We love visiting the Ontario Science Centre. The multi-level complex with it’s planetarium, IMAX theatre and loads of hands-on exhibits makes for a great family outing any time of year. But what about exploring after hours?
We did just that, participating in one of the few Sleepover events planned at the Ontario Science Centre. The sleepovers are popular with Scout and Guide groups, some visits restricted to just all female groups, but there is usually at least one night planned where families can join in on the fun and that’s just what we did.
The folks at the Ontario Science Centre have the sleepover routine down pat. After confirming our spot we were sent a package of information going over questions, the schedule, directions to get to the Centre and where to park (parking is free for sleepover participants which is another plus) and what to pack. Since we had to carry our gear to and from your sleeping area (on the 6th level) I wanted to ensure we packed light.
After our briefing we were free to explore. We checked out some of the Physics displays like making spinning tops and the obstacle course. We visited The Human Edge and The Living Earth. We checked out some of our favourite exhibits without the crowds.
After an hour or so we opted to enjoy our pizza snack in the Ontario Science Centre restaurant (the pizza and juice was made available from when we checked in until just before the PJ dance party giving participants a little flexibility). Due to the size of the sleepover group the IMAX film viewing was split into two time slots with our viewing falling within the first group. The Ontario Science Centre offers amazing films in this theatre, films specifically recorded for the IMAX experience. If you’ve never seen a film in this environment it’s like being there, being in the forest with lemurs or underwater with sharks.
That’s another great feature about the Ontario Science Centre sleepovers, they’re flexible with the guests. You can choose to see the film or opt to continue exploring the exhibits. The later is what we did since we had recently seen the film being screened. Instead we paid a visit to the Science Arcade. Can you believe we were the only people in this place? The kids went nuts running from exhibit to exhibit, no waiting, no lines, no noise but the sounds we made. It was pretty darn awesome.
We only cut our exhibit viewing short to set-up our sleeping area and get into our PJs. Our group was assigned the Weston Family Innovation Centre. We could sleep anywhere in the space as long as it wasn’t right within an actual exhibit. It was pretty weird rolling out our sleeping bags in the same space we tested paper airplanes, played music with the pulse on our hand, tried making shoes out of recycled material and played around with perspective and optical illusions.
Before hitting the PJ dance party in the Great Hall, three floors up, we had to explore more areas in our pyjamas, like the rain forest. Have you ever been in the rainforest in your PJs?
The dance floor was pretty busy with kids and their chaperones twirling and sliding. It’s amazing to see all that energy so late at night. My kids were worried they would never get to sleep with all the noise and kids in the space but they were both passed out fifteen minutes after sliding into their sleeping bag.
Midnight came and the lights went out, well as out as they can in a public space. There were exhibit lights and safety lights so the space was never really dark. It also took about thirty minutes for the lights and power to go off and it went off randomly throughout the space. I half expected squeals and giggles from overtired kids long after lights out but it was quiet. I think just like my kids, the energy drain from such an active few hours caught up to them. The exhibit space we slept in was rather warm when we settled down but as the evening wore on it did get chilly so I’m glad we wore warmer nightclothes.
Before we knew it morning arrived. There was no mistaking it as our wake-up call boomed over the intercom system and lights and exhibits came to life. According to my Fitbit I received a good 5 hours of sleep (almost on par with a regular night for me) yet I was feeling pretty tired. I was surprised at how easy my kids were up and dressed in the morning. We packed up our gear and then headed to the restaurant for breakfast, which was already prepackaged in a To-Go box. This actually worked to our advantage since the restaurant seating area was pretty busy. The box enabled us to take our breakfast and find a quiet bench in another part of the Science Centre.
The kids enjoyed cold cereal with milk, a banana, a yogurt cup, a juice and a muffin. A pretty good mix and nothing my kids wouldn’t eat (the muffin and yogurt being their favourite elements).
The sleepover event was scheduled to end at 9:00 a.m. to give the staff time to prepare the space for the public when doors opened at 10:00 a.m. Sleepover guests were invited to spend the next day within the Science Centre at no extra cost (thus the wrist bands we wore the night before) but we were beat. With our gear packed up we headed to the Great Hall and enjoyed some guided stretches as a way to wake-up then we packed our gear in the van.
The various Guide and Scout groups participated in activities during the sleepover to earn badges but even family participants like us received a cool sleepover badge (well the kids did), a nice souvenir from the whole experience.
We put a little video together taking you through the highlights of our sleepover experience to give you a peek into what you can expect:
If you have a mini scientist or explorer in your home then the Ontario Science Centre sleepover is the perfect experience.
Thanks to the Ontario Science Centre for hosting us for the chance to share our experience with you.