Stargazers rejoice! Vancouver’s H.R. MacMillan Space Centre is home to a planetarium, a vast array of astronomical exhibits and even a fully functioning observatory!
This makes it a perfect spot to kill a rainy afternoon for buddying astronomers of all ages.
We’ve devised a complete guide to this popular attraction so that you don’t have to depart on this intergalactic journey on your own.
Any questions? Get at me in the comments below.
The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre
Colloquially known to locals as “the Planetarium”, the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre is an Astronomy museum located in the Kitsilano neighbourhood (one of the city’s best areas to stay) on Vancouver’s Westside.
Housed in a location shared with the Museum of Vancouver, the Space Centre’s distinctive conical roof was constructed to resemble the shape of a woven basket hat typically worn by local First Nations groups.
Nonetheless, the building more commonly reminds visitors of a UFO due to the museums out of this world content, which is comprised of four key components:
- The Planetarium Star Theatre – a panoramic 230 seat star theatre that displays shows on a wide variety of astronomical wonders.
- The Cosmic Courtyard – an exhibit hall that features touchable meteorites and moon rocks.
- Groundstation Canada – an exhibit space that offers live science shows and demonstrations.
- The GMS Observatory – a fully functioning observatory with a 1/2 meter telescope that allows visitors to peer deep into the cosmos through Vancouver’s skies.
The Space Centre manages to educate, inspire and invoke a sense of wonder in kids and curious adults alike – it’s one of the top things to do in Vancouver.
H.R. MacMillan Space Centre History
The planetarium’s iconic home was constructed in 1967 to celebrate Vancouver’s centennial. It was designed by architect Gerald Hamilton, a practitioner of the New Formalism school of architecture.
Originally built to house the neighbouring Museum of Vancouver, a generous grant from lumber magnate H.R Macmillan allowed for the addition of a Planetarium.
The Planetarium was subsequently renamed the H.R Macmillan Space Centre in 1998, when it expanded to include some additional exhibit space.
H.R MacMillan Space Centre Shows
The Planetarium Star Theatre
The H.R Macmillan Space Centre’s iconic conical structure house the 230 seat Planetarium Star Theatre.
The Space Centre’s star attraction: the theatre provides visitors with the opportunity to experience the universe via a fully immersive panoramic full dome movie experience.
A variety of 45 minute films are offered on an hourly basis that cover a variety of topics; including the sun, planets, the big bang, black holes, and a wide variety of other astronomical wonders.
Due to the scientific content on offer the films are generally recommended for children 6 and above. However, each film has a recommended age range based upon the complexity of the content.
To have a look at the shows on offer and the age recommendation for each selection head over to the Planetarium Star Theatre’s schedule Page.
It’s important to note that admission includes entry to only one show at the Star Theatre. Therefore it’s important to time your visit for a show that manages to peak both you and your children’s interest.
Visit Groundstation Canada and prepare to be astounded by the wonders of the universe via a variety of experiments by Space Centre staff.
Ever wonder what we would do if an asteroid was barreling toward earth? Or what would happen to your body in a gravity less environment?
Allow the experts to demonstrate live and in person.
Encourage your kids to start thinking like scientists and imagine what it would be like to live in space with the informative content and thought-provoking real world displays.
Much like the Planetarium Star Theatre, each show has a recommended age range and specific topic, so be sure to check out the Groundstation Canada Schedule before your visit.
However, in this case your admission provides you with unlimited access to as many of the 20 minute shows as you would like!
H.R. MacMillan Space Centre Exhibits
The Cosmic Courtyard is a small exhibit space that features a variety of displays principally related to space travel. These include scale models of space shuttles, rockets and even a real live space suit!
Seize the rare opportunity to try on an astronaut suit in what is doubtlessly the H.R. Space Centre’s most popular photo opportunity.
Other popular displays include one of only 5 touchable moon rocks in the world! At over 3.75 billion years old it’s sure to be the oldest artifact you’ll ever lay your eyes on.
You can also try your hand at lifting a real live meteorite. Marvel at how heavy it feels relative to similar materials found on earth.
The Gordon Macmillan Southam Observatory is an actual functioning observatory that features a 1/2 meter Cassegrain Telescope.
This powerful device grants stargazers with the opportunity to gaze deeper into the heavens than they ever have before.
Pick out one of the constellations or seek out your favourite planet! On a clear night anything is possible.
GMS Observatory Hours
It’s important to note that the Observatory is only open on Saturday Nights from 7:30pm to 11:00pm, with admission included with night entry to the Space Centre.
However, if you’ve already visited the Planetarium, or you only wish to check out the Observatory, then stand alone admission is also available by donation.
H.R. MacMillan Space Centre Prices
Prices differ slightly for daytime and evening admissions. The rates can be found in the table below:
- Adult: $19.50
- Student/senior (55+): $16.50
- Child (5-11): $14.00
- Family: $60.50
Daytime admission includes one show in the Planetarium Star Theatre and unlimited access to Ground Station Canada and the Cosmic Courtyard.
Family rates include 5 people with a maximum of 2 adults.
Children under 5 go free.
Evening admission includes one show in the Planetarium Star Theatre and access to the GMS Observatory.
- Adult: $14.00
- Student/senior (55+): $11.00
- Child (5-11): $8.50
- Family: $41.00
Family rates include 5 people with a maximum of 2 adults.
Children under 5 are free.
H.R. MacMillan Space Centre Ticket Packages
Entry can also be offered in tandem with the other museums located in Vanier park, the neighbouring Museum of Vancouver or the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
These packages provide visitors with entry to two or three of the aforementioned locations for one low price!
If you are interested, the passes are available at the visitor service desks at all of the respective museums.
The Dual Pass is valid over multiple days and includes one entry to each of the Museum of Vancouver and the H.R. Macmillan Space Centre.
- Adult: $31.50
- Student: $26.50
- Senior: $26.50
*Must be purchased in person at the visitor service desk of either facility.
Vanier Explore Pass
The Vanier Explore Pass is valid over multiple days and includes one entry to each museum located within Vanier Park; the H.R Macmillan Space Centre, the Museum of Vancouver and the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
- Adult: $42.50
- Student: $36.50
- Senior: $36.50
*Can be purchased online at the VMM website, or in person at the visitor service desks of any of the respective facilities.
How to Get to the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre
Address: 1100 Chestnut Street
Unfortunately, the museum is not located near a Skytrain station. Nevertheless, it is easily accessible from downtown with public transport via the #2 Macdonald or #32 Dunbar buses, False Creek Ferries, and the Seawall.
The Space Centre can easily be reached via the #2 Macdonald or #32 Dunbar buses, which can be boarded on Burrard Street in Downtown Vancouver.
- Find a bus stop located along the Westside of Burrard Street in Downtown Vancouver. Board the #2 Macdonald or #32 Dunbar bus and pay your fare ($3.00 or $2.40 using a Compass Card).
- Stay aboard the bus until it crosses the Burrard Street Bridge and reaches the intersection of Cornwall Avenue and Cypress Street and exit the bus. The journey should take 10-15 minutes depending on traffic.
- Walk back in the direction you came for a block and until you reach Chestnut Street.
- Take a left on Chestnut and follow it North for around 500 metres until you reach Whyte Avenue. You will see the Space Centre’s distinctive conical structure on the Northwest Corner of the street.
For schedules visit Translink’s bus schedule page.
False Creek Ferries
Two companies offer commuter ferry services to a variety of locations throughout the False Creek area.
Just be sure to select the False Creek Ferries option, as the competing Aquabus service does not service the Maritime Museum Station.
- Locate a stop servicing Route 4 of the False Creek Ferries, likely either the Aquatic Centre (located in the West-End of Downtown) or Granville Island station.
- Purchase your ticket for the Maritime Museum Station, it will cost $4.50 or $7.50 return for an adult.
- Enjoy the ride until you reach Maritime Museum Station.
- Upon exiting the station follow The Seawall for around 100 metres through Hadden Park until you reach Chestnut Street.
- Follow Chestnut South until you reach Whyte Avenue. The museum will be on your left. Ask your skipper for directions if you are unsure.
For more information and schedules check out the False Creek Ferries website.
One more little known way to reach the H.R. Macmillan Space Centre via Vancouver’s much vaunted Seawall, which is the world’s longest uninterrupted urban waterfront path.
If you already happen to be visiting Granville Island, the Space Centre is only a 10-15 minute bike ride or 30 minute walk along False Creek.
This option will provide you with fantastic views of English Bay, the North Shore Mountains and the Vancouver skyline. This makes it preferable to driving or transit on a beautiful day.
If you opt to drive, the Space Centre is located just a 10 minute drive from most downtown hotels.
Simply click our directions link, insert your place of lodging and receive your custom set of directions.
Expect to pay about $12.00 for a Vancouver taxi from downtown.
H.R. MacMillan Space Centre Parking
There is a large parking lot located adjacent to the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. The lot has ample parking for the Planetarium and the neighbouring Museum of Vancouver.
The rates are as follows:
- $3.25 per hour
- $11.25-daily maximum (6:00 am – 6:00 pm)
- $7.25-evening maximum (6:00 pm – 6:00 am)
*We’d recommend paying close attention to your parking time. Many visitors have reported receiving tickets for being as little as 10-15 minutes overtime.
H.R. MacMillan Space Centre Hours
The Space Centre is open daily 7 days a week.
There are also special Saturday night hours for special gazing events at the GMS Observatory.
- Monday – Friday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Saturday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Sundays/Holidays: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
- GMS Observatory: 7:30 pm – 11:00 pm
- Planetarium Shows: 7:30 pm & 11:00 pm
*The museum is open evenings on Saturdays only
We’d recommend budgeting at least 2 hours for your visit to the Space Centre.
This will provide you with enough time to view all of the exhibits, as well as check out a couple of shows.
H.R. MacMillan Space Centre Visitor Tips
Before we let you go, here are a few quick tips to make sure that you get the most out of your visit to the H.R. Macmillan Space Centre.
1) Visit via False Creek
The museum is located a short walk or bike ride along the famous Seawall from Granville Island. For another option, the Planetarium is also serviced by the False Creek Ferry via Maritime Museum Station.
Why not enjoy the sunshine and soak up the spectacular views of one of the most beautiful skylines in the world? We promise, it’ll be a much more memorable experience than a mundane car or bus ride.
2) Purchase a ticket package
The HR MacMillan Space Centre shares a facility with the popular Museum of Vancouver, while a short jaunt away lies the Maritime Museum.
Pair the attractions together and save yourself a little bit of coin by using the Vanier Park Dual Pass or Explorer Pass.
3) Catch a Show
In our opinion the true highlights of the H.R. Macmillan Space Center can be found in the shows found in the Planetarium Star Theatre and Groundstation Canada.
We promise that your kids will have so much fun they’ll forget that they’re learning!
Just make sure to consult the schedule to time your visit for a show that is both age appropriate and to their liking.
4) Check out the GMS Observatory
How many chances do you get to look through a 1/2 meter Cassegrain telescope? Seize this rare opportunity to gaze deep into the heavens by visiting the GMS Observatory.
Just remember, it’s best experienced on clear nights to maximize visibility and is only open to the public on Saturday nights.
5) Avoid the crowds
The Planetarium can be a very popular attraction amongst tourists and locals alike. This is particularly true during holiday weekends and periods of inclement weather.
Like most museums, the best way to avoid the crowds is to visit the Space Centre earlier in the day and during weekdays.
This’ll help you avoid the tourist hordes, minimize wait times and allow you to view all of the exhibits in relative peace.
6) Pay close attention to your parking time
A recurring complaint of visitors to the Space Centre concerns Easypark, the company tasked with monitoring the facilities’ shared parking lot.
Many people have complained that they’ve received tickets for being as little as 10-15 minutes over their time allotment.
If you choose to drive to the Space Centre you are advised to purchase enough time to cover our recommended visit duration of 2 hours.
This’ll give you enough time to check out a couple of shows and see all the exhibits without coming back to a ticket.
Where is the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre located?
The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre is located at 1100 Chestnut Street in Vanier Park, which is situated in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood.
What are the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre’s hours?
The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre’s daytime hours are 10:00 am – 5:00 pm 7 days a week.
Special evening hours are offered on Saturdays, with Planetarium shows at 7:30 & 9:00pm and the GMS Observatory open from 7:30 – 11:30 pm.
How much is admission to the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre?
Daytime admission to the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre costs; $19.50 for adults, $16.50 for students and seniors (55+), $14.00 for children (5-11) and $60.50 for families (5 people, max 2 adults).
The special Saturday evening admission costs; $14.00 for adults, $11.00 for students and seniors (55+), $8.50 for children (5-11) and $41.00 for families (5 people, max 2 adults).
What is the GMS Observatory?
The GMS Observatory is a fully functioning observatory at Vancouver’s H.R. Macmillan Space Centre which houses a 1/2 metre Cassegrain telescope.
This allows users to gaze deep into the heavens to view stars, planets, constellations and more.
When is the GMS Observatory open?
The GMS Observatory is only open on Saturdays from 7:30 – 11:30.
Don’t Let the Sun Set Just Yet!
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Let me know it.
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