March Break Fun: Observatories You Can Visit for Free

Enjoy an afternoon or evening of fun and learning with a trip to your local observatory this March Break


Have a child who’s fascinated by the moon, the stars and outer space? Maybe you’re raising a future astronomer. Spark your child’s curiosity by taking them to the local observatory over March Break. General information and hours can be found on the websites listed below.

Depending on the organization, visitors can get tours of the facilities, look at celestial bodies through telescopes, engage in presentations and have their cosmic questions answered by staff. Best of all, most of these observatories offer free admission. Education and entertainment without costing you a penny? Now that’s a great deal.

Newfoundland and Labrador:

At the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University in Corner Brook public observing nights begin with a short discussion then a chance to look through the telescope, if the weather permits.

Halifax, Nova Scotia:

At Saint Mary’s Unversity, they provide free Public Open Houses on Friday evenings and Private Group Tours, usually on Monday evenings. Contact the department for further information.

Fredericton, New Brunswick:

The Hanwell Observatory at the Fredericton Public Library offers public outreach and observing sessions on Saturday evenings in 2015-16, weather permitting. Their Sidewalk Astronomer Program also offers a short astronomy program for beginners of all ages using the sidewalk Astronomer booklet produced by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. With this program astronomers of all ages will be introduced to observing the constellations, planets and the moon.

Mont-Mégantic, Quebec:


Image courtesy of Mont Megantic ASTROlab

Located in the exceptional setting of Parc national du Mont-Mégantic, the ASTROLab is an astronomy activity centre devoted to making science accessible. Visit the most powerful observatory in Canada, fascinating exhibits and a high definition multimedia room. Two public observatories, a number of telescopes and other observation instruments make it possible to discover the splendours of space and the Universe. During your stay, attend a showing of Cosmic Rhythms. Projected on a giant screen, Cosmic Rhythms is a high-definition film which will take visitors to the outer edges of the Universe with some of today’s most beautiful astronomical simulations.

Kingston, Ontario:

Queen’s University offers public tours of their observatory that often come with a speaker presentation. View planets, stars, nebulae and galaxies in their 14-inch dome telescope. Peruse their outdoor observing deck with several telescopes and high power binoculars, touring Kingston’s night sky.

Toronto, Ontario:

Both the University of Toronto and York University offer tours for school groups, youth organizations, clubs, and large groups of interested individuals.  And if you’d rather keep the littles at home, York also offers online public viewings on Mondays after sunset. See live images from four telescopes/cameras and chat with the staff who will be more than happy to answer questions. Requests for objects to observe will also be entertained

Waterloo, Ontario:

The University of Waterloo houses the Gustav Bakos Observatory which is open for public tours usually on the first Wednesday of each month, offering a chance to look through the university’s telescope. This will be preceded by a short talk on astronomy (around 30 minutes) plus an opportunity to ask questions, followed by a tour of the dome.

London, Ontario:

Head to the Cronyn Observatory at Western University to view the skies through the telescope and to pose your favourite questions to the astronomer hosting the evening. There is nothing like seeing these wonders with your own eyes! Members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada are also on hand with their portable telescopes set up on the Observatory balcony and  front lawn. If your little is interested in doing some astronomy as a hobby, these are the people to talk to.

Winnipeg, Manitoba:

Monthly open houses at the Ewen Campus Observatory and the Lockhart Planetarium in University College at the Fort Garry Campus of the University of Manitoba occur on the first Thursday of the month beginning at sunset – rain or shine! Starting approximately 15 minutes after sunset there will be a brief introduction in the planetarium to the night sky in season (What’s Up?) followed by viewing through the telescopes, weather permitting. Should the weather be unfavourable then there will be another planetarium presentation of astronomy in the news.

usask-observatorySaskatoon, Saskatchewan:

Observatory facilities at the University of Saskatchewan are available for use by both university students and visitors to the campus. The telescopes and other scientific equipment are used by university students during the laboratory component of their courses. University personnel regularly offer tours of the observatory to elementary and high school classes, youth groups and other community associations. The Observatory is staffed year-round on Saturday nights so that any visitor may view celestial objects through the telescope.

Edmonton, Alberta:

At the University of Alberta School groups and other education-oriented groups can book a private visit. These visits are free of charge. Please contact us at least one month before your anticipated visit date since there is high demand for these visits and we have limited availability.

Prince George, British Columbia:

The Prince George Astronomical Observatory is open on Friday nights during the fall and spring public viewing hours.There will be a different presentation each week starting at 7:30 pm and 9:00 pm with telescope use familiarization and viewing to follow. Viewing is weather dependent. Should the weather not cooperate, there will be several activities available in the classroom. Admission by donation  $2/person or $5/family.


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