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Toronto museums

19 of Canada’s Most Unusual Museums

by CARISSA BLUESTONE

Canada’s Most Unusual Museums: the world-famous Gopher Hole Museum (Photo: Colin Smith)

Did you know that Vancouver has an entire museum devoted to corkscrews, that diehard Anne Murray fans can devour every detail of her life and record a CD with her in Nova Scotia, or that a tiny town called Vulcan in the Alberta Prairies is home to a Star Trek–themed tourist “station”? From the über-Canadian to the downright kooky, these unusual, one-of-a-kind and just plain weird museums earn the moniker “cabinet of curiosities”.

Start the slideshow of Canada’s most unusual museums »

Hot Date: The Beauty of Cells at the Ontario Science Centre

ON NOW Matters of science have long struck an artistic chord. A great example: the way that specimens under a microscope can look like colourful, hyper-detailed paintings. The Ontario Science Centre stimulates your synapses with its Spark! The Heart of Art and Science exhibition, which examines the unseen beauty of cells and molecular processes—from mice embryos to cancer cells—through artistically rendered images and 3D animated videos. Visitors can also create their own visuals as part of the DIY Body Project, an interactive textile installation where rearranged body parts generate anatomical masterpieces. Free with general admission; call 416-696-1000 or click here for more information.

Yours to Discover: Day One

Winter’s on its way out; it’s time to get a head start on exploring. Guide yourself with our specialized itineraries, or contact one of Toronto’s many tour operators to delve deeper into this multifaceted metropolis.

Henry Moore's Two Forms sit outside the AGO

SIGHTSEEING FOR SHUTTERBUGS
These landmarks are ready for their close up.

ALLAN GARDENS Featuring a glass domed Victorian-style “palm house” and an alluring architectural symmetry throughout its 16,000 square feet, Allan Gardens Conservatory is a popular photo-op spot. Venture inside for a lovely view of numerous flowers and plants, from orchids to cacti.

ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO The arcing glass facade and titanium tower comprising this Frank Gehry-designed museum are prominent in the midst of a largely residential quarter. Directly south is another intriguing edifice: the floating “tabletop” of OCAD University’s Sharp Centre for Design.

CASA LOMA This Gothic Revival mansion in midtown keeps imposing watch over the city and is surrounded by five acres of gardens. Inside, visitors can explore nearly 100 opulently decorated rooms.

The Allen Lambert Galleria in Brookfield Place

CN TOWER One of the tallest buildings in the world, this concrete needle makes for an iconic image from the ground. Or, ascend to its observation decks and snap a sky-high panorama—on a clear day it’s possible to see for  many kilometres into the distance.

CITY HALL Toronto’s seat of government is a modernist landmark—at the north end of Nathan Phillips Square sit two towers parenthetically embracing a saucer-like Council Chamber. Within its rotunda you can view a scale model of the city, plus a variety of public art works.

FINANCIAL DISTRICT Canada’s power brokers swing deals amidst this area’s superior structures, including the Santiago Calatrava–designed galleria at Brookfield Place, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s TD Centre towers, and the Renaissance Revival–style Commerce Court North.

HIGH PARK If the weather is agreeable, this hilly, 399-acre greenspace offers ample opportunity for photographic pursuits—and general enjoyment. There’s nature’s bounty, of course, but also a small zoo, historic Colborne Lodge and more. Return in late April to see the cherry trees in bloom.

The Royal Ontario Museum's Michael Lee-Chin Crystal (photo by Brian Boyle)

HOCKEY HALL OF FAME This shrine to Canada’s favourite sport is located in a heritage Beaux Arts bank building. Its cathedral-like Great Hall enshrines the National Hockey League’s coveted trophies—including the famed Stanley Cup—for all to see.

OLD TOWN The city’s original blocks date to 1793 and feature photo-friendly historic sites like the Gooderham “flatiron” Building and St. Lawrence Market. The area’s eastern end is home to the circa-1850s Distillery Historic District.

ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM Arguably the most controversial site in Toronto, the ROM’s “Crystal,” conceived by architect Daniel Libeskind, is nothing if not striking. The geometric structure bursts forth from a neo-Byzantine heritage building. Set your sights on thousands of historical artifacts and natural specimens inside.

Many of these famous attractions can be spotted from the comfort of a coach or even a double-decker bus. The Toronto City Tour and Gray Line Hop-On, Hop-Off City Tour offer popular, fully narrated excursions.

Summer Stops for Families

From the most intrepid of daredevils to the quietest of bookworms, bright summer days bring out the playfulness in us all. To make this the best summer yet, Where Toronto offers 15 exciting ways to craft your own fun in the sun.

There are thrills galore at Canada's Wonderland.

Find thrills at Canada's Wonderland.

ADRENALIN-FUELED ESCAPADES
More then 200 attractions and 65 rides test the truly adventurous at Canada’s Wonderland. This first-class amusement park is home to the Behemoth—the country’s tallest and fastest roller coaster with open-air seating and a blood-curdling 230-foot drop. If riding the rails isn’t your thing, try thrill rides like the toe-curling Drop Tower and stomach-wrenching Psyclone. For more subdued, tot-friendly amusements, head to Kidzville and Nickelodeon Central—kids will get a kick out of Dora’s Dune Buggies and Scooby Doo’s Haunted Mansion. Cool down at Splash Works, a 20-acre water park with twisting slides like the Super Soaker and the Plunge. Adults $51.99, seniors and kids $29.35.

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