family-friendly museums in The Great Waterway
The family-friendly Miller Museum of Geology invites kids to explore exhibits hands-on.

It used to be that museums were places where children were only seen and most definitely not heard. It’s time to shake off that dusty old notion, especially in Kingston, Canada’s museum capital. Located in the heart of South Eastern Ontario, Kingston boasts twenty-seven museums and historic sites, showcasing Limestone City’s rich cultural heritage. Authentic artifacts plus socially relevant exhibits and programming help children and their families learn more about the world around them.

Kingston’s Museums Bring History To Life

You can go online or read a book, but in a museum you get to see the size and texture of an item. In a historic site it is really easy to imagine conditions. Kingston’s captivating museum interpreters truly help bring history to life.

Fort Henry family vacations
Kids and parents get in on the fun at Fort Henry.

The hands-on learning opportunities aren’t limited to just kids, because parents joining in make the experience more memorable for everyone. Peering into an iron lung at the Museum of Health Care, re-enacting a Victorian-era school day at the Frontenac County Schools Museum, accessorizing with the jewels of an ancient Egyptian queen at The Pump House Steam Museum, a campfire at the MacLachlan Woodworking Museum or the thrill of the Garrison Parade at Fort Henry are all family members can take part in, oftentimes with hilarious results.

kids' museums in Kington
Experience student life in a one-room schoolhouse at Frontenac County Schools Museum.

At the Frontenac County Schools Museum, you might get told to sit on your left hand and write outlines. Sorry, left-handed folks but it was discouraged in Victorian times to write with your left hand. Learn about fascinating historical facts about what life would have been like for students in the region in the 1800s. You will leave with a new appreciation for the technology that is used in the modern days. These are connections that are unique to a visit to a museum.

Many museums design their activities with multi-age levels in mind. Museum visits engage a family together in an activity, which is much harder to do during a passive experience like a movie. After all isn’t it those moments together, engaged and offline, that make your family vacation special?

5 Family-Friendly Picks

Miller Museum of Geology, Queen’s University

Where: Miller Hall, Queen’s University, 36 Union Street
When: Monday to Friday, 8:30 am-4:30 pm
Why your kids will love it: At one point in their lives, your kids will be obsessed with rocks and dinosaurs. Fossils, dinosaur bones and a stunning collection of geodes are here for hands-on exploration.

Fort Henry National Historic Site of Canada

Where: 1 Fort Henry Drive, Kingston
When: Open seasonally, plus special events
Why your kids will love it: As soon as you step into Fort Henry, you are whisked back in time. This living history military museum boasts soldiers, cannons, barracks and artifacts from the British and Canadian military. Highlights also include the school room, Garrison Parade and David the Goat, Fort Henry’s personable mascot. 

Pump House Steam Museum

Where: 23 Ontario Street, Kingston
When: Open seasonally, plus special events
Why your kids will love it: The Pump House Steam Museum is a true gem, with only six similar preserved water pumping plants left in North America. Your kids will love the huge animated pumps, the elegant Phoebe pleasure boat, the model trains and the hands-on and STEM inspired Gordon C. Leitch Discovery Centre. 

MacLachlan Woodworking Museum

Where: 2993 Hwy 2 East (at Grass Creek Park)
When: Open seasonally plus special events
Why your kids will love it: Kids and their caregivers will love the opportunity to explore and learn in The Workshop, getting an opportunity to learn how to carve and create a wide variety of items, like shakes and canoes. But you wee one will remember the Children’s Forest, a beautifully designed space inside of the museum complete with a tent and campfire. 

Museum of Health Care at Kingston

Where: Ann Baillie Building National Historic Site, 32 George St.
When: Tuesday – Friday, 10 am – 4 pm
 By donation, special events may require admission
Why your kids will love it: Kid-friendly programming includes fun activitiy packs that your family can use while in the museum to build on your learning, a children’s gallery and engaging special events like their Family Day Teddy Bear Hospital and educational play date opportunities.

When it comes to planning your vacation in South Eastern Ontario, there are many entertainment options, but memories made with your family during a museum visit are special.