My husband and I were very fortunate to have the chance to explore the TELUS World of Science in Edmonton this past weekend. We both love museums and this one was definitely worth a look.
The TELUS World of Science in Edmonton is similar to TELUS Spark in Calgary in a lot of ways – it’s a science museum, and features a lot of the same traveling exhibits that Spark does. (For example, while we were there, it had the How to Make a Monster exhibit which was at TELUS Spark a little while ago.)
The biggest difference between the two museums is the scale – TELUS World of Science has an IMAX theatre (the biggest in Canada) as well as a dome theatre with awesome programming that comes free with admission, tons of permanent exhibits, and room for two traveling exhibits at a time. TELUS World of Science also has a free, volunteer-run observatory on the grounds, which doesn’t run on cold or cloudy nights, but which would be awesome to check out in the spring or summer if you are in the area.
Until March 8th, TELUS World of Science is also home to Harry Potter – The Exhibition. This is fantastically popular, so much so that you have to book a timed entry ticket when you arrive at the museum. We arrived at the museum at 2:00 PM on Sunday, and couldn’t get into the Harry Potter exhibition until 6:45 PM. You can book ahead online, and we chose to go on the busiest weekend of the year, so your family will probably have a much easier time getting in than we did.
The Harry Potter exhibition is $26.50 for an adult, and $19.50 per child. This includes admission into the regular exhibits at the museum.
I’m going to break this review into two sections, because we had a very different experience at the Harry Potter exhibition than we did at the rest of the museum:
Harry Potter The Exhibition
Once it’s your turn to enter the exhibit, you line up with everyone else in your time slot. You will be asked if you would like to rent an audio guide for $6. The audio guide was pretty basic and mostly about the actual props involved. It might be of interest to more die-hard fans of the series. It will not be of any interest to the kids in your party, especially if they are under twelve.
You will then be guided along the line and given a house scarf to take a picture in with your party. Once you return the scarf, you will be given a card with a number on it. You can show this card at the very end of the exhibit to buy your picture, which is $25 or more depending on what kind of prints you want.
After that, everyone is led into a dark room with a chair and the sorting hat. This was really cute and added to the atmosphere. Due to the nature of the room, it may be very hard for little ones to see. The presenter will ask a few people to try the sorting hat on and it will “sort” them into a house – there’s only time for two or three people to be “sorted,” so prepare for disappointment if your child isn’t picked.
From there, you enter another dark room and watch a short video with clips from the films, ending with the door being opened onto a “train platform” at Hogsmeade, fully equipped with a realistic replica Hogwarts Express. The whole group will be led into the exhibit from here. It is visually stunning, and probably the highlight of the entire exhibition.
The exhibition itself is mostly comprised of loads of props from the Harry Potter films, including costumes, artwork, wands, magical items, and furniture. I could see that many of the families with kids in the exhibit were having trouble transitioning their little ones from the “hands-on” nature of the rest of the museum to this very “hands-off” section, as you are not allowed to touch anything. You travel through sections of props themed by classes, professors, and areas such as the Forbidden Forest or the Quidditch Grounds.
There are only three “interactive” areas in the exhibition – you have the opportunity to pull up a mandrake root; you can throw a quaffle (a kind of ball) through a hoop, just like in Quidditch; and you can sit on Hagrid’s giant armchair.
At the end of the exhibition, everyone exits through a long and winding gift shop. To give you an idea of the prices, they ranged from about $6 for a 30 gram chocolate frog to $60 for a Hedwig (owl) stuffed toy. Replica wands were $50, and house scarves and ties could run you between $25-$35.
I strongly recommend having a conversation with your kids about what you are and are not willing to buy from the gift shop at the end. At one point, a well-meaning dad had to try to convince his young daughter to leave the shop while trying to pry a scarf, wand, stuffed owl toy, and three chocolate frogs away from her. (You can imagine how well that went.)
I thought it was unfortunate that you are unable to exit any other way but through the gift shop – it is fairly expensive to get into, and you’re left with the potential of seriously ruining your otherwise perfect day at the museum by refusing to buy a $6 chocolate frog, or giving in and spending a lot more money than you meant to. The museum’s gift shop is separate from the exit, and has price points of all levels, which means you can always afford to grab a little treat for your kids if you’d like.
For a family with die-hard teenaged or tween Potter fans, this exhibition could be really interesting. Visually, it was stunning, and for my husband and I as adults it was well worth the extra cost. It may or may not be suitable for your young family.
TELUS World of Science
The World of Science was a totally different story. There is something here for literally every age range, every interest, and every ability level – ranging from very simple “press this button” activities to some genuinely challenging math-based puzzles and in-depth thinking activities, the museum is beautifully designed for the entire family to enjoy. Exhibit areas include the human body, space travel, forensic science, the environment, and loads more. We spent the entire time from 2:00-6:45 PM in the museum proper, and only just managed to see most of what the museum had to offer in terms of exhibits – never mind all the incredible IMAX and star shows!
We took in one show in the fabulous dome theatre, which was an interactive tour around our solar system. Kids were encouraged to shout out answers, move around the theatre, and even leave and come back if necessary – the presenter helpfully pointed out the nearest bathroom and reassured parents that they could come and go as many times as they liked during the program. It was so quiet and soothing under the stars in the theatre that a little guy next to us fell asleep watching the show. Each show runs about 40 minutes and is absolutely free with admission, and well worth your time.
I really cannot say enough good things about the variety of activities in the museum and the fantastic educational content and effort put into each and every one. I learned so much in the afternoon we were there, even as an elementary teacher myself – even if your kids aren’t old enough to get much out of the educational content, the hands-on nature of almost everything means that there is lots to keep all ages busy.
If you are in Edmonton for a weekend – and even if you aren’t! – the TELUS World of Science is well worth the visit. I highly recommend it!