Elyse and I decided to visit the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) again this year, but since last year’s post covered a lot of the major areas, I thought that this year I would write a guide for those who are visiting the museum for the first time (or maybe the 3rd or 4th). Here are a few tips & tricks I’ve learned as a veteran ROM visitor…
- Wear your comfiest shoes and light layers. Don’t bother dressing to impress. Put on your running shoes that have lots of cushioning and support. You are going to be walking a lot and although there are a few benches here and there, finding a place to sit when your feet are on fire and feel like 100-pound weights isn’t easy. And wearing layers means that you can take something off when you get too hot, but aren’t freezing in the areas of the museum that happen to have intense air conditioning.
- Bring a small backpack. It doesn’t need to be anything huge, but having a small bag where you can store a bottle of water, some snacks, and your valuables means your hands are free to take as many pictures as you want. A purse can be too clunky and just bringing your wallet leaves you without a spot to store anything else that you might want, like a camera or a map.
- Arrive earlier in the day. The ROM opens at 10am most days so try to be there within that first hour. The lineup to get tickets and use the coat check will be shorter, you don’t have to fight crowds to see the exhibits, and there are fewer children running around. This also ensures that you have enough time to see everything you want to see and don’t feel rushed.
- Pick up a map. Maps are freely available at all the desks on the first floor, so pick one up because you are going to need it. There are certain areas of the museum that seem like they would be easy to navigate, until you are in the middle of an exhibit and can’t find your way out. It can also help you decide which areas you want to see first so that you don’t spend all your time looking at bowls and plates when you really wanted to go see the mummy.
- Don’t start on the ground floor. Everyone who comes in is going to start on the first floor. If you head up to the Natural History Gallery, or even work your way down from the 4th floor, you have the advantage of beating the crowds to most of the exhibits. It also means that you are heading in the right direction when you are ready to go home.
- Look for staff in red jackets. If there is a staff member hanging around a gallery it’s very likely that they are there to share some knowledge with visitors. On this trip I got to hold a real canopic jar (where a mummy’s organs are stored) and we had a great chat about the differences between European and Egyptian cultures. Make eye contact, smile, and take the opportunity to learn a bit more about the items than what is just written on the plaques.
- Skip the cafeteria. If you eat a snack or a big breakfast before starting your visit at 10am then you should be okay to skip the cafeteria during lunch, the busiest time of the day. Snacks from home can be eaten in the Lunch Room on B1, but we prefer to complete our visit and then go out to one of the many restaurants in the area.
- Take your time. Just snapping a picture and moving on isn’t the point of a museum. You can look at pictures of these items all over the internet, but you aren’t going to know why they are important if you don’t pause to read some of the information available. If you are with someone, take the time to discuss the things you are looking at. Rushing from exhibit to exhibit means you never really get to experience the meaning behind these displays. If you are interested in a certain area, stick around and get to know it. The museum isn’t going anywhere, so you can always visit the other areas another day.
Have you visited the Royal Ontario Museum? Do you have any tips or tricks for your museum visits? Share in the comments!