You could probably spend a week and then some exploring the Royal Ontario Museum. But if you’re like us, you may only have a couple of hours to check out the galleries – in our case, it’s about 1 hr 42 min – before the kids start “checking out.”
Whether you’re first-timers or die-hard members, here are some tips on getting the most out of the ROM with little ones in TOw:
Getting there: Driving, some paid street parking ($3/hr) and parking lots in the area. There is a discounted (ask for parking voucher at admissions desk) on Bedford Ave. By TTC, walk from St. George subway stop or get off right at Museum stop along University Ave. (If you haven’t already seen it, the Museum Station platform is ROM-inspired.) The main entrance is on Bloor Street through the Crystal.
Admission: If the feature exhibition doesn’t rock the kids worlds, then go for general admission ($16 adults/$13 child.) Three-and-unders are free. Fridays 4:30 – 8:30 are slightly cheaper. If you buy online you can skip the line-up and go directly to the entrance. The ROM is part of the Museum + Arts Pass through the Toronto Public Libraries. If you’re planning to go often, check out memberships options (there is one for grandparents in mind.)
Hands-on/Hands-off: Probably around 90 per cent of the collections are behind glass and if not, no touching please. Some pre-visit explanation for kids (and adults for that matter) might be required. Despite the no-touch policy, there are still tons of hands-on exploring to satisfy curious little visitors: Discovery Gallery, Hands-on Biodiversity (beware: there is a mini-store in the middle of them) and some objects within the galleries.
Navigating: With the addition of that spiky building (that’s what my five-year-old calls it), the route to the galleries (and bathrooms) can be tricky. The Crystal has 6 levels, the old building 4. Consult the floor plans beforehand to get the lay of the land. Keep in mind, there are no bathrooms in the Crystal and although the ROM is stroller-friendly, you’ll encounter some stairs when moving from Crystal to old building on east side. Here are some more tips.
Suggested route 1: Of course, this all depends on your families’ interests, but our sure-win strategy takes us directly to the second-floor where all the natural history wonders await. Take the Crystal stairs/elevator to level 2 to see the likes of Gordo, T-Rex, baby dinos plus all the Madagascar Ice Age-esque specimens. Up the ramp to the west for hands-on action in the Discovery Gallery (dig for dino bones and dress-up) and Hands-On Biodiversity (including Bat Cave). Our trip usually ends with a walk through the animals and fish aquarium in the Biodiversity Gallery. We try to save enough time for Earth Treasures (shiny and cool rocks, plus fancy gems in the back – although some of the collections are a bit high for kids to see.) From here we fuel up (see Food.)
Suggested route 2: I figure once kids are a bit older they’ll be equally awe-inspired as I am by the Chinese Architecture gallery and Chinese Temple Art. From here, you can take elevators up to more world cultures galleries. If you have time, have a peek on the west side main floor for some Canadian history. Peer up the crest poles and see the birch bark canoe in the First Peoples‘ gallery.
Food: As most parents know, stopping for food is key to a successful outing. If you bring your own, make your way to the brown bag lunch area (this is where school groups convene for lunch) on the lower level (1B) of the old building on the east side. (Take the stairs or elevator in the crest poles area.) Need to purchase fuel? Druxy’s Cafe is on the other side of the old building, so head to the west side and take those elevators or stairs.
Let the ROM do it: If you find yourself asking why did I fork over $50+ for my visit when my children are happiest simply playing with the dino and pirate figurines in the Discovery Gallery? Then maybe opt to put that money towards letting the experts show your kiddos around. They have tons of programs, including stuff for babies and toddlers in TOw. You can even sleepover.
Toddlers in TOw: Finally for those with “busy” toddlers (i.e. – those who tend to bolt) be ready for the Crystal’s nooks, crannies, sloping walls and sharp edges.
Thanks for making it to the bottom of this post! Happy exploring!