My eldest in TOw is fascinated by planets. And, as with most of these awesome stages that kids go through, our family has jumped on his space adventure. So earlier this year, I made sure to secure a date with the stars at the David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill.
Every Saturday from end of May to end of October, the 189-acre estate operated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada offers Family Nights where kids (and adults in TOw) can take in the night sky through telescopes on the lawn, get a special view through Canada’s largest optical telescope in the big dome (for kids 7-and-older), make space crafts and visit the SkyLab for a virtual planetarium-like presentation of the sky.
These evening events are popular – the remainder of the 2015 series is sold out. But tickets were just released for a special Family Zombie Night on Halloween at October 31, 2015. Best bet – check out their Facebook page for announcements on upcoming family-friendly programming and grab tickets once the new season is on sale. Worked for us!
Getting there: The David Dunlap Observatory is located at 123 Hillsview Drive in Richmond Hill (west of Markham and Hwy 404 and north of Hwy 407.) Hillsview can be reached from Bayview Avenue, north of 16th Ave and not through David Dunlap Observatory Park. Free parking onsite. The grounds are closed at night except to those attending the public programs. (FYI: Access to the telescope and bathrooms requires the use of stairs.)
Low down: Tickets ($8 per person) for Family Nights must be purchased (online) in advance. Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult. The program runs from end of May to late October on Saturday evenings regardless of sky or weather conditions. (If skies are clear you can view the night sky through a telescopes on the front lawn.) For safety reasons, children under 7 years of age not permitted in the big dome, but are welcome to look through the smaller telescopes on the lawn. Summer sessions start at 9 p.m. then move to an 8:30 p.m. start in August, 8 p.m in September and 7:30 p.m. in October. Every evening includes a 30-minute live planetarium show in the SkyLab.
Star Talks: There is also a series of Star Talks for adults and children 11 & older.
Potty time: Washrooms are onsite in the Administration Building. (There are stairs.)
More planets: For more starry nights, the Ontario Science Centre offers daily Planetarium presentations.