your limits? How about practicing your skills on the dance floor, looking at skeletons, trying the Aging Machine, or getting personal with your fight or flight response.

Ontario’s Only IMAX® Dome Theatre

First opened in 1996, the Ontario Science Centre’s IMAX® Dome Theatre immerses viewers in a world of motion. These films have a 70mm frame, which is 10 times bigger than standard films.

In its first 25 years of use, the Science Centre showed 65 IMAX® films to a whopping 7.3 million viewers, with topics like asteroids, dinosaurs, oceans, the human body, and engineering marvels.

These films show on a giant screen and require separate film tickets that you can add to general admission.

Tips for Your Next Time Visiting the Ontario Science Centre

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or have been in the past — or even back in childhood — you could always benefit from handy tips.

  • Get your tickets in advance: Instead of waiting in line, buy your tickets online before you get to the Ontario Science Centre. You can show your Toronto CityPASS® tickets at the Membership desk.
  • Check the map: The Science Centre is big. To plan your day and avoid confusion, grab a paper map or view it on your phone.
  • Bring coins for the lockers: Storage lockers are found on Level 6 and are coin-operated.
  • Decide whether to pack lunch or buy it: You can bring lunch and snacks, or you can enjoy the convenience of in-house dining. The Valley Restaurant is on Level 6, and the Lobby Cafe is on Level 2. Different vending machines are found throughout the building, along with water refill stations on Level 6.
  • Consider alternate transportation: The parking lot can fill up on busy days and weekends. So, you may need to search harder for a spot. If you want to skip the crowds and get easier parking, consider a mid-afternoon visit, or use public transit by bus or subway.

Embark on a Journey of Discovery at the Ontario Science Centre

Are you planning to visit Toronto? Make sure you fit in a stop at the Ontario Science Centre for hands-on fun.

There are plenty of things to do in Toronto. So, don’t be surprised if you want to make a return trip to Toronto and its surroundings. The northern metropolis has adventures in all four seasons to keep kids and adults entertained. Get your CityPASS® tickets before you go to save up to off the cost of admission.

Lodging in Toronto

Need lodging for your trip to Toronto? Use this map to find the right lodging for you:

Header Image Courtesy of Ontario Science Centre

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