The city on Lake Superior may be know for its great outdoors, but the indoors offers its own chances to climb and gawk your way to a fun time
Thunder Bay has a deserved rep as an outdoor playground in beautiful natural surroundings. Still, if the weather is crummy – or you’re just not the outdoorsy type – there are plenty of indoor options to engage your brain and your body, from rock climbing to soaking in culture; observatories to conservatories.
Climb the walls
Boulder Bear Climbing Centre is brand new indoor rock climbing facility offering beginner to advanced routes (for the climbers out there, they’re rated 5.5 to 5.13). Featuring more than 4,000 handholds, at least 6,000-square feet of climbing terrain, walls up to 9½ metres (31 feet) high and plenty of angles, crags and bends, the space is also home to a studio where drop-in yoga classes are offered throughout the day and evening, a workout area with weights and equipment, and a café where you can refuel with a homemade smoothie, soup, sandwich or dessert. Book a lesson and rent gear, or bring your own.
425 Northern Ave., 807-286-6633
Escape to the tropics
Papayas grow in Thunder Bay – really. Just visit the Centennial Botanical Conservatory, a mini tropical oasis complete with fruit trees, a waterfall and exotic plants like birds of paradise, palms, hibiscus and even a coffee tree all enclosed in an oversized greenhouse. Stroll the pathways with your camera or sketchbook in hand, or just relax on one of the benches and soak in the heated humid air. (Note there isn’t an eatery on site so you’ll have to head elsewhere for a drink with some island rum punch with a little umbrella.)
1601 Dease St. W., 807-622-7036
Solve a mystery
Often compared to a real-life interactive version of the board game Clue, escape rooms are a definite trend right now. How does it work? You and a few friends test your wits and try to solve a series of puzzles and riddles based on clues in a theme room during a set period of time. In Thunder Bay, you and your team of up to four people can book either “The Cabin” or “The Will Room” at Countdown Escape Rooms, which opened last fall. New themes in the works are “Escape from Grade 5” and “The Lab.” Better start brainstorming your hilarious team name, stat.
648 Squier St., 807-286-7654
Do some stargazing
For nightlife of a different kind, look up. Thunder Bay has two observatories equipped with sophisticated professional telescopes so you can get a jaw-dropping view of galaxies, nebula and constellations. The Thunder Bay Observatory, located south of the city, is owned by Randy McAllister (ask him about local UFO sightings) and is a great spot to learn about space photography. Or, head to the David Thompson Astronomical Observatory at Fort William Historical Park. In addition to outdoor stargazing programs, it offers indoor programs such as lectures that cover space and pop culture, viewings of classic space flicks, and a collection of authentic 18th-century astronomy instruments.
243 Klages Rd., 807-577-3617
1350 King Rd., 807-473-2344
Courtesy Thunder Bay Observatory
Explore aboriginal culture
To take a closer look at First Nations arts and culture, visit Thunder Bay Art Gallery on the Confederation College campus. A small gallery that specializes in the work of contemporary First Nations artists, it has rotating collections that include celebrated artists such as Norval Morrisseau, Benjamin Chee Chee and Daphne Odjig, as well as unknown or lesser-known artists who worked with materials like leather, wood, bone, stone and sweetgrass. The Thunder Bay Museum, housed in a historic building that was once the police station and courthouse, displays some other fascinating artifacts, such as the birchbark “medicine scroll,” used as a teaching tool for traditional healers, as well as intricate beadwork and embroidery.
1080 Keewatin St., 807-577-6427
425 Donald St. E., 807-623-0801