We make the 4.5 hour drive north from the Toronto area to Sudbury a few times a year as my husband's parents and my youngest sister and her family both live there. One of our favourite places to visit when we are in town has always been Science North which is Canada's second largest science centre and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ontario.
Science North has a beautiful location on the shores of Ramsey Lake. There is a wooden boardwalk alongside the lake where visitors are welcome to stroll and there are boat cruises available on the lake from late May until early October.
One of my favourite parts of Science North is the tunnel that leads from the main building to the building that houses most of the exhibits. Due to the elevation difference between the two, architects were able to link them by way of an underground rock tunnel that was blasted through 2.3 billion year old bedrock. Nickel mining has always played a significant role in the economy of Sudbury and this tunnel is meant to replicate the experience of walking through an underground mine.
Visitors access the upper exhibit floors by way of a glass-enclosed spiral ramp which affords a beautiful view of Ramsey Lake as well as Science North's natural surroundings with the occasional small animal or bird sighting. The ramp area also incorporates rock outcrops and an ancient geological fault line known as the Creighton Fault. Looking up, visitors will also be amazed by the huge skeleton of a Fin Whale that is suspended from the ceiling of the upper level.
F. Jean MacLeod Butterfly Gallery
The F. Jean MacLeod Butterfly Gallery on the second floor is one of our favourite exhibits. Visitors enter the glass-enclosed gallery to find hundreds of tropical butterflies and plants. The climate-controlled (i.e. humid) room features feeding stations with attached magnifiers so that visitors can get a close look (without touching!) and also an enclosed cabinet with hanging pupae in various stages of development. Lucky visitors may see a butterfly emerge while they are watching.
The Nature Labs on the 3rd floor are another a fun and educational area for families to explore. The floor is divided into several labs including the Forest Lab; the Northern Garden; the Wetlands Lab; the Lakes and River Lab; and an Erosion Table. This space is very popular with kids due to the presence of live animals that they can learn more about and, in some cases, interact with. The Lakes and Rivers Lab is home to Drifter - a beaver who has his very own enclosed dam and waterway. On one visit, several years ago, we met a baby beaver that one of the staff members was holding for visitors to pet. I was surprised by the incredibly soft texture of his fur which provided some insight into why the historic beaver fur trade prospered for such a long time.
In the Forest Lab, visitors can also observe snakes, frogs, Eastern Screech Owls named Ben and Hootie, Rosy the skunk and my favourite, Quillan the porcupine. Handlers remove Quillan from his enclosure from time to time to have a snack and allow visitors the opportunity to pet him. When petting a porcupine, it is very important to do it in one motion down his back and then lift your hand before touching him again so as not to get speared by a sharp quill. Quillan is very good-natured and sits patiently snacking while people pet and photograph him. My younger daughter, Emma, was afraid to touch him at first but after seeing everyone else doing it without poking themselves on his quills, she bravely petted him as well.
In the Forest Lab, visitors can try on a set of moose antlers to get a sense of just how large these majestic creatures are.
The fourth floor of Science North has a number of fun science labs for hands-on experimentation. These include: BodyZone - exhibits where visitors can learn all about the human body; Space Place - exhibits about astronauts, space missions, and the solar system; the Speed Park Racetrack - an exhibit that teaches about pulleys, motors and structural stability; Tech lab - an exhibit that teaches about all things electrical; and the FedNor Cyber Zone - an exhibit that explores computer technology.
A visit to Science North in Sudbury, Ontario is a fun and educational experience for the entire family and one that can be repeated many times without any chance of boredom setting in. Whether visiting the city of Sudbury or just passing through on the Trans Canada Highway, Science North is a great destination for families to spend a few hours.
What You Need to Know
- Science North is located at 100 Ramsey Lake Road in Sudbury (Phone: 1-800-461-4898)
- Science North is open year-round (except for December 24, 25, 26 and January 1) but hours of operation vary by season.
- Quick meals and snacks are available on-site at Elements Food Court and at Café Boréal.
- There is also a Digital Planetarium and an IMAX Theatre on site and there is a separate admission fee for each.
- The Toddler's Treehouse is a fun play area for young children up to age 5.
- The Whizard's Gift Shop just inside the main entrance has a wide selection of educational toys and souvenirs.
- General Admission pricing is: $20 for adults; $18 for youths/seniors; and $16 for children aged 12 and under. There is combination pricing available with several options including Dynamic Earth (a nearby science centre also operated by Science North); IMAX and the Planetarium. Parking at both Science North and Dynamic Earth is $5 per vehicle although we have visited during the off-season when there has been no charge for parking.
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