Our travel editor and her family visited Montreal this winter and shared the best things to do to enjoy Montreal's winter festivals and fun. This summer, my 9 year old son and I were invited to explore Montreal with Tourisme Montreal and discovered that once the ice thaws there's even more to do in this vibrant and artistic city.
With the guidance of the most expert hosts you could ask for, we learned the best way to pack incredible museums, outdoor activities, and festivals into our three day trip. Here's our three day itinerary for Montreal with kids:
Montreal bursts with amazing art. Visit a local tourist office to pick up a map of some of Montreal's best outdoor art to create your own self guided art tour. My son and I particularly liked the funky and colorful Dr. Suess-like Urban Forest outside of the McCord Museum. Part community center and part art exhibit, Urban Forest is on display each summer and fall with a new design each year.
Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Museum of Archeology and History in Old Montreal is unique in that it sits on a real-life archeological site. As you explore the exhibit you are actually walking in and among the remnants of structures in situ from Montreal’s earliest days. The highlight for kids will be the interactive Pirates or Privateers? exhibit where kids explore what it would have been like to live on a sailing ship.
For some evening fun, explore the city with Montreal Ghosts. While the tour group offers traditional ghost-themed walking tours, their unique Ghost Hunts are they way to go. Instead of being led around by a guide, we were given a map to navigate our way through the Old Montreal neighborhood ourselves, stumbling upon the ghosts who shared their creepy tales with the group in a dramatic mini theatrical performance. It was a great way to get a deeper understanding of Montreal's history while having fun!
You’d need more than one day to fully explore Space for Life, the giant complex of 4 science and nature institutions at Parc Olympique, the iconic stadium constructed for the 1976 Summer Olympics games. Choose from the Montreal Biodome, Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, Botanical Garden and Insectarium. We visited the Montreal Biodome, a creative and realistic indoor display of the America's varied environments with live animals, appropriate lighting and temperature and other flora and fauna from each specific ecosystem.
Afterwards we went upstairs to the planetarium, my son really enjoyed the hands on exhibit Exo: Our Search for Life in the Universe but the highlight for us was the show. The space center has two theaters and the one we visited was not your typical star show theater, instead of rows of seating there were giant bean bags on the floor's center to lay on and the trippy visuals and moody sounds of the show completely sucked us in. One tip: The planetarium show tickets are timed so it’s wise to buy your planetarium show tickets before you visit the BioDome or they could be sold out.
No trip to Montreal would be complete without a journey up the famous inclined tower at the Olympic stadium, so we made that our final stop in the complex. The panoramic view from the top is incredible and the ride up is pretty neat too.
If you have energy left to head to Exalto Park, 2 story ropes challenge course and zip line. Children should opt for the junior course unless they’ve done this type of thing before. We tried the regular course and my son had to be lowered down when he got scared.
The city is named for Mount Royal, the 700 foot 'mountain' in the western part of the city. The beautiful hilltop park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (the mastermind behind NYC's Central and Prospect Parks), is the heart and soul of the city. Visitors can enjoy hikes, bike rides, picnics, winter ice skating and cross country skiing, and a gorgeous view of the city skyline.
Our next stop was the Redpath Museum at the esteemed McGill University. One of the country's oldest museums, dating back to 1882, exploring Canada's natural history with three floors of artifacts, including minerals, gems, animals and fossils, sections on world cultures and even mummies. This architecturally stunning museum, was right up my animal-obsessed son's alley.
Next we took an incredible jetboat ride on the St. Lawrence River's Lachine Rapids with Saute Moutons. This high adrenaline experience was the highlight of my son's Montreal trip. Like a natural roller coaster, the hour-fifteen minute ride splashes through the oncoming waves of the Lachine Rapids for a thrilling, and drenching, ride.
The city hosts over 100 diverse fetes throughout the year. One of their most popular celebrations is the Montreal Completement Cirque or Circus Arts Festival. Since Montreal is home to several circus troupes, including Cirque du Soleil, the festival highlights free cutting edge acrobatic performances throughout the 12 day fest. There are also ticketed indoor events and street stations where fans can try their hands at tightrope walking, juggling and other circus arts.
In our short three day stay we also caught L’International des Feux Loto-Québec fireworks competition. This global pyrotechnic spectacle, held each summer at La Ronde, Quebec's largest amusement park, has been thrilling Montrealers for 30 years.
Find more information on Montreal trip planning by visiting Tourisme Montreal.
Thumbnail and credited photos courtesy of Chad Case Photography.
Lodging, air fare and other travel expenses were provided for the purpose of the research of this post. All opinions are those of the author exclusively.