One of our favourite spots in the city to bring the kid to has always been The Manitoba Museum. When we unleash ‘Lil here, she does a serious amount of pointing and inquiring followed by a lot of oohs and aahs.
Her fascination began with the Museum’s Earth History Gallery, which features a replica skeleton of a giant sloth (that’s Megatherium americanum, for those of you who want to learn a little Latin). She used to think it was a dinosaur, until Mister pointed out that it’s actually one of the biggest land mammals to ever exist — which ‘Lil thought was the just the coolest. Mister, that ridiculous husband of mine, then went on a tangent that some Mayans and Aztecs used to show the bones of these Pleistocene creatures to the conquistadors in hopes of proving that giants live amongst them. Now, I’m not sure where he was going with this (or if indeed it’s true), but ‘Lil was equally fascinated all the same.
And that’s what is so neat about a trip to The Manitoba Museum for families — it’s simply one of the coolest places to learn and feel a sense of wonder, both for kids and adults, even when you have an obnoxious husband/father in tow.
The Nonsuch Gallery (The Manitoba Museum)
‘Lil’s other favourites at The Museum are many, starting from the life-size buffalo jump diorama, to the massive replica of The Nonsuch, a sailing ship (actually a ketch, which is a ship with two masts — which I learned at The Museum) that you can walk right aboard. The Nonsuch is located in a replica port town from the late 17th century, a setting that has held my imagination ever since I started visiting The Museum as a child.
The aforementioned Earth History Gallery also has several pterosaurs (giant winged reptiles) flying overhead along with a “swimming” plesiosaur and a mosasaur skull.
Having recently watched the new Jurassic World with her dad, in which a mosasaur features prominently (it’s that giant sea lizard — not a dinosaur, as my husband once again obnoxiously pointed out — that they fed the great white shark to) ‘Lil demanded that she be taken back to The Manitoba Museum to see replicas of these creatures. Of course we obliged, because everyone loves to see dinosaurs — sorry, I mean giant prehistoric lizards.
Plesiosaur skeleton top, with a mosasaur skull to the right (Tourism Winnipeg)
These things are all part of The Manitoba Museum’s awesome permanent collection, which includes over 2.6 million artifacts and specimens. That’s right, 2.6 million(!), and I haven’t even discussed their Planetarium, which utilizes one of the world’s most advanced projection systems to whisk audiences across the galaxy.
The Manitoba Museum is also constantly bringing in great traveling exhibits.
Right now it’s National Geographic Presents: Earth Explorers (Oct 3-April 24), which brings you to some of the wildest places on earth as seen through Nat Geo’s greatest adventurers. The interactive elements of this exhibit showcase five of the earth’s most intriguing eco-zones, from mountains, to rain forests, caves, oceans and savannas.
As part of Earth Explores, The Museum is also working with Petland to create “animal interactions,” where young ones get to learn firsthand about animals from around the world with pet counselors. You can bring the kids this winter break to meet the animals from noon-3 p.m., Boxing day until January 3rd.
National Geographic Earth Explorers (Christopher Gannon/Gannon Visuals)
On our last visit we experienced Earth Explorers for the first time and ‘Lil was thrilled by the 3-D submarine simulator along with the virtual hot air ballon trip over Africa. She was so enamoured that she begged us to have her recent ninth birthday here — which we readily obliged. All the kids had a great time at this “Cool Science Party,” a big highlight being when the kids were made ice cream using liquid nitrogen. And here I thought that was only something they did on Iron Chef — well played Museum, well played.
And hey, speaking of B-Days, The Manitoba Museum has so many gift ideas you can take advantage of this holiday season. For starters, why not buy a membership for that inquisitive person in your life — or perhaps for the whole family, which is a steal at only $110 (for a family membership). Museum passes also make great stocking stuffers or office gifts, this way your family members and coworkers can rediscover this downtown gem.
While you are there you can check out their amazing Museum Shop, which has some of the coolest Manitoba-centric and worldly gifts around. Plus, Museum Shop profits go directly back into The Museum to fund their programming.
Chris Hadfield shirt at The Manitoba Museum Shop (The Manitoba Museum)
They have everything from artwork, to books, to adorable stuffed animals and the best children’s toys, while they have tonnes of fashionable items as well. For instance, I bought this incredible Chris Hadfield as Ziggy Stardust shirt for Mister a couple weeks ago that he hasn’t stopped wearing since. But really, what could be cooler than a Tee featuring the world’s most awesome astronaut; surely Bowie is going to get him out on tour soon to play guitar with the Spiders from Mars — they could make a Planetarium show about it!
So what are you waiting for, make your plans for The Manitoba Museum this holiday season right now.
Note: lede photo is by Dan Harper