There are so many great reasons to take a family road trip to Toronto! One of Toronto’s classic family-friendly destinations is the Ontario Science Centre. Since 1969, the Ontario Science Centre has been teaching visitors about science from its picturesque grounds in the Don Valley. You may have heard about the Ontario government’s plan to move the Ontario Science Centre to a new home on the waterfront as part of the revitalized Ontario Place. Construction of the new facility is scheduled to begin in 2025 with a grand opening slated for 2028.
In the meantime, the Ontario Science Centre is still worth visiting in its original home. In fact, now may be a better time than ever to pay this iconic facility a visit, particularly if you have fond memories from your own childhood. A tour through the Ontario Science Centre today will steep you in nostalgia and leave you looking forward to the future. Today’s young learners are as hungry as we were to learn about and engage with science. It’s a lot of fun for parents to see this in action as kids echo the same joys we took from the Ontario Science Centre in our youth.
What to expect when you arrive at the Ontario Science Centre
One memory you can’t relive when arriving at the Ontario Science Centre today is crossing to the exhibit space on the pedestrian bridge. The bridge connecting the main entrance hall to the exhibit levels was closed in 2022 due to structural integrity concerns. Instead, shuttle buses will greet you outside near the IMAX theatre and will transport you to the lower exhibit hall at Level 6. You can make your way up to the rest of the exhibits from there. An accessibility shuttle is available for visitors with strollers, mobility devices, or other accommodation requirements.
Weston Family Innovation Centre
Once you get off the shuttle and enter at Level 6, the first exhibit hall you’re likely to encounter is the Weston Family Innovation Centre. This section of the Ontario Science Centre opened in 2006, so it won’t spark memories for older generations of visitors as the rest of the exhibits might. But the teenager among us gasped as she entered and began telling stories from her elementary school field trips.
As with many parts of the Ontario Science Centre, the Weston Family Innovation Centre is highly interactive. It aims to encourage experimentation through activities that demonstrate elements of the physical like viscosity and movement.
You can find a smattering of nostalgia here, though. A pre-computing polling station is on display, as is the Coffee machine. This dates back to the earliest days of the Ontario Science Centre and is one of the earliest examples of a digital voice synthesizer. It can only say one word—that being “coffee”—and its timing and pitch can be adjusted with a pair of joysticks. It’s mind-blowing to think this was the height of computing just 50 years ago. Technology has come so far in such a short time.
The AstraZeneca Human Edge
Across the hall from the Weston Family Innovation Centre on Level 6 is The AstraZeneca Human Edge. This exhibit explores the human body in many ways: how we move, change, adapt and grow. As with many other exhibits at the Ontario Science Centre, the AstraZeneca Human Edge is very interactive. The displays encourage visitors to run, cycle, dance, and climb. You’ll even examine how you respond to a fear of heights and the unknown!
Don’t miss the smaller exhibits at the Ontario Science Centre
There are also several smaller exhibits at the Ontario Science Centre. Each has a different reason it may capture your attention.
The Science Arcade was one of our favourite features as kids visiting the centre in the 1980s. Truthfully, it hasn’t changed a lot since then, but that just increases the nostalgia factor. It’s mostly aged well and turns physics into all sorts of interesting games and puzzles. (In a hallway just outside, you’ll find the driving and braking reflex test machines. If you loved cars as a kid, you’ll definitely remember these!)
Bruce Poon Tip Living Earth Hall
The Bruce Poon Tip Living Earth Hall takes you through a simulated rainforest, aquariums, and a cave as you learn about environmental science. Take a moment to examine the core sample from a real landfill. It’s thought-provoking to see that our trash isn’t breaking down because it’s not decomposing properly. Perhaps one of the future scientists touring the centre today will invent a better solution.
A Question of Truth
A Question of Truth is a lesser-known exhibit and was an unexpected highlight for us. It’s located one level up from the Valley Restaurant and can be accessed from the staircases there. A Question of Truth ponders the difference between opinion and fact and how science interacts with perception. It also considers bias and how our human experience shapes us from our nearly identical beginnings into the individuals we become.
Level 3: KidsPark and Space Hall
Ride the escalator through Forest Lane to reach Level 3. Here you’ll find KidsPark, another interactive section of the Ontario Science Centre designed for kids aged 8 and under. The Space Hall is also on this level and touches on some evergreen science topics relating to outer space. As a group of adults and a teenager, the highlight on this level for us is the enormous rolling ball machine. There are so many details to discover as the balls roll through and keep the machine in motion. We could stand and watch this for hours!
The Ontario Science Centre is still worth visiting
Amid all the discussion of its upcoming relocation, today’s Ontario Science Centre remains well worth a visit. Making science fun fosters a lifetime of learning, and the many interactive exhibits here teach science concepts in an entertaining way that will stay with kids for a long time. This is why families with younger kids—roughly aged 8 and under—will get the most out of a visit to the Ontario Science Centre and can expect to be there for at least a half-day.
As a group of adults and a teenager, we also thoroughly enjoyed visiting, but for different reasons. While we worked our way through the Ontario Science Centre, we felt nostalgic at every turn—yes, even the teenager, who last visited on a school field trip roughly six years ago. It’s becoming more likely the centre’s time in the Don Valley is coming to a close. We highly recommend indulging in this walk down memory lane and paying the centre a visit here while you can.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much is a ticket for the Ontario Science Centre?
As of January 2024, tickets for the Ontario Science Centre cost $22 for adults, $16 for teenagers 13 to 17, and $13 for children 3 to 12. Infants under 3 are free. All prices include HST. Tickets for IMAX films cost extra, and admission to the centre is always free if you sign up for an annual membership (starts from $125 per year for two adults and two children).
Do I have to pay for parking at the Ontario Science Centre?
Yes. If you choose to park on-site at the Ontario Science Centre, you’ll need to pay a $12 parking fee. Alternately, you could bike or walk to the centre using the Lower Don Trail, or you could take public transit.
How do I get to the Ontario Science Centre on the TTC?
Take the subway to Pape Station on Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth), then take the 925 Don Mills Express bus northbound. The St. Dennis Dr. stop is closest to the Ontario Science Centre.
How long does it take to get through the Ontario Science Centre?
A family with young children should expect to spend at least four hours exploring the Ontario Science Centre.
What do you do at the Ontario Science Centre?
The Ontario Science Centre is an educational facility. It includes multiple floors of interactive exhibits that teach science concepts. Children benefit greatly from engaging with and learning from these activities.
Is outside food allowed at the Ontario Science Centre?
Yes. You’re permitted to pack and bring your own food to the Ontario Science Centre. Note that seating inside the Valley Restaurant is reserved for customers, but additional seating is offered elsewhere throughout the centre. Food can be stored in lockers (bring a loonie to use them), and a station for refillable water bottles is located on Level 6.
Why is the Ontario Science Centre bridge closed?
The pedestrian bridge connecting the Ontario Science Centre’s entrance to its exhibit halls was closed in 2022 due to structural integrity concerns. With the centre expected to relocate to Ontario Place by 2028, it’s unlikely the bridge will be repaired. Shuttle buses are being used to transport visitors from the main entrance to a new temporary exhibit hall entrance on Level 6. An accessibility shuttle is offered for people with strollers, mobility devices, or other accommodation needs.
Does the Ontario Science Centre’s Valley Restaurant have options for dietary restrictions?
Yes! We noticed several selections at the Valley Restaurant for people with dietary restrictions, including gluten-free and vegetarian options.