The Big Nickel

A weekend in Sudbury

Last year we visited some of the beautiful parks that are near Thunder Bay. We flew, because although Thunder Bay is still in Ontario, it’s a 16 hour drive from Toronto, and we really didn’t have time for 32 hours of driving over a long weekend! However, by flying we were well aware that we had skipped over large swathes of the province that were worth seeing. So when considering where we could on holiday go this summer, we decided to go on a road trip to Lake Superior, and cover some of that ground that we flew over previously. Sudbury, a city around 3.5 hours north of Toronto, made for the perfect first stop on our road trip.

Visiting Science North on a rainy day

Having arrived to beautiful weather early on Friday evening, we woke up the next morning to torrential rain! Fortunately for us, our hotel, the Travelway Inn, was conveniently located next door to Science North. So after breakfast, we scampered across the road dodging puddles, ready to get scientific. We thought that we’d only spend a couple of hours at Science North, but ended up spending closer to three. While it made for an excellent rainy day activity, regardless of the weather, it was an excellent place to visit.

Science North
Science North was a quick walk from our hotel.

Our favourite exhibit was the temporary Body Worlds Rx (it’s on until September 2nd, 2019). I remember the plastinated bodies of Body Worlds making a splash in the British media several years ago, but had not seen the display in the flesh until now. Focussing on diseases and ailments that commonly affect the human body and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, the exhibit was fascinating and not gross like I thought it would be!

Passing through a tunnel carved through the rock to the centre’s second building, we came face-to-face with numerous insects, including a praying mantis, cockroaches, a multitude of stick insects and a giant legged katydid (no, we’d never heard if it before either) which I got to hold. On the same floor, the butterfly gallery allowed us to get up close and personal with some colourful winged friends. Working our way upstairs past the suspended skeleton of a giant fin whale, we met various other creatures including Maple the porcupine, Drifter the beaver, bats, flying squirrels, turtles and Russ the eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, although sadly, Saunders the skunk was hiding away during our visit.

Giant Legged Katydid at Science North in Sudbury
Holding a giant legged katydid at Science North! Despite its size, it was really light and its feet felt sticky.

Learning about Sudbury’s mining history at Dynamic Earth

After visiting the interactive exhibits, including lying on a bed of nails, we headed over to Science North’s sister attraction, Dynamic Earth, in the afternoon.

Sudbury’s history is dominated by the mining industry, with the Sudbury Basin – the world’s third largest impact crater formed over 1.8 billion years ago – home to large deposits of nickel and copper ore. Descending seven storeys to a demonstration mine, ‘In the Footsteps of Sudbury’s Miners’, is one of the main attractions at Dynamic Earth, and took us on a tour of the evolution of Sudbury’s mining history.

‘In the Footsteps of Sudbury’s Miners’ tour at Dynamic Earth.
‘In the Footsteps of Sudbury’s Miners’ takes you on a tour of a mine seven storeys down, and covers the evolution of mining in Sudbury.

The excellent Earth Gallery exhibit and some very friendly and helpful staff explained the different types of local minerals and the formation of their deposits in the Sudbury area. Family friendly exhibits included gold panning and a mine training centre. Sadly we didn’t find any gold but if you do, you get to keep it as a souvenir!

Visiting Sudbury’s landmark – the Big Nickel

Outside sits what must be Sudbury’s most famous landmark, the Big Nickel. A replica of the 1951 Canadian five-cent coin (a nickel), it is the world’s largest coin, coming in at almost 13,000 kgs, 9 metres in width and over 64 million times bigger than the real coin. Although the Big Nickel is no longer joined by other giant coins at this site like it once was, the platform at its base offers good views over the Sudbury landscape, including the Sudbury Superstack.

The Big Nickel in Sudbury
The Big Nickel is a landmark of Sudbury.
Sudbury Superstack
The nearby Sudbury Superstack was built in the 1970s. It was built to disperse sulphur gases that are created from the smelting of the mined ore away from Sudbury and over a wider area to prevent further damage to the local environment. At 381 metres high, it’s the second tallest freestanding structure in Canada after the CN Tower and the second tallest chimney in the world! It dominates the Sudbury skyline, but is due to come down in 2020.

Vegan eats and Downtown Sudbury’s murals

That evening, after dinner at a little vegan enclave in Sudbury – with delicious Mexican food at Tuco’s Taco Lounge, ice cream from Flurples, and with a couple of scones picked up from the neighbouring Beards Bakery for lunch the following day – we headed into downtown Sudbury to tour as many of its murals as possible before the sun went down. Twenty-eight murals have been created since 2013 as part of the Up Here Festival, and feature a variety of subjects, from people, to wildlife and colourful messages.

Tucos Taco Lounge, Sudbury.
Tucos Taco Lounge offers delicious Mexican vegan food.
Flurples ice cream in Sudbury
The rain returned in the evening, so we ran to the car to eat our ice cream sundae from Flurples.
Downtown Sudbury murals
There are a variety of murals across downtown Sudbury.
Downtown Sudbury mural of Dynamic Earth mine tour guide.
This mural next to a parking lot shows one of the Dynamic Earth mine tour guides.

Bell Park Boardwalk

We woke up the next day to beautiful weather, a stark contrast from the previous day. Once again though, we didn’t have to venture very far for our morning activity. The large, nearby Ramsey Lake, which Science North overlooks, is bordered on its northwestern corner by the Bell Park Boardwalk. We spent most of our morning exploring its nooks and crannies as it winds its way along the lake’s shoreline. We passed beaches, people enjoying the lake by kayak, ducklings and what we still can’t determine as muskrats or otters busy doing their thing in the water. It really was a beautiful and scenic walk, not feeling at all like it should belong in a city and was a perfect way to end our time in Sudbury.

Ramsey Lake ducks
Ramsey Lake is a large lake entirely within Sudbury, with the Bell Park Boardwalk on its northwestern corner providing a scenic walk.
Ramsey Lake otter or muskrat
We saw a couple of these swimming in Ramsey Lake. We’ve ruled out a beaver (we think!), but aren’t sure if they were muskrats or otters.
Science North and Ramsey Lake.
Science North overlooks Ramsey Lake and the Bell Park Boardwalk.


Thank you to Discover Sudbury for hosting us in Sudbury by providing us with accommodation and passes to Science North and Dynamic Earth.


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