Your guide to Ottawa museums: Where to go and what to see in 2024

The nation’s capital is home to some of the best museums in Canada. Here’s a look at six museums to visit and the travelling exhibitions you shouldn’t miss.

The nation’s capital is home to many of the country’s major cultural institutions. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or grew up in the area, they are always worth a visit.

You’ll find an ever-changing array of temporary exhibitions, plus perennial favourites such as the dinosaur gallery at the Canadian Museum of Nature and the Grand Hall of the Canadian Museum of History, not to mention the distinctive architecture of each building.

Here’s a guide to what’s happening at local museums in 2024.

Canadian Museum of History

100 Laurier St., Gatineau

Designed by architect Douglas Cardinal and completed in 1989, the exterior of the 93,000 square-metre institution is distinguished by undulating curves that hug the shores of the Ottawa River across from Parliament Hill.

First Royals of Europe: More than 700 rare and precious items from 26 institutions across southeastern Europe are on view in Canada for the first time in this special exhibition organized by the Field Museum in Chicago. It includes some of the oldest objects made of gold by humans, dating back to 4600 BCE. Runs to Jan. 19, 2025.

Canada’s Got Game: Highlights of the Order of Sport Collection, runs to Oct. 6.

Permanent features to explore: The Canadian Children’s Museum; Canadian Stamp Collection; Canadian History Hall; First Peoples Hall; Grand Hall.

Plus: Screenings of Sea Lions: Life By a Whisper, Jane Goodall: Reasons for Hope, Blue Whales: Return of the Giants and more at CINÉ+ (a 295-seat movie theatre equipped with a huge 3D screen and a giant dome).

Canadian Museum of Nature

240 McLeod St., Ottawa

Canada’s natural history museum is housed in the Victoria Memorial Museum Building, an historic castle-like structure made of local sandstone that opened in 1912. It was designed by David Ewart as a counterpart to the Centre Block of the original Parliament Buildings.

Bug Adventure: Larger-than-life displays, interactive games and cool facts about bugs are all part of a special exhibition created by the same design team responsible for eye-popping movies such as Lord of the Rings and Avatar. Runs to Oct. 14. Requires a combo ticket package that includes the regular entry fee, plus admission to Bug Adventure. (Not to be confused with the permanent Bugs Alive gallery, which features live cockroaches, beetles, tarantulas and more).

Wolves! Shapeshifters in a Changing World: This exhibition was designed in-house by museum staff and includes large-format photographs by the award-winning Ottawa wildlife photographer, Michelle Valberg. Runs to Sept. 2.

Our Land, Our Art: Created to shine a spotlight on the northern part of Quebec known as Nunavik, this exhibition juxtaposes digital images with ancient cultural artifacts. Runs to Oct. 14.

Permanent galleries to explore: Fossils, Earth, Birds, Arctic, Bugs Alive, Mammals, Water and the Pacific Discovery Tank.

Canadian War Museum

1 Vimy Place, Ottawa

Situated at LeBreton Flats, the institution dedicated to Canada’s military history was designed by architect Raymond Moriyama to reflect environmental sustainability. Opened in 2005, one of its most striking exterior features is the 10,684 square-metre “green” roof, which consists of a self-sustaining ecosystem of tall grasses native to the area.

Canadian Forces Artists Program – Group 9: Jean-Pierre Aubé, Alana Bartol, Olivia Rozema, and Jessica Lynn Wiebe are the four civilian artists who were selected to deploy with the Canadian Forces during 2018 and 2019. This exhibition of their work was created by the Canadian War Museum in partnership with the Directorate of History and Heritage. Runs to Sept. 2.

Canada, Korea and the War: A panel exhibition marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. Runs to May 20.

Legion National Foundation’s Annual Poster and Literary Contest Winners: See the winning entries created by students from across the country. Runs to Oct. 13.

Canadian Experience galleries to explore: Early Wars in Canada; The South African and First World Wars; The Second World War; From the Cold War to the Present.

Also: The Royal Canadian Legion Hall of Honour; LeBreton Gallery of Military Technology; Memorial Hall; Moriyama Regeneration Hall.

Canada Aviation and Space Museum

11 Aviation Parkway, Ottawa

Canada’s museum of aviation history moved to its current location on a former military air base in 1988. The 8,200 square-metre Reserve Hangar was a later addition, built for storage in 2005 and lending a distinctive flair with its angular shape and reflective metal shell.

Permanent exhibitions: Engines: The Power to Fly!; Life in Orbit: The International Space Station; The Story of Human Flight; Canada in Space; Health in Space: Daring to Explore; Eyes on the Skies: Managing Air Traffic Control in Canada; The Cold War.

Plus: Book a tour of the Reserve Hangar, where the planes not on display are stored, including a de Havilland D.H. 98 Mosquito B XX and the wing tips of the Avro CF-105 Arrow 2. (Note: The tour is not recommended for children). Tours available to Jan. 2, 2025.

Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

901 Prince of Wales Dr., Ottawa

This working farm-turned-museum is located at the Central Experimental Farm, a national heritage site in the heart of Ottawa, complete with a horse barn, dairy barn, sheep field, poultry house, soil lab, demonstration kitchen and more.

The Island in the Middle of Everywhere: Find out how Northern Coast Salish people on Xwe’etay (pronounced hwe-e-tay), part of the Northern Gulf Islands in British Columbia, sustainably produced food over thousands of years. Runs to March 31, 2025.

Ecuador: The Origins of Cacao: Learn about the cacao plant, the essential ingredient in chocolate, and Ecuador’s role in sharing it with the world. Runs to Sept. 30.

Permanent exhibitions: The Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame; Canola: Seeds of Innovation; Discovery Park (outdoor exhibition); Aquaculture: Farming the Waters; Farming for the Future.

Canada Museum of Science and Technology

1867 St. Laurent Blvd., Ottawa

The former bakery on St. Laurent Boulevard, which became a museum in the 1960s, was fully revamped in 2017, alongside a state-of-the-art storage facility constructed to protect and showcase Canada’s national science and technology collection.

Oh Crap! Rethinking human waste: An exhibition on the environmental and social issues surrounding human waste. Opens May 10, runs to Jan. 5.

Permanent exhibitions to explore: Artifact Alley; Crazy Kitchen+; From Earth to Us; Hidden Worlds; Medical Sensations; Sound by Design; Steam: A World in Motion; Technology in Our Lives; Wearable Tech; ZOOOM: Children’s Innovation Zone; Into the Great Outdoors

Author of the article: Lynn Saxberg, Ottawa Citizen