Best children’s museums and kid’s activities in Ottawa

These are the best kids activities and museums in Ottawa, Canada

Can you spot the little monkey at this top museum in Ottawa?

I know what you’re thinking: kids + museums = recipe for disaster. That may have been the case when I grew up, but many have upped their game with interactive exhibits appealing more to children than culture vultures. To find both interactive fun and national treasures in our nation’s capital, here are eight of the top museums in Ottawa for children and their families.

Looking for a children’s museum in Ottawa?

Best children's museums and kid's activities in Ottawa

Believe it or not, this is an exhibit at one of Canada’s national museums (inside the Canadian Museum of History

Canadian Museum of History

The Canadian Museum of History is pretty rad – especially as it houses the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles! The big draw, however, is the Canadian Children’s Museum, that lies within this museum. There’s a mini theatre, where creative kids can get up on stage or experience the wonders of backstage. The theme here is travelling the world, which is easily done without hopping on a plane. Children explore other cultures by sitting in a rickshaw, selling wheels of gouda at a European market or chilling out with crafts from another country.

Ottawa children's museum dutch exhbit

Gouda, anyone?

Note: Technically this museum lies in Gatineau, Quebec, but it’s just on the other side of the Ottawa River and super close to get to from downtown. 

ottawa national children's museum

No stuffy museum here! The Canadian Children’s Museum is an indoor playground.

Canadian Museum of Nature

If you’ve got a dino fan on your hands, you’ll want to hit up this natural history museum. There are  fossils to touch including that of a duckbilled dinosaur! Not to miss is the Water Gallery, where children can play Captain on a research ship or use microscopes to spot the tiniest of organisms. There’s not many places in the world where you can build a volcano or create an earthquake, so the Earth Gallery is another one to check out. So many exhibits are hands-on it’s not hard to engage children in the natural world here.

Children's nature museum ottawa

T-Rex tykes will love all the dinosaur fossils at the Canadian Museum of Nature

Bonus: The museum offers a dedicated nursing room and weekend events geared towards families. It gets crowded though, so head here early.

Ottawa children's museum of nature

The Mammal Gallery is worth a stroll through. too!

Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

More than a museum, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum sports a working farm and petting zoo, where kids can meet cute critters and get their hands dirty while learning all aspects from farm to fork. Daily demonstrations range from ice cream making (and tasting), bunny care and cow washing(!). You can even take a horse-drawn wagon ride through the Central Experimental Farm on weekends from May to October.

Ottawa farm museum for children and teens

A petting zoo and farm make this museum family friendly. (Photo credit: Canada Agriculture and Food Museum)

National Gallery of Canada

Children may not care that this cultural institution houses the largest collection of Canadian art in the world, but you can bet they’ll be wowed by the site of Maman, the 30-foot spider who welcomes one and all to this art enclave. Families will especially want to visit on weekends and during school holidays to participate in Artissimo. Set up in the Great Hall, this children’s program helps to connect families to art through crafts, scavenger hunts and complimentary art buddy tours. Incidentally, this is Canada’s top art museum.

Ottawa art museum for children

Say hello to Maman before going inside the gallery.

Canada Aviation and Space Museum

You may not be able to cough up enough cash to take your family on an airplane ride across the country, but flight seeing tours at this museum are great value. Soar over downtown Ottawa and Parliament Hill in a Cessna aircraft for only $35 per person. Besides interesting exhibits that range from life in space to unmanned aerial vehicles, they host child-friendly exhibits all year round.

Children's flight museum ottawa canada

Take an affordable plane ride at this national museum. (Photo credit: Canada Aviation and Space Museum)

Diefenbunker

If you’ve got a military buff in your brood, it’s worth the trip outside Ottawa to this underground bunker built during the Cold War. The 100,000 sq ft secret facility was designed to house Canadian military and government officials in the event of a nuclear war. Tours are pretty cool, especially the detail they give to the special toilets. (No toilet tales told here!) Teens will want to take part in the espionage themed escape room experiences and spy camps run for the younger set during school holidays.

cool teen and kid's museum ottawa

How many cities can boast having a cold war Museum? (Credit: Diefenbunker)

Visiting the Royal Canadian Mint

The Mint is a fun spot for families to suss out in Ottawa

See coins created in what looks like a castle. (Photo credit: Mint.ca)

Its headquarters look like a castle and inside this historic building you can take a guided tour to learn how coins are made. The best part is holding a gold bar that’s worth over $750,000! Needless to say, budding coin collectors can geek out at the new collections of gold and silver coins.

Canadian War Museum

Not everyone feels comfortable taking their children to a war museum, but the Canadian War Museum isn’t gory and the military vehicles, artillery, uniforms and personal memoirs on display catch kid’s attention. More importantly, this is one of the world’s most respected museums for the study of armed conflict. Consider the galleries that highlight the defining moments in Canada’s military history as a conversation starter to help children understand how past events have shaped our nation.

Best Museums in Ottawa Canada for Families

P.S. You might like to read:

Rush of a lifetime! Arctic safari in Churhill, Manitoba

5 Best things to do in Vancouver with kids

Thank you Ottawa Tourism for hosting my visit. As always, my opinions are my own.

What museums around the world have been a big hit for your family?

About the Author:

I’m a freelance writer with bad hair, a loud mouth and a serious case of wanderlust. Whether it’s luggage, time or just life, I cram as much as possible into small compartments. Warning: Contents may shift during flight. My life is one bumpy ride! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest.

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