Exploring and Learning in Sudbury

Tuesday, July 16, 2019 5:15 PM | Krista (Administrator)

My husband and our two kids, aged 4 and 5, have started our summer vacation out with an amazing trip up north to visit Sudbury! Leaving Cambridge around noon on a Friday, the drive to Sudbury took us about 5 hours, with a short stop for a bite to eat. I came prepared with several ‘activities’ for the kids to keep them busy on the drive, dry erase activity cards, drawing boards, story stones and new library books were a great investment to help keep them occupied.

Our reservation was for the Hampton Inn Sudbury, which is one of the first hotels you pass as you come into town. It is located approximately 10 minutes from both Science North and Dynamic Earth so the location was great! When we walked inside we were greeted immediately by the friendly front desk staff who checked us in and let us know about all the hotel amenities. We’ve stayed at other Hampton Inn locations, and like all other locations the interiors are bright and welcoming, have a large dining area for their daily hot breakfast, and offer 24 hour coffee, tea and fresh fruit.  One thing I love about staying in a Hampton Inn is being able to count on a good breakfast to start the day.  With everything from cereal, toast, yogurt, oatmeal, hard boiled eggs, fruit, waffle station (with whipped cream of course) and chafing dishes of scrambled eggs/omelettes, and sausages/bacon there is something for everyone.  The hotel also had an indoor pool which we were able to make use of on our last morning.  Checkout at the hotel wasn’t until noon so we decided to take advantage of this later checkout time and use the swimming pool before we left on Sunday.  The pool faced to a patio on one side and the end wall faced the fitness centre which had the standard treadmill, elliptical machine and weights. After swimming and packing up our stuff we were a few minutes past checkout time, the front desk staff was super nice about it though, it was apparent we were the last people to check out as she knew which room we were in J

After arriving at the hotel on Friday night we quickly dropped our bags in our room and were headed out for our next adventure of the weekend – the IMAX  at Science North.  With our later arrival time in Sudbury there was one movie option remaining, Superpower Dogs at 6pm.  We got out tickets and settled in for the 45 minute film.  For me it’s probably been over 15 years since I’ve seen an IMAX movie and for the kids this was the first time, this was a perfect movie for them, a mix of my daughter’s love of Paw Patrol and my son’s love of Avengers! It was fun to watch the kids experience this type of movie - one kept looking over their glasses to compare the 3D to the regular view (I admit I’ve done this too, trying to figure out how it works) and the other on the edge of the seat the whole time, even forgetting the bag of popcorn sitting beside him!  The theatre is located in the lobby of Science North, so if you had the time, this could easily be added onto your visit the science centre.

After the movie we headed to Di Gusto Wood Fired Pizza, Pasta and Wine Bar for a late dinner. We arrived around 7:30pm and were seated right away, the dining room was fairly busy with groups ranging from couples on date night out to large groups and families enjoying some time together. There wasn’t a printed children’s menu but the waitress let us know they offered child portions of pizza (cheese or pepperoni) and pasta (spaghetti or penne with tomato sauce and meatballs or butter).  Both kids wanted spaghetti with meatballs which in the end cost $26 ($8 for the each plate of pasta and $5 for the meatballs). In hindsight I should have ordered a regular portion of pasta for them to share for $18 as neither finished their plates as the portions were HUGE (but not worth paying $13 for a kid’s meal).  My husband and I opted to order a few different things and share so we went with the Calamari, Caprese Salad and a prosciutto and arugula pizza, all were delicious, and we ate every last bite! Everything is made in house so the texture of the pasta is not what you’d get in most places but was quite good. And the kids thought it was neat to be able to watch the pizzas cooking in the oven.

After breakfast on Saturday morning we made the 40 minute drive north to Capreol to see the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum & Heritage Centre. As we approached the museum we saw several train cars behind the main building (which a one point was the home of the railroad superintendent), the kids were already excited! I wasn’t sure what to expect and didn’t think we would be there very long, however we easily spent 2 hours seeing everything and playing at the park. We opted for the guided tour, but I believe you can also look around on your own if you prefer that. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable about the history of the railroad and the area (her grandfather used to work for the railway), she even kept the kids entertained with fun facts about different pieces of equipment used on the railroad in the past. The house is set up with each room highlighting a different aspect of history in the area – logging, railroad, mining and telegraphy - so much history and info in such a small place. After looking through the rooms we headed outside to what is known as Prescott Park to see the train engines and cars up close. We were able to go inside 3 train cars, the original engine the museum acquired, a school house train car and the engineer’s sleeping car. 

After learning the history of many of these train cars we headed down the street to the Heritage Centre.

We got to see a 1928 Godfredson Bickle fire truck, sit in the front of a newer fire truck where the kids were allowed to touch the buttons and turn the flashing lights on.

The last room in the basement was by far the kids favourite, the model train room. A huge room full of scaled down buildings to go along with all the tracks and 2 model trains. This room was a huge bonus to the tour and we all loved watching the trains and looking at the detail of the setup, including a replica of the Railroad Museum.Throughout the museum and heritage centre the walls are full of old photos with facts about the region’s history. This was truly an unexpected jem!

After our tour and playtime at the train shaped play structure we walked down the street to M & R Café for some lunch.

This was a small establishment with a great atmosphere. The staff were very friendly, service was quick and food was good. Both the kids and the main menus consisted of basic diner food, sandwiches, burgers, soup etc. The kids chose chicken fingers and a Pogo dog, both served with fresh cut fries, and chocolate milk served in fun glass jar with lids.My husband and I opted for a sandwich as we weren’t too hungry yet after breakfast. The food was fresh and tasted great. And the bonus, they have a couple shelves of toys for the kids to play with while they wait for their food, what a great idea!

We kept ourselves quite busy on this trip and headed straight to Science North from Capreol. We arrived around 2:30pm and stayed until closing (or even a few minutes later…oops) at 6pm and still felt like we hadn’t done everything. This is definitely an all-day adventure! Before we entered the main areas of the science centre we explored the Limited Engagement exhibit, Body Worlds Rx. While this exhibit had a lot of interesting things to see the kids thought it was too scary so we didn’t spend long looking at it.  For the main part of the centre, we decided to start at the top and work our way down.  We followed the path up to level 4 and saw a huge whale skeleton hanging from the centre, a neat sight to see how big these mammals can be!

The top floor was full of hands on experiments teaching us about physics, chemistry, physiology, space, technology and so much more. Some of our favourite things to play with were the Gravity Well in the Space Place section where we were able to spin marbles to see how they behave differently based on their size and how we rolled them, The Speed Park Racetrack where you could build your own race car and compete against your friends, Body Zone where the kids raced each other on the sprint track, and where we were part of the Ready, SET, MOVE interactive video.

We also tried to jump marbles through hoops, laid on a bed of nails,  created circuits, build light board cityscapes, made musical instruments from wood pieces and elastics, created marble runs and learned about sounds waves.  And this was only one 1 floor! There was so much more to do but we wanted to make sure we were able to go through most of the centre before we left.

The Discovery Theatre is located between floors 3 and 4 and offered shows available every 30 minutes with different topics and themes, you could easily stay all day and still not see everything. We were able to catch a show with chemical reaction explosions, this was a quick 15 minute presentation but very educational and entertaining.

The third floor was all about animals and nature. There are several animals who live at Science North and you can watch them in their enclosures, or every 30 minutes meet a different one up close. We were able to see several of these as we explored this level. We met a beaver, porcupine, snake and flying squirrel. There was so many other animals and reptiles to see as well, bees in their hive, turtles swimming in the water, a nocturnal room with bats, a skunk and other small creatures. For the kids the highlight of this level was the huge water/sand “Erosion Table” where the kids were able to experiment with trying to create streams and learning how water causes erosion and changes the land.Again we raced through this level so we would have some time on the 2nd floor.

When we got there we were the only guests around and the “Bluecoat” who was working in that area let us touch several bugs. We took turns holding katydids, millipedes, stick bugs and hissing cockroaches. 

This level is also full of fossils, rocks and other ‘treasures’ as my son calls them.  There is a Fossil table where you can search for small fossils and take one home if you’re lucky enough to find one.  They also have a neat program called the “Nature Exchange Program”, a fun point system, where you bring in your finds – rocks, shells, shark teeth and so on - and you are given a point value for each item. You can then store your points or trade them in for something in the bins. Points range from 5pts for a basic rock up to 100 or more for larger and rare items. This program has been around for years as my husband remembers participating when he was a kid! Next time we go we’ll bring along some of our many treasures to try and get something “bigger and better”! With only minutes to spare before closing time we looked around the corner and found the Butterfly Gallery, a tropical room filled with all kinds of butterflies, which if you’re lucky will land on you! Be sure to wear bright clothing if you want to try and attract a butterfly!

The only thing we saw on the first floor was a cute little play area for the littlest guests, with no time left we weren’t able to explore this area but it looked great for kids under age 4.  The other thing the centre offers that we missed seeing was the Planetarium show, but I guess we’ll save that for our next visit!

We were going to meet the rest of our travel group at Bell Park that evening and since there was a music festival going on there as well we thought we’d try to avoid any possible parking congestion and stay parked at Science North and walk over. It took us about 25 minutes to walk along the river to the main beach area, partly over a wooden boardwalk and the rest a paved pathway, it was a beautiful walk, but a little far for the kids. 

We met up with our friends, played at the playground for a bit, took some pictures in the beautiful flower gardens and then headed back to the car as we hadn’t had dinner and it was nearly 8pm.

Even though it wasn’t on our way back to the hotel we decided to try M.I.C Canadian Eatery http://www.micrestaurant.ca/ for dinner on a recommendation of one of the other families in our group. Their menu fits their name and is full of Canadian food and Canadian inspired items. I tried the Lobster and Shrimp Home Loaf which was a fresh home loaf bun full of lobster and shrimp, with a side of kettle chips. And I tried a “Niagara on the Lake” - the restaurant’s spin on Sangria - it was served in a measuring cup with the kids thought was quite funny. My husband tried the ribs with mashed potatoes (also a hit) with a local craft beer. The kids were happy with their kids pizza (nothing special but my daughter enjoyed it) and homemade mac and cheese (so yummy!!)

Sunday morning we headed to Dynamic Earth, home of the Big Nickel. We arrived just before 1pm and got our tickets for the 1pm ‘In the Footsteps of Sudbury's Miners’ Underground Tour so we headed right downstairs. There our tour guide took the group into a huge glassed in elevator to watch a short film and go 7 stories underground to the mine opening.  Everyone has to wear a hardhat on the tour and there are sizes for all ages/head sizes, even bike helmets for the littlest kids. (Some of our travel companions had taken the tour the day before and warned us the mine is cool and damp so it’s recommended to wear closed toed shoes and bring a sweater.)  The underground portion of the tour takes you back through time to show you how mining has changed over the past 100+ years and the advances made to keep miners safe.  Starting with using wax candles for light and doing all the work by hand, up to today where there is full electrical and lighting throughout the mine and all the machinery used to do the brunt of the work. There are a couple parts of the tour that the guide lets the kids ‘help’ with – opening and closing the airlock, doing a dynamite “demo” and using some heavy equipment to break apart rock. The tour took about 1 hour and kept the attention of my kids for almost the entire time, my daughter was getting a little impatient about 10-15 minutes to the end, but that was more that she didn’t really like that it was fairly dark in the tunnels. When the tour was over  we were free to explore the rest of the centre.  There were several rooms available on two levels with tons of hands on activities. We started upstairs in the Earth Gallery and learned all about different types of rocks and minerals. Did some hands on activities while learning about earthquakes. The next room had some toys trucks for kids to play with, learn about communication and some other fun things like a VR headset where you can look in and around a mining site. Dynamic Earth also offers a trade program similar to that at Science North. After we were done here we headed back downstairs and found the last area to explore - This area was by far the kids (and my husband’s) favourite part! Explora Mine is a multi-level play area with foam ore that the kids could transport up a skip to unload into wheelbarrows, move across the mine and to send down a chute again. There are stairs to get up and a slide for the kids to come down. Once they’ve had their fill of the play structure they can pan for gold and actually find real gold to take home!  In my husband’s words, he had “Gold Fever” and was determined to find something to take home. The pieces are small, with the largest being the size of a sesame seed, but once you get the process down seemed to be easy enough to spot, and I found one after a couple tries!

There are also video type games for kids a little older than mine that let them try their hand at operating the mining equipment.

Back on the upper level, just outside the Earth Gallery is the Outdoor Science Park, a huge outdoor playground where they have incorporated mining equipment (full size and scaled down) into the stations.  The last thing to do before we left was take a picture with the Big Nickle. It was about 5pm when we left and the sun was directly behind the nickle so we ended up with darker photos, but still a great reminder of the fun we had.

Overall we had a great trip to Sudbury and plan to return so we can explore a little more of the area, and spend more time at both Science North and Dynamic Earth as I know there is a lot more for us to see and learn.

For more photos and perspectives on activities to do in Sudbury check on #LWABSudbury on social media!

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