Visit different worlds at the Montréal Space for Life museums
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.
Here’s to life!
The Montréal Space for Life comprises the Biodôme, Insectarium, Botanical Garden and Planetarium. To help mark Montréal’s 375th anniversary in 2017, the museum complex has programmed a festive program of activities under the theme “Here’s to Life.”
The hugely popular Biodôme celebrates 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.
Until September 4, the Biodôme also offers its 20-minute Express Behind-the-Scenes Tour daily at 4 pm (in French only). If you are at the Biodôme on Saturdays at 10:30 am, follow one of their employees behind the scenes to see where they work, how they keep the animals in good health, and share their passion for nature. Reserve online via montrealspaceforlife.ca.
Note that the Biodôme is closed on Mondays beginning on September 11, and will temporarily close from February 2018 to May 2019 for renovations.
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.
Until September 4, you can eat insects – check out the full menu here, from cricket burgers to tacos with silkworms – though to be safe, it is recommended that anyone with a shellfish allergy should avoid eating insects.
Also until September 4, do not miss the 20-minute guided tour of the spectacular Monarch Garden showcasing the king of butterflies, while the educational We Are The Insects exhibition continues until December 31.
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.
Beginning on September 8 in the Japanese and Chinese gardens, do not miss the 25th edition of the Botanical Garden’s hugely popular Gardens of Light lantern festival, this year called Between Sky and Water. This year’s edition will feature hundreds of colourful, meticulously-constructed lanterns centred around a massive dragon lantern in the Chinese Garden. The lantern festival runs to October 31.
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 Asteroid: Mission Extreme and One Day... on Mars runs until October 29, while the accompanying Mars Rocks temporary exhibition presents fragments of Martian meteorites—real pieces of Mars—until October 31.
The Planetarium’s other double-feature combines screenings of KYMA, Power of Waves (essentially a voyage through the universe of electromagnetic, seismic, sound and gravitational waves) and Edge of Darkness (about the tiny celestial objects in our Solar System). This double feature runs until May 2018.
Note that the Planetarium is closed on Mondays beginning on September 11, 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
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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