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The Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium

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One of the buildings which makes up Montreal’s “Space for Life” is the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. It opened in 2013, and features two full-dome theaters which allow visitors to tour the universe.

Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium

The “Space for Life” is said to be the world’s first park dedicated to both nature and humanity. It’s based in the Olympic Park, and includes the Insectarium, the Botanic Garden and the Biodome, along with the Olympic Tower. You can buy joint tickets which will get you into any combination of the sights… but I’d recommend against seeing the Planetarium at the end of a busy day. The Powell Exhaustion Equation states: tired bodies + bean bags + total dark = expensive nap.

We settled onto our beanbags inside the Chaos Theater and got cozy, while the lights dimmed to envelope us in complete blackness. “Uh-oh,” I thought. “I’m never going to make it!” Luckily, the show was so fascinating, that staying conscious didn’t involve much of a struggle. “Dark Universe,” presented by Neil DeGrasse-Tyson, was an excellent presentation which took us on a journey through the least-known aspects of the cosmos.

Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium

Dark Universe was the shorter of the two shows, and upon its completion, we had some time to check out the Planetarium’s exhibit on meteors and down a few shots of espresso, before heading into the Milky Way Theater for a show called “Aurorae.”

This was a more typical planetarium-type room, with seats inclined upward, and a central globe that was able to reproduce the night sky across the dome. First, we saw how the sky over Montreal would look tonight. An emcee pointed out some of the major constellations, such as the Big Dipper, Ursa Major and Leo, and taught us how to find Jupiter. And then, we embarked on a tour of the Northern Lights, during which we saw time-lapsed footage of the dancing lights and learned the scientific explanation for the phenomenon.

The Rio Tinto Planetarium offers shows in English, although less frequently than French-language shows, so make sure to check the schedule before heading over. The programs might change, but they always being with a more scientific show, such as “Dark Universe”, followed by one with a lighter touch, such as “Aurora.” It’s a good mix, and a trip here makes for a perfect rainy day excursion.

Location on our Map
Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium – Website

Get Your Very Own Telescope to Watch The Stars

Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium
Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium
Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium
Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium
Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium
Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium
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May 16, 2016 at 2:19 pm Comments (2)

Butterflies and More at the Greenhouse

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Included in the ticket to the Insectarium is a free entrance to the neighboring Botanic Garden. With two dozen thematic zones like the Chinese Garden, Rose Garden and Courtyard of the Senses, the Botanic Garden is huge… but we wouldn’t be seeing much of it. It was freezing in Montreal, and snow was still covering the ground. So we decided to delay a thorough exploration of the garden, and instead scurried straight into the greenhouse.

Greenhouse and Butterflies

Every year, from February to April, the Main Greenhouse of the Botanic Garden hosts an exhibition called “Butterflies Go Free,” during which hundreds of butterflies are set loose. The variety is astounding; along with the familiar species like monarchs, there are some massive and bizarre butterflies to be found. And they’re everywhere, munching on plates of fruit, sucking the nectar from flowers, flapping past your face, or resting on a leaf. If you have sharp eyes, you’ll also be able to spot caterpillars and chrysalises.

Greenhouse and Butterflies

The butterfly exhibit was the highlight, but it’s just one section of perhaps a dozen in this incredible greenhouse. We spent an hour walking from one end to the other, checking out ferns, orchids, palms, cacti and more. Set inside a boomerang-shaped hall, it’s all beautifully designed, with waterfalls, raised platforms, and even a mock hacienda in the cactus section.

Location on our Map
Jardin Botanique – Website

Everything Butterflies

Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
Greenhouse and Butterflies
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April 25, 2016 at 1:31 pm Comments (0)

The Insectarium

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Imagine an enclosed area just swarming with tiny, freakish beasts. Millions of them crawling around, randomly piercing the air with hideous ear-piercing screeches. This is Montreal’s Insectarium on a Saturday afternoon… and the beasts of which I’m speaking are, of course, children. The insects? They’re cool.

Insectarium Montreal

It was our fault for visiting the Insectarium on a freezing cold weekend afternoon, when literally every family in a fifty-mile radius had the same idea. We should have timed our visit for a sunny Tuesday in June, when normal people want to be outside. Because when the Insectarium is jammed-packed with children, you’ll be plotting your escape from the moment you enter. And that would be a shame. This place is so cool, it deserves a big chunk of your time.

Montreal’s is the biggest insectarium in North America, and among the largest in the world, collecting over 250,000 of the planet’s weirdest and most beautiful creepy-crawlies, many of them alive. There are scorpions and spiders, cockroaches and termites, while huge glass cases enclose pinned butterflies and beetles from around the world, displaying their unbelievably varied colors and shapes.

Insectarium Montreal

Perhaps I liked the stick-bug village best; I had been searching through this big enclosure, trying to locate the bugs, until realizing I had been staring at them the entire time. And then, I was able to see dozens. I also had the chance to hold an Orchid Mantis, which, when standing still, looks almost exactly like a flower petal.

There were so many bugs… big ones, small ones, cute ones, ugly ones, coughing and sneezing ones, some that were crying, and one that cleverly dodged all my attempts to smash it underfoot… oh wait, I’m talking about the kids again. Actually, the truth is that the exhibits are so engaging that we were able to ignore the chaos and concentrate on the insects. And it was fun to watch kids interact with them. I waited by the tarantula cage while one little girl searched for its hiding spot. When she finally found the monster, she nearly jumped out of her skin.

The whole time we were in the Insectarium, we talked about how much our niece would love it. Like many kids, she’s fascinated by the natural world, and has no compunction about picking up worms, crickets, or any other kind of creature. If you have a similar child, they’re going to be in heaven at the Insectarium. And you’ll probably like it, too.

Location on our Map
Montréal Insectarium – Website

Start Your Own Bug Collection

Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
Insectarium Montreal
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April 24, 2016 at 9:10 pm Comments (2)

The Montreal Science Centre

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A huge complex located within the Old Port, the Montreal Science Centre introduces children to the worlds of science and technology with hands-on workshops, experiments and games. The focus of this center is almost entirely on kids, but we were drawn by a temporary exhibit called “Animal Inside Out.”

Science Center voiles en voiles

Adults aren’t going to get much out of the Montreal Science Centre’s permanent exhibits, but kids will have a blast. The museum’s main attraction is called “Human,” and explores the human body with a wide-range of activities that exercise all of the senses. Another permanent exhibit is the “Creative Factory,” which is basically the high-tech playground of every child’s dreams, although it’s questionable whether any scientific knowledge seeps into their brains as they spin themselves around on a disc, play with derby cars, or forge two-meter whirlwinds in a chamber.

Luckily, the Montreal Science Centre also has awesome temporary exhibits, and “Animal Inside Out” is probably one that should carry an NC-17 rating. If I’d seen this as a kid, I’d have nightmares for a week! The title was accurate: it features real animals (including humans) displayed from the inside out. They’ve been peeled back layer-by-layer, revealing the muscles which lay under the flesh, the capillary systems, the internal organs and the bones.

Science Center voiles en voiles

It’s the work of German scientist Gunther von Hagen, who sparked controversy years ago with his famous Body Works exhibit, which used the same embalming technique (called “plastination”) on humans. We never had the chance to see Body Works, but “Animal Inside Out” was fascinating. You don’t realize just how similar humans are to other species until you start stripping back the layers.

Science Center voiles en voiles

The Science Centre also has an excellent IMAX theater, which shows both nature documentaries and mainstream hits like Star Wars. And nearby, there’s another outdoor attraction that kids will love. Voiles en Voiles is a pirate-themed aerial adventure park where children can harness up to climb ropes, crawl across logs and speed down ziplines. It looks like a blast; if I were twelve again, I would try to spend every day here.

Locations on our Map: Montreal Science Centre | Voiles en Voiles
Montreal Science Centre – Website
Voiles en Voiles – Website

Science Center voiles en voiles
Science Center voiles en voiles
Science Center voiles en voiles
Science Center voiles en voiles
Science Center voiles en voiles
Science Center voiles en voiles
Science Center voiles en voiles
Science Center voiles en voiles
Science Center voiles en voiles
Science Center voiles en voiles
Science Center voiles en voiles
Science Center voiles en voiles
Science Center voiles en voiles
Science Center voiles en voiles
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April 20, 2016 at 7:18 pm Comments (0)
The Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium One of the buildings which makes up Montreal's "Space for Life" is the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. It opened in 2013, and features two full-dome theaters which allow visitors to tour the universe.
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