Places to visit in Montreal
Guest post by Paige McEachren
Montreal is a cultural mecca with the right mix of Old World ways fused with modern culture. Offering amazing food, museums, festivals and outdoor fun year-round, there is something for kids of all ages. But with so many options, families often find it difficult to choose. Something one kids likes the others may not, and what mom and dad want to do isn’t always fun for the little ones. Here are the top things to do in Montreal with kids all year-round – as dished by a local Montreal mom.
Visit the penguins at the Montréal Biodôme
Wander through this living nature museum with over 4,500 types of animals and plants, covering five ecosystems of the Americas. Originally built for the 1976 Olympic Games to host cycling and judo events, it is now one of the few places in the world where you can experience all four seasons indoors in one visit! Besides the penguins, which kids of all ages love, a visit is a great opportunity to climb to the top of the largest inclined tower in the world.
Insider tip: Indoor parking is expensive and there isn’t a lot of free outdoor parking nearby so you may want to opt to take the underground subway (ak.a. metro).
While in the area you may also want to check out the Botanical Garden, Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium and Insectarium, located just next door. Get package entrance tickets online and you’ll save money.
Family activities at the Montreal Science Centre
Interactive games, multimedia challenges and an IMAX theatre will keep young and old busy. Informative and entertaining, the Amazon 3D image film lets you awaken your inner explorer as you step into the spectacular journey of famous explorer Henry Bate during his Darwin-ish voyage cataloguing species. Although a little small, they do change the exhibits quite often and since it’s located right at the Old Port there are lots of things to do in the area.
What to do at the Old Port of Montreal
Take a stroll along the 2.7 km waterfront quai and you will find parks, food trucks, entertainers, cobblestone roads, a maze and so much more. You can zip along the MTL Zipline or check out the amusement park, Voiles en Voiles next door with seven aerial rope courses and two huge pirate ships. Your kids will have the chance to live a memorable adventure! In winter enjoy ice skating (skates available to rent) or enjoy views of the harbor and skyline in summer as you explore on a quadricycle or paddle boating. Make sure you grab a crepe or beavertail while there!
Free admission for kids at the Biosphere
Planet savers will love the numerous interactive exhibitions that highlight the ways we can live as eco-citizens and educate us about issue like climate change, water pollutants and more. An architectural landmark from Expo 67, take a moment to visit the observation platform before you leave for a stunning view of Montreal and the islands of Parc Jean-Drapeau! If your kids are 17 and under, they’ll receive free admission.
What is Montreal’s Underground City?
Montreal is famous for its Underground City, a.k.a. RESO. The 32-km network of tunnels beneath downtown Montreal connects shopping malls, seven metro stations, hotels, over 2000 stores, museums, theaters, concert halls, universities and more. The network of corridors is a great escape from the hot summer sun or cold winter weather. It can be a little confusing at first, so my tip is to be prepared to be lost. It’s a giant maze, but having a map helps. If you are really scared of getting lost, there are lots of underground walking tours to help you navigate amongst the 500,000 people who use the tunnels daily.
These are Montreal’s best family-friendly festivals
Montreal is North America’s number one host city for international events. That means there is always a festival going on. Some of the best ones for families are in summer: the Montreal International Fireworks Competition (June and July) – head to any downtown park, throw down a blanket and watch the show. The Montreal Complèment Cirque (July) features circus artists from around the world. Week-ends du Monde (July), has concerts, dance shows, and creative workshops all designed for kids 12 and under. The Montreal Jazz Festival (June and July), provides a music-themed play area and Petite Ecole du Jazz shows with performances designed for kids and by kids. If you’re here in winter, Fête des Neiges (January and February) is the place to be with tubing, skating, sleigh rides and more at Parc Jean Drapeau.
Games cafes for families in Montreal
With over 500 games available, Le Colonel Moutarde is the place for a fun family night out with teens. Only a few minutes from Mont-Royal Metro Station, this restaurant/games room/bar offers great food and a ‘game sommelier’ who will greet you and help explains the rules and choose your game.
Insider tip: This place is very busy on Friday and Saturday, so either show up early or plan on another night.
The best views of Montreal are found at….Mount Royal Park
The central park of Montreal, Mont Royal Park has almost 700 acres of nature right in the middle of downtown. In the summer this is a great place to hike, mountain bike, or rent a paddle boat or remote-control sailboat. During winter families can take part in sledding, ice skating, snowshoes and cross-country skiing, with all equipment available to rent. Winter or summer, the park has the best look out spots for a great view of the city.
Moneysaving tip: If you are only in town for a few days and really want to see everything get a ‘Passeport MTL’. For 48 or 72-hours you can move around the city with unlimited access to public transit, including the 747 Aéroport P.-E.-Trudeau shuttle. An added bonus is you get access to 23 popular attractions including the Biodôme, The Montreal Tower and more.
Have you ever been to Montreal? What were your favourite activities to do there?
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Paige McEachren spent over 20 years working in corporate communications for world-leading technology, health care and pharmaceutical companies. In 2015, she decided to leave the professional workplace to stay home and help her young kids navigate life with ADHD and dyslexia. When not taking care of her kids (three including her husband), she loves to plan family vacations, struggles with the love of baking and challenges herself to try new things. If she’s lucky, she finds herself a bit of quiet time. Follow Paige on Instagram or Twitter.