Visit different worlds at the Montréal Space for Life museums

Richard Burnett

Human beings have always searched out and pushed through to what we believe to be, to quote the introduction to the Star Trek TV series, the “final frontier.” From exploring our natural world to outer space, children of all ages can discover new worlds at the Montréal Space for Life, the largest natural sciences museum complex in Canada.

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The Biodôme

The hugely popular Biodôme celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017. Opened in 1992 in the former Velodrome built for the 1976 Olympic Games, its rounded shape is evocative of a fossilized shell called a trilobite.

The Biodôme—whose name means “House of Life”—is home to more than 4,500 animals from 250 different species and 500 plant species, all under one roof. As visitors wander around the Biodôme, they will experience and witness five ecosystems of the Americas: Tropical Rainforest (where you will see piranhas, amphibians and reptiles such as the anaconda and yacare caiman), Laurentian Maple Forest (spot such mammals as beavers and lynx), Gulf of St. Lawrence, Labrador Coast, and Sub-Antarctic Islands complete with King Penguins.

Note that the Biodôme will temporarily close from February 2018 to May 2019 for renovations.

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The Insectarium

The Insectarium is one of the largest insect museums in North America, where more than 4,800 animals from 230 different species and some 750 plant species await you under one roof. The Insectarium is home to some 250,000 specimens of living and naturalized insects, including an anthill and other exciting vivariums.

The permanent exhibitions feature everything from jewel-like beetles to butterflies with multi-coloured wings. You can also learn about the Insectarium’s collections online.

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The Botanical Garden

The 75-hectare Botanical Garden’s thematic outdoor gardens in summertime are a marvel to behold. There are 10 greenhouses and some 30 thematic gardens, including the Alpine Garden, the Chinese Garden and the First Nations Garden.

You can also check out the “Blooms of the Week” before heading out to the Botanical Garden.

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Beginning on September 7 in the First Nations, Japanese and Chinese gardens, do not miss this edition of the Botanical Garden’s hugely popular Gardens of Light lantern festival, this year called Natural Harmony. This year’s edition will feature hundreds of colourful, meticulously-constructed lanterns. The lantern festival runs until October 31.

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Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium

After 45 years of service, Montréal’s beloved Planetarium was replaced in 2011 by the new state-of-the-art Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium whose modern facilities and equipment allow it to incorporate the latest technological innovations.

Children and adults alike will love the permanent EXO, Our Search for Life in the Universe exhibition, which adds to the Planetarium’s wonderful old-world feel. The venue and its theatres are not just a fun destination for families but a great venue to bring a date (which this writer has done on numerous occasions).

The Planetarium double-feature Cosmic Collisions (a display of the forces in the Universe) and EXO (about our search for extraterrestrial life) runs until April 14, 2019.

The Planetarium’s other double-feature combines screenings of The Blind Man with Starry Eyes (about a tyrant asking an old man's advice) and Aboard the SSE-4801 (about the Solar System). This double feature runs until June 2019.

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Note that the Planetarium is closed on Mondays until May 21, and  be sure to check their online schedule to choose screenings in English or French. Double-feature screenings and a tour of the permanent exhibition will take you roughly two hours.

Schedules and directions

Tickets for each venue may be bought individually or as a multi-site package. There are also family rates. To avoid the lineups, tickets can be purchased online at montrealspaceforlife.ca.

You can also download an app to navigate the Montréal the Space for Life museums, which are easily accessible via public transportation.

Richard Burnett

Richard Burnett, blogger

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

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