10 Awesome & Quirky Museums to Visit this Summer
Planning a stop at a museum is a great way to get deeper understanding of local history—and pick up some souvenirs. We’ve rounded up the best and most unusual museums in Northeastern Ontario to help you plan your next trip. Whether it’s a comprehensive look at the traditions of the Anishinaabe people or a collection of train-related artifacts housed in a retired CN railcar, you’ll find something worth checking out at each of the following places. Keep in mind that many of these spots keep seasonal hours so be sure to call or check online before you visit.
Discovery North Bay Museum
Train lovers rejoice—the historic Discovery North Bay Museum is located in the beautifully restored Canadian Pacific Railway station in downtown North Bay. With views over Lake Nipissing the location alone is worth the visit. Inside the 113-year old building visitors will find local exhibitions and programming for the whole family so be sure to check the museum’s online calendar for upcoming events. Ghost hunters can sign up for a lamp-lit haunted hike tour around the museum and downtown. The Train Station gift shop has a massive selection of everything model train related.
Callander Bay Heritage Museum
Anyone with an interest in the world-famous Dionne Quintuplets will want to plan a stop at the Callander Bay Heritage Museum—situated in the the house of the quint’s former doctor and guardian. In this eight-room house visitors can view items related to the five sisters and Dr. Allan Dafoe’s medical practice, as well as Red Cross nursing artifacts and a reconstructed barbershop. Visitors can also take a walk next door to check out the Alex Dufresne Gallery which features local artists. Those interested specifically in the history of the quintuplets should note that the nearby Dionne Quints Museum, housed in the government-built home where the women grew up, closed in 2015.
Spend a few hours at one of Northern Ontario’s biggest tourist attractions—Science North. This family-friendly spot has a ton of exhibits as well as an IMAX theatre and a planetarium. Visitors can check out local residents Drifter the Beaver and Quillen the porcupine along with a host of other animals native to the region (as well as one non-local rattlesnake). Next up learn to play a rock xylophone, watch a honeybee hive in action, take a selfie with a pair of real moose antlers, stroll through the massive butterfly gallery, or catch a live science demonstration in the Discovery Theatre.
The Ojibwe Cultural Foundation
The Ojibwe Cultural Foundation aims to preserve and revitalize the language, culture, arts, and traditions of the Anishinaabe people. The centre on Manitoulin Island (Mnidoo Mnising in Ojibwe) features an art gallery, museum, theatre, and amphitheatre. Check out the museum’s beautiful Manitou Scroll exhibit that explains the traditional Anishinaabek world view or wander over to the art gallery to explore new work by emerging artists as well as heritage crafts and art in the Woodlands style. In the summer, catch a live show featuring traditional storytelling, singing, and dancing.
Museum of Northern History
What better place to learn about Ontario’s north than Kirkland Lake’s Museum of Northern History, located in the historic Sir Harry Oakes Chateau. Much of the collection is related to the regional mining, agricultural, and lumber industries and includes some quirky finds like a hydraulic barber chair and The Sir Harry Oakes Memorial Book illustrated by Group of Seven artist A. J. Casson. (Oakes was famously murdered in the Bahamas. His son-in-law was framed by the police for the crime and the real murderer has never been found.) Be sure to check out the museum’s calendar for upcoming art exhibits, local musical acts, and seasonal events for the whole family.
Northern Ontario Railroad Museum & Heritage Centre
The Northern Ontario Railroad Museum & Heritage Centre complex is a Disneyland for train lovers. The park is home to a huge collection of railway cars including four locomotives and numerous passenger cars, mining cars, and speeders—and don’t miss the locomotive-themed playground! The museum is located in the former residence of the town’s CN superintendent and serves as a complete guide to local railroad history. Also be sure to check out the nearby Capreol Fire Hall for a look a 1929 Bickle fire engine.
Little Claybelt Homesteaders Museum
The Little Claybelt Homesteaders Museum’s unusual museum building is a replica of the Shepherdson Basket and Pump Works that operated in New Liskeard from the 1930s to the 1950s. The distinctive structure houses rotating exhibits related to pioneer life in the region. Past exhibits include everything from Depression glass and antique cookbooks to a blacksmith’s shop and general store. To further your understanding of the area’s history, check out the gift shop for books by local authors (The Claybelt Chronicles is an impressive series launched by the museum which compiles interviews with locals). Finally, before you leave, be sure to stroll over and say hello to Ms. Claybelt, an eighteen-foot high Holstein cow statue that honors the region’s dairy industry.
Cobalt Mining Museum
A trip to historic Cobalt isn’t complete without a stop at the Mining Museum. After silver deposits were discovered here in 1903 the town quickly became home to an influx of prospectors looking to try their luck. This storefront museum tells the story of the silver rush and is the perfect opportunity to learn about the history of mining. The place is packed with memorabilia, maps, books, and photos as well as the world’s largest display of native silver ore. In the summer visitors can even book a tour of an old silver mine. While you’re in downtown Cobalt be sure to also check out the nearby Bunker Military Museum and Firefighters Museum.
Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre
The Timmins Museum is filled with art, sculpture, textiles, tools, mining equipment, and rotating regional exhibits. Don’t miss a walk through of the world’s last remaining Hollinger House (named after the local mine) which gives you a peek inside a miner’s original 1930s home. This modest house is the last of 250 homes constructed for Hollinger miners and their families and was thankfully saved by preservation efforts. Make a visit to the gift shop for arts and crafts by local artisans.
Ron Morel Memorial Museum
Located just off the Trans Canada Highway in Kapuskasing, the unusual Ron Morel Memorial Museum is a must stop for train lovers. Housed in two Canadian National Railway passenger cars and a CNR 5107 engine, the museum features a ton of train-related memorabilia as well as exhibits related to Kapuskasing’s history. A permanent exhibition of Quebec sculptor Maurice Gaudreault’s work is also on display. In the red caboose you’ll find the gift shop with local souvenirs and (you guessed it) lots of trains-related merchandise for purchase.