11 unique museums in Ontario
Here are some one-of-a-kind museums that will spark your curiosity.
The Oil Museum of Canada is a National Historic Site in Lambert County situated at the site where James Miller Williams, known as the Father of the Canadian Oil Industry, dug the first commercial oil well in North America.
View historic photographs, geological displays, functioning oil fields, and souvenirs brought to Oil Springs from drillers who travelled around the world on drilling expeditions.
Location: 2423 Kelly Road, Oil Springs
The Niagara Apothecary is a Niagara-on-the-Lake treasure just steps away from the historic Prince of Wales Hotel. Built in the early 19th century, it had a series of owners over its century-plus time of operation before it was closed permanently in 1964. It was restored in 1971 to maintain the architectural integrity of the original building and reopened as a museum.
Although some people mistake it for an operating pharmacy, it's a museum that brilliantly traces over 100 years of pharmacy. From well preserved dispensers to bottles of ailments, including the unconventional ones used before drug laws were passed, there are a lot of gems to discover at this museum.
Location: 5 Queen Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake
The Canadian Canoe Museum recognizes the monumental role canoes played as the earliest form of transportation in Canada. The museum holds the largest collection of its kind with more than 600 canoes, kayaks and other small watercraft, along with thousands of related artifacts. The museum’s collection also includes a dramatic waterfall and a model Mi’kmaq wigwam.
Location: 910 Monaghan Road, Peterborough
Canada's achievements in aviation and courageous forest firefighters are celebrated at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. The museum is a hands-on centre with over 19,500 square metres of interactive displays and artifacts that explore the incredible story of bush flying and its role in Canadian history.
Location: 50 Pim Street, Sault Ste. Marie
Established in 1942, the Canadian War Museum is one of the largest and most respected war history museums in the world. The museum serves as both an educational facility and a place of remembrance, reflecting on the losses and sacrifices of those made throughout history in times of war.
The museum has over 440,000 square metres of space filled with exhibits, memorials and a theatre. It’s also home to a cafe, library, archives and an eco-friendly rooftop with sweeping views of the Ottawa skyline.
Location: 1 Vimy Place, Ottawa
The Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology is a nod to civil engineering and a reminder of the importance of clean running water. Housed in Hamilton’s early waterworks building, the museum has the oldest engines that were operational before electricity was used.
The museum also offers a range of permanent and rotating exhibits focused on the steam and technology industries of Canada. Be sure to look out for the Golden Horseshoe Live Steamers' special event series throughout the summer.
Location: 900 Woodward Avenue, Hamilton
Learn about the clothes you wear and the tools used to create them at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto. The museum showcases a variety of textiles from around the world and different periods of history, with a collection of over 13,000 artifacts that span nearly 2,000 years of existence.
Interactive workshops are offered for those interested in creating various textiles. There are also a variety of exhibits and presentations that engage the public about local and global issues.
Location: 55 Centre Avenue, Toronto
Prepare to be mesmerized by a spectacular array of shoes and related artifacts that celebrate footwear from over 4,500 years of history. Located near Toronto’s top shopping district, the Bata Shoe Museum’s sleek and sophisticated architecture is as stylish as its contents.
Footwear on display range from tiny shoes worn in foot binding cultures and ancient Egyptian sandals to chestnut-crushing clogs and glitzy contemporary platforms. Just like fashion, the exhibits change often, so there’s always something new to see.
Location: 327 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Located at the birthplace of the correctional services in the nation, Canada’s Penitentiary Museum is housed in the former warden’s residence of the notorious Kingston Penitentiary. A walk through the museums provides a fascinating window into the history of Canada’s penitentiary system.
Location: 555 King Street West, Kingston
Enter the world of espionage, code cracking and secret agents at the underground war museum named after Canada’s 13th prime minister. Built between 1959 and 1961, the Diefenbunker Cold War Museum was meant to shelter 535 Canadian government officials in the event of a nuclear disaster, but ultimately served as a Canadian Forces Station until 1994.
It is an expansive place to explore, consisting of a four-story building with over 30,000 square metres of space. The museum is well preserved with furniture, equipment and technology that serve as reminders of life during the Cold War era. Interactive programs and events are available.
Location: 3929 Carp Road, Ottawa
The Cheese and Agricultural Museum is a wonderful stop on Oxford County’s Cheese Trail to learn about the region’s cheese history. The museum consists of seven different buildings which replicate a 19th-century cheese factory, the Sherbrooke Barn, a blacksmith shop and the Ingersoll Community Museum. There’s also a replica of the infamous 3,300-kilogram wheel of cheese that is worthy of an Instagram moment.
Location: 290 Harris Street, Ingersoll
Last updated: September 12, 2023