A 13th birthday is a milestone, and our daughter’s birthday would land in the middle of our summer roadtrip through Ontario. We did a bit of research and decided that we’d pull out of the wilderness and spend her special day in the city of Sudbury.
Sudbury, you ask? Yes, well, I did too. But only momentarily because, as it turns out, Sudbury is an incredible city that offers experiences that aren’t available anywhere else.
Topping the list of these unique experiences is Sudbury’s Science North. We arrived at opening hour and we were there as closing announcements rang through the building. (Truth be told, we could have easily spent a week!)
#1: Interactive and Experiential
The thing about Science North that really sets it apart is how much effort and thoughtful design has gone into ensuring that all of the exhibits are interactive. And I mean truly interactive—not some lame touch screen that reads text to you. For example, as you walk in the entrance, there was a three-dimensional puzzle of a dinosaur skeleton for museum visitors to play with (and ingeniously placed to occupy kids while their parents are getting entrance tickets). This immediately captivated both our 7-year-old and our now 13-year-old.
Throughout the science centre are “Bluecoats,” the name affectionately given to all staff. Unlike museums, where the only staff you tend to see are the security guards, Science North is populated with friendly blue-coat wearing, science-loving folks who are eager to enhance your science centre experience and answer any questions.
From offering to let you hold a tarantula or giant snail to explaining the environmental value of eating insects (and even giving you some fried crickets to taste), the Bluecoats are fabulous!
#2: Grand Scope of Science
Anyone who’s been to one science museum can generally say they’ve been to them all. You’ll find things like the traditional dino bones’ room, an exhibit of taxidermied animals, and maybe even some pretty stones too. Don’t get me wrong…these things alone (paleontology, biology, and geology) can be pretty fascinating. And our family tries to visit our local museum of nature as many times a year as we can.
But the scope of “science” is remarkably broad, and most museums just aren’t able to cover the full spectrum. Science North, on the other hand, seems to exist in order to communicate this scope to its visitors. In my mind, it told my children: science is awesome, and everyone can love science. (It successfully did this even for me — a wizened gal who hadn’t taken a science class since high school.)
From chemistry, nature, and physiology, to physics, space, and technology, Science North actually covers them all (and more)! They do this in fascinating and interactive ways, such as model car race track where you make your own vehicle to learn facets of physics, to inflatable (pig) lungs that demonstrate the effects of smoking on organs, to a computer lab where you can use a green screen for special effects in media production.
The science centre also offers a number of workshops throughout the day for those looking for a deeper experience. These are longer and even more experiential than the other exhibits. Our family signed up for the lapidary stone polishing workshop. (My husband and I were amazed that they would let us use these machines!) Each participant picks a rough stone and then leaves with a polished beauty.
#3: Family-Friendly Prices
The hour-long workshop I just described above was at no additional charge. And that was just one of many events that were taking place throughout the day. A general admission ticket for a child is $22, a youth or senior is $24, and an adult is $26. These prices are less than a movie theater show with popcorn, and offer a full-day experience.
One thing I tend to resent, especially when the kids were younger, is the inevitable visit to the museum gift shop. I say “inevitable” because museums are often designed so that you have to exit through the gift shop. At Science North, there is a great little gift shop, but it’s not forced down your throat. I like that. I also liked that the cafeteria offered a great mix of lunch offerings that were all reasonably priced.
We’ll Be Back, Sudbury!
In hindsight, we were a bit disappointed that we hadn’t scheduled for more time in Sudbury. Beyond Science North, I would have liked a chance to take in some of the city’s active music and foodie scene, while my husband was drooling at the possibility of trying out the many mountain biking trails. It’s a foregone conclusion that we’ll be back!