With an impressive collection of aircraft and space exploration exhibits, Ottawa’s Aviation and Space Museum showcases the history of air travel in Canada.
Ottawa’s Aviation and Space Museum
Located right next to the Ottawa/Rockcliffe airport at 11 Aviation Parkway, the Aviation and Space museum contains more than 130 aircraft and associated objects on display. Both military and civilian aircraft are included and the exhibits cover the history of air and space travel from a Canadian perspective beginning all the way back in 1909. The museum even offers visitors the chance to fly in its planes (for an extra charge).
The History of the Museum
Opened in 1960, the Aviation and Space Museum began as one of three separate collections of air exhibits owned by the federal government. This changed in 1964 when the three exhibits were combined into one. The now singular museum was later put under the control of Ingenium, a Crown corporation. Appropriately given its theme, the museum is located on the site of a former military air base.
In the 1980s the museum was renamed the National Aviation Museum and moved into a new building that was much more modern. In 2006 the building was greatly expanded which meant all of the aircraft there could be kept indoors for the first time. Further renovations were done in 2010 and during that time the museum again re-branded to its current name.
Ingenium currently operates three museums under the umbrella of Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation. The other two besides the Aviation and Space Museum are the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum and the Canada Science and Technology Museum.
Tickets and Hours
In April 2021 the Aviation and Space Museum closed temporarily due to new COVID-19 restrictions. The attraction has since reopened. As of November 2021, the museum is open from Thursdays to Mondays. Hours are from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm. The only exceptions may be holidays like Christmas Day when the museum either closes or operates with reduced hours.
Here are the admission costs, as of November 2021:
- Adults: $15
- Seniors (60+) and Students (18+ with ID): $13
- Youth (3-17): $10
- Families (up to 2 adults and 4 kids): $38
Children under 3 years old are free. All admission is free from 3 pm to 4 pm, although tickets for that hour must be booked in advance online.
Memberships are available. They cover not just the Aviation and Space Museum but the other two museums that Ingenium operates as well. There are many different membership options. Here are the basic ones:
- Adults: $62 for one year and $115 for two years
- Seniors: $50 for one year and $92 for two years
- Students: $45 for one year and $80 for two years
- Families (up to 2 adults and their kids): $125 for one year and $230 for two years
For more information about tickets and how to book them, visit the Aviation and Space Museum website.
The Main Exhibits
The museum has five permanent exhibits, with the Main Exhibition Hall serving as the place to learn about the history of flight. There are planes from every decade and era of flying. There are also interactive galleries and flight simulators you can play with.
In addition to the main hall, there is an exhibit about airplane engines and then three other exhibits that cover space travel and Canada’s history with it. Here again are some interactive aspects, with the opportunity to try on a space helmet and also experience the “Disorientation Station”, a machine that simulates how space can make you dizzy.
The museum welcomes self-guided exploration, but if you would like a guided tour they are free and offered from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm. Available in both English and French, the tours last for around 45 minutes. They are a good way to learn that much more about what you see around you.
There is also a second tour, although it costs extra. Alongside the main museum building is the Reserve Hangar which is a storage space for parts of the museum’s collection that are not currently on display. To take a look at all of the extra aircraft and artifacts stored there you need to sign up for a guided tour of the hangar.
As of the last time we checked, for non-members, tickets to the Reserve Hangar tour cost between $5 and $7. It costs between $3 and $4 for members. These tours are available only from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, so make sure you go to the museum within that timeframe if you want the extra tour.
Take a Flight of Your Own
If you’re at the Aviation and Space Museum and would like to take to the skies yourself there are a few options. There are the flight simulators inside the building itself, or you can catch a ride in a real plane outside.
There are three different plane flights available for visitors. The first is the Family Sightseeing Ride, where two or three people can fly over downtown Ottawa for around $100. There are also helicopter and open-cockpit biplane tours on offer which are both more expensive.
The helicopter tour costs between around $60 and $200 per person depending on the length of the flight. The biplane tour is similar, costing around $70 to $175 per person depending on the length of the flight. Both offer stunning aerial views of downtown Ottawa, Parliament Hill, Gatineau and the surrounding area.
For more information visit the Canada Aviation and Space Museum website.
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