Top Museums, Zoos and Aquariums Across Canada

Published Aug 8, 2019 | Updated Oct 28, 2019

If you're road tripping across Canada and looking for some great tourists sites, check out our list of the top museums, zoos, and aquariums across Canada. 

Canada is home to some of the best museums, zoos, and aquariums in the world. From Vancouver Island to New St. John's Newfoundland, Canada is home to amazing collections of artefacts, artworks, and dinosaur fossils. Not to mention lions, tigers, pandas, hippos, sharks, otters, and stingrays! For those in the mood for an educational experience and to see something spectacular, from west to east, here's a list of the top museums, zoos, and aquariums in Canada.


Museums


Royal BC Museum - Victoria, BC

Founded in 1886, the Royal BC Museum documents and collects artefacts and specimens from the province's natural and human history. In 2003, it merged with the Archives, making it BC's combined museum and archives. The museum has three permanent exhibits - Natural History, Human History, and First Nations' History - and has life-sized mammoth replicas on display. It also features many impressive exhibitions from around the world, like Maya: The Great Jaguar Rises, Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and Egypt: The Time of the Pharaohs. 

The Royal BC Museum is also home to IMAX Victoria, the largest IMAX screen in the province, which screens traditional IMAX films and Hollywood Feature Films in 2D and 3D. Make sure to catch a film after you tour the museum!

Photo Credit: Royal BC Museum


Museum of Anthropology - Vancouver, BC

Located on the UBC campus in Vancouver, the Museum of Anthropology holds close to 50,000 artefacts from around the world. It has six permanent exhibits and hosts three to four contemporary exhibits per year. Since its founding in 1949, the museum has been striving to bring Indigenous art into the mainstream. 

The MOA is known for its impressive Northwest Coast collections and for displaying the finest collection of works by Bill Reid, whose art aimed to build bridges between Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. It also has the largest collection of world textiles in western Canada and a notable ceramics collection. 


Royal Tyrrell Museum - Drumheller, AB

Located two hours northeast of Calgary in Drumheller, Alberta, the Royal Tyrrell Museum is the place to visit if you want to get up close and personal with dinosaur fossils. It holds one of the world's largest collections of dinosaurs and is the only museum in Canada dedicated solely to palaeontology. Kids will love the museum's hands-on exhibits and its daily outdoors programs where you can dig for fossil replicas and see real fossils in the ground. 

Photo Credit: Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology


Reynolds-Alberta Museum - Wetaskiwin, AB

Machines are all around us, making our lives more efficient and allowing us to do the seemingly impossible. With a massive collection of airplanes, automobiles, tractors, and industrial equipment, The Reynolds-Alberta Museum celebrates machines. From climbing into a pink Buick, visiting the Aviation Display Hangar, or pretending to be a race car driver, there's so many ways to get hands-on and experience the museum. 


The Canadian Museum for Human Rights - Winnipeg, MB

Learn about human rights stories from around the world at the only museum dedicated to human rights for all. Immediately, you will be impressed with the museum's architectural design, which stands as a metaphor for the uphill struggle of achieving human rights for all. 

The museum's galleries are always changing, but the permanent Truth and Reconciliation exhibit and four galleries about residential schools are a must see to learn about Canada's tragic past. To make learning about human rights accessible and understandable for all, the museum has areas where toddlers, children, and teens can explore human rights topics at their level of understanding and offers guides of age-appropriate exhibits.


Royal Ontario Museum - Toronto, ON

The Royal Ontario Museum is Canada's largest museum. It's home to 13 million artworks and artefacts that showcase natural history and culture from around the world and countless exhibits and galleries. From daily tours and tons of kids programs, there's lots for everyone to enjoy at the ROM. 


Canadian War Museum - Ottawa, ON

The Canadian War Museum's galleries and exhibitions showcase the major moments in Canada's war history and honours Canada's veterans. Its goal is to promote an understanding of Canada's military history while showcasing the human experience of war with its collection of over 3 million artefacts and items. Kids will love seeing military vehicles, aircraft, weapons, and other equipment up close and learning about the stories of individual soldiers. 

Photo Credit: Canadian War Museum


Montreal Museum of Fine Arts - Montreal, QC

You will be amazed at the museum's collection of modern and classic displays from Canada and around the world. See the first Inuit artworks; works from the Group of Seven; a highly impressive collection of graphic arts including prints, drawings, and photographs; contemporary sculptures; and much more. 


Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 - Halifax, NS

Close to one million, or one in five Canadian immigrants landed at the Halifax seaport between 1928 to 1971. The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is located at this national historic site and aims to teach people about Canada's extensive and ongoing story of immigration. You'll hear the stories of immigrants from all corners of the world and have the opportunity to search for your family's immigration background at the Scotiabank Family History Centre. 


The Rooms - St. John's, NL

The Rooms is Newfoundland and Labrador's largest community centre, and it houses the province's art gallery, archives, and museum. Its name comes from the fishing rooms where families would gut and clean their catch. Its located at the historic site of Fort Townshend, which protected British fishing interests over two centuries ago. Visit The Rooms to learn about the history of Newfoundland and Labrador through regular and virtual exhibits and to get a breathtaking view of the St. John's Harbour. 



Zoos and Aquariums


Vancouver Aquarium - Vancouver, BC

The Vancouver Aquarium is Canada's first and largest aquarium. It's home to 50,000 animals from around the world and over 30 exhibits. Sea otters, dolphins, penguins, clown fish, reef sharks, and way more - there's so many beautiful an fascinating creatures to see. The aquarium hosts tons of daily shows where you can get up close and personal with the different animals and learn about different species. 

Photo Credit: Vancouver Aquarium


Greater Vancouver Zoo - Vancouver, BC

The Greater Vancouver Zoo is 120 acres and home to 140 species, many of which are rescued, donated, and orphaned. Some of the zoo's animal highlights include lions, flamingos, cheetahs, grizzly bears, hippos, and many more incredible species. At great way to get the most out of your visit is to engage with the animals and learn about a day in the life of the animal keepers through Keeper Talks that focus on 15 animals from the zoo, large and small. 


Calgary Zoo - Calgary, AB

There's a reason why one third of Calgarians visit the Calgary Zoo every year. Close to 1,000 animals from 119 different species live at the zoo, and it's one of only five zoos in Canada accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It's located on St. George's Island in the Bow River. With tons of interactive exhibits and activities like Tiger Training and Zoo Snacks, where guests can see animals being fed by their trainers, the Calgary Zoo is a favourite spot for families. If you're visiting with kids, be sure to visit the Prehistoric Park where kids can discover life-sized dinosaur models. 

Photo Credit: Calgary Zoo


Edmonton Valley Zoo - Edmonton, AB

Located along the North Saskatchewan River, the Edmonton Valley Zoo is a small zoo that offers visitors a unique and intimate way to observe and interact with its 350 animals. You can rent one of their Educational Kits, packed with animal facts, activities, and games, for a highly educational and entertaining self-guided tour. The zoo is home to Lucy, an Asian elephant from Sri Lanka and she is adored by her caregivers and visitors alike. Make sure you pay Lucy a visit; she'll really appreciate it!


Assiniboine Park Zoo - Winnipeg, MB

Sprawled across 80 acres and with nearly 200 animals species, the Assiniboine Park Zoo is a must see anytime of the year if you find you're planning a trip to Winnipeg. The zoo features indoor and outdoor exhibits and educational programs so guests can interact with the animals. Don't forget to make a stop at the Polar Playground, an Arctic wonderland where kids can play, climb, slide, and learn all about polar bears and others northern species through motion themed activities.


African Lion Safari - Hamilton, ON

To get closer to over 1,000 majestic animals and birds than you ever imagined, make a point to visit the African Lion Safari. The park is over 750 acres where animals roam freely as if they were in the wild. There's around 30 acres of walkthrough exhibits, but where the real fun lies is exploring the park through an "African Queen" Boat Cruise around the Water Safari Lake, a Safari Tour bus, or a scenic railway tour. 


Ripley's Aquarium of Canada - Toronto, ON

Ripley's is home to 20,000 aquatic animals from Canadian and international waters and North America's longest underwater viewing tunnel. It has ten stunning and fascinating galleries to explore, many of which include interactive experiences like the opportunity to touch four different species of stingrays in the Shoreline Gallery. If you have the guts, visit the Dangerous Lagoon to face sharks and some not so scary creatures like sea turtles. 

Photo Credit: Ripley's Aquarium of Canada


Toronto Zoo - Toronto, ON

With over 5,000 animals from over 460 species, the Toronto Zoo is Canada's largest zoo. The zoo is organized by geographical regions, has over 10km of walking trails, and has all your favourite animals including African lions, Grevy's zebras, polar bears, snow leopards, and much more! If you have time, check out the zoo's new, state-of-the-art Wildlife Health Centre where you can get a glimpse of the work zoologists do behind the scenes through a viewing gallery with windows into Diagnostic Imaging, Treatment, Surgery, Clinical Lab, and Endocrinology Lab rooms. 


Granby Zoo - Montreal, QC

Visiting Granby Zoo is a really fun experience. You'll move from one continent to the next as you observe the zoo's 1,500 animals from 225 species. You'll see elephants, tigers, lions, gorillas, and much more! Pack your bathing suit and a picnic and plan to spend a full day because there's also a water park and amusement park. The Granby Zoo is a great place to take the family!


Magnetic Hill Zoo - Moncton, NB

Plan to spend at least 90 minutes at Magnetic Hill Zoo. This is the largest zoo in Atlantic Canada and is home to close to 600 animals including some crowd favourites like lions, tigers, leopards, otters, and turtles. The zoo has done a great job of updating their enclosures, and it's incredibly spacious and easy to navigate. Stick around for their daily activities held in the summer where you can meet a tiger keeper, have your face painted, and more.


Looking for attractions and things to do with kids in your city? ChatterBlock is your go-to parenting resource in 27 major cities across North America. Find out what's happening today in your city at chatterblock.com.  


Sarah Lindquist
By Sarah Lindquist
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