Five Epic Encounters to Experience in Ottawa Museums This Summer

Photo credit: Canadian Museum of Nature

Ottawa is home to no less than seven of Canada’s nine national museums, making the nation’s capital the ultimate destination for cultural adventures. Visiting this summer? From humankind’s earliest ancestors to a well-known Renaissance man, here are five epic encounters at Ottawa’s top museums that are not to be missed.

Photo credit: © Sculpture Elisabeth Daynes, Neanderthal-La Chapelle-aux-Saints. Photo: S. Entressangle. / Photo credit: Canadian Museum of History

1. Our Neanderthal Ancestors
Spend an afternoon at the Canadian Museum of History exploring Neanderthal (until January 26, 2020), an exceptional showcase of fossils and artifacts rarely seen outside of Europe that examines the existence of our cave-dwelling ancestors. Spoiler alert: According to new research, this primitive species of the Homo genus is much more similar to us than ever imagined.

Located in Gatineau, the Canadian Museum of History is the country’s most-visited museum. Signature attractions include the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles (in the spectacular Grand Hall) and the Canadian Children’s Museum, a favourite with the under-12 crowd.

Photo credit: Canadian Museum of Nature / Photo credit: Canadian Museum of Nature

2. A Pterosaur That Lived 200 Million Years Ago
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… an incredible winged reptile that lived 200 million years ago! Pterosaur: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs at the Canadian Museum of Nature (until September 2, 2019) is a treat for amateur palaeontologists of all ages. See the mythical creatures come to life through a large-scale diorama, a full-sized model depicting the Quetzalcoatlus northropi 10-metre wingspan, and a cutting-edge interactive experience that lets you soar over the prehistoric landscape… as a pterosaur!

Leave the little ones with a sitter: Nature Nocturne is a 19+ after-hours party held the last Friday of every month.

Photo credit: Illustration: © Luc Normandin / Photo credit: Ottawa Tourism

3. An Army of Fierce Highland Warriors
Visit Highland Warriors at the Canadian War Museum (until January 12, 2020), which traces the richly woven history of Medieval Gaelic warriors, King James’ Scottish Jacobites and today’s Canadian Highland regiments. Developed in collaboration with Nomad Exhibitions and Glasgow Museums, the exhibition follows the origins, culture and history of Highland Warriors with more than 100 awesome artifacts like broadswords and beautiful tartans.

Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to wander: the War Museum boasts an impressive collection of tanks, jet fighters and artillery—not to mention the headstone from the grave of Canada’s Unknown Soldier.

Photo credit: Grande Exhibitions / Canada Science and Technology Museum

4. The Ultimate Renaissance Man
Check out Leonardo Da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius at the Canada Science and Technology Museum (until September 2, 2019) to journey into the mind of the Renaissance man par excellence. This comprehensive exhibit includes over 200 displays of art reproductions, inventions, and an immersive cinematic experience. Bonus: the exclusive Secrets of the Mona Lisa exhibition offers an in-depth analysis of the world’s most famous painting.

Following an $80-million overhaul completed in 2017, the same museum is packed with cutting-edge galleries devoted to a wide array of topics. One of the few original exhibits remaining after the renovations: The decidedly lo-fi—but totally crowd-pleasing—Crazy Kitchen.

Photo credit: Woman of the Mango (Vahine no te vi) (detail), 1892. Baltimore Museum of Art. The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland (BMA 1950.213). Photo: Mitro Hood / National Gallery of Canada at night / Photo credit: National Gallery of Canada

5. Gauguin’s “Woman of the Mango”
This is one of the earliest works by French post-impressionist artist Paul Gauguin. Completed in Tahiti, “Woman of the Mango” is just one of the many portraits on display as part of Gauguin: Portraits at the National Gallery of Canada (until September 8, 2019), the world’s first exhibition devoted to this influential 19th-century artist’s portrait work. (FYI, noteworthy Gauguin fans include Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.)

After exploring Gauguin’s world, don’t miss the Gallery’s collection of works by the renowned Group of Seven, Riopelle, Morriseau and more.

Want to save big on your Ottawa experience? Grab the Museums Passport to visit three museums over three days for $35. For more information and to start planning your getaway, visit Ottawa Tourism.