Recently I wrote about Montreal as a romantic destination. But it turns out that this beautiful, historic city is also very family friendly offering up tons to do for those traveling with kids in tow.
Visiting Montreal is a wonderful way to expose your children to a foreign language (French) and different cultures without having to travel too far. It makes for a wonderful road trip, with only a 7 or so hour drive from NYC, or a 50-minute plane ride. Passports are required to enter the country, so please keep that in mind when planning your trip.
What to See
Star Wars Identities: The Exhibit is currently showing at the Centre des Sciences de Montreal through September 16, 2012. This exhibit is not only fun for the Star Wars fan, but also for those completely fascinated by how the Star Wars identity and idea came to fruition. There are portions of the exhibit that discuss the behind-the-scenes of various movies in the making and include original storyboards to props. There are about 200 objects from the Lucas-Archive to admire. But for me the most fun part of the exhibit and I think the one that young children will also enjoy is that “identities” aspect of the exhibit. Through an interactive, character driven experience visitors can not only have a better understand of their own individual drives, but also see their favorite characters in a new light.
You are invited to select your character and a few other basic characteristics from the beginning. As you walk through the exhibit you are able to add more complexity to your “Star Wars” self. Just remember, pick a cooler Star Wars name then I did. For some reason “Carol” – according to my hardcore fan husband – is not a cool enough name to have.
The Biodome de Montreal is a must for any family traveling to Montreal. A visit here will take you through 4 different Ecosystems (Tropical Rainforest, Laurentian Maple Forest, Gulf of St. Lawrence, and Sub-Polar regions). Over 4,800 animals from 230 different species and 750 plant types co-exist in this space, making for a unique, fun and very educational experience. Within the same compound and a short walk away are the Insectarium, the Botanical Garden, and the Olympic Park with the Montreal Tower.
Cirque du Soleil’s Ama Luna will be in Montreal till July 15th before moving on to Quebec City. The bright yellow and blue tents stand at the Old Port in Montreal where it was born to become the worldwide success it is today. The beautiful colors and artistry of the costumes and set designs, as well as the suspense inspiring acts make this a wonderful show for anyone, including families.
For the first time at Cirque du Soleil, the cast of a show is 70% female and the band, 100%. “Amaluna is a tribute to the work and voice of women,” explains Director of Creation Fernand Rainville. “The show is a reflection on balance from a woman’s perspective,“ he adds. Show Director Diane Paulus says: “Amaluna is less about feminism and more about reconnecting to our world in a different way.” Amaluna has a cast of 50 artists hailing from 15 different countries.
The show is about 90 minutes long, with one intermission. (Watch the Ama Luna video)
Photo courtesy: Laurence Labat
What to Do
Kids 7 and up can join in on a tour of the city on bike with Ça Roule Montreal. Tours are $59.00 plus tax, and there are three to choose from twice a day (one in the morning and another in the afternoon). If you would rather not participate on a tour, but would still like to rent a bike Ça Roule Montreal rents them out by the hour, day or few days, as well as carriers for those little ones who might be too young to bike through the city, but would still enjoy it. Keep in mind that you will see BiXi rentals throughout the city. Please note that these are not bike rentals for leisure – they are in fact commuter bikes which people rent out for a $7 membership fee and at 30 minute increments. They are convenient and useful for what they were designed for, but are also bulky and heavy and can get quite expensive if rented as detailed above.
La Ronde (member of The Six Flags Amusement Park) has over 40 rides and attractions, and is also known to host a few events throughout its season (May to October). One of the favorite events are the yearly fireworks competitions and during every weekend in October it hosts their annual Halloween Fright Fest.
There are plenty of museums to enjoy in Montreal, from classic art to historical sites, such as the Chateau Ramezay to the Museum of Archeology and History, just to name a few. What museum you choose to see depends on what you and your children will enjoy. If visiting museums is something you plan to do remember to purchase the Montreal Museums pass. For $65 the pass will give access to 38 museums for 3 days, including a movie ticket, a free train ride to the Cite Historia and a cruise to discover the Lachine canal (see http://www.museesmontreal.org/en/Home_page.htm).
Montreal is home to six public parks in the city alone, all protected for your enjoyment. They offer a lot of natural diversity, from woods, to forests to marshes and shorelines, as well as a lot to do, from hiking to biking to windsurfing! Families can also partake in nature tours and observation.
Also, make sure to check the Montreal Tourism website at http://www.tourisme-montreal.org/ to stay up to date with upcoming and ongoing family friendly festivals held throughout the year.
Where to Eat
Montreal has a long list of eateries that are family friendly. I was pleasantly surprised by the food we had at Restaurant Le Fripon, on Place Jacques-Cartier in Old Montreal. I say surprised because this restaurant is located in smack in the middle of a tourist hot spot. I expected mediocre food and service for high prices. But, in fact, the food (they specialize in seafood) was very good and the service very friendly. You can sit inside, but if you don’t mind the ever-present street performers juggling, singing, or playing one instrument or another, a sit outside is a great option to enjoy some people watching along with your delicious meal.
Olive & Gourmando got a mention in my Romantic Montreal feature, but I mention it here as well because it is so family friendly. Kids will enjoy the juices, breakfast or lunch sandwiches, and of course their delectable pastries.
Kids will delight in the maple gelatos, bakeries, and candies at Canadian Maple Delights in Old Montreal. This little spot is full of so many yummies I am glad that our curiosity brought us in. You even have the option to take some gifts home with you.
Another eating consideration is Schwartz’s – which I have to admit, was pretty good. But since Anthony Bourdain blessed it with a feature on one of his shows, it has gotten harder to get in. Long lines are a constant and the larger the group, the larger the wait as the space is tiny. I wouldn’t ever say to skip it, but do consider the wait if you have little ones in tow. No strollers fit there or high chairs available, so it might just be best to order take out rather than wait to be seated.
Louigi’s is a local place where workers stop for lunch. We stopped in for our very first ever poutine. Whether you have your poutine at Louigi’s or somewhere else, I have to say it is worth every single calorie you will surely take in.
Wienstein & Gavino’s Pasta Bar Factory is located on the popular Crescent Street, Wienstein & Gavino’s buzzes with its own energy on three floors. Its Mediterranean menu showcases traditional dishes with a modern twist. Guests will also enjoy its great bar and extensive wine list. With daily specials on their lunch and dinner menus, families can flexibly stay within budget while enjoying delicious food in a fun environment.
The Boucherie Charcuterie is a wonderful spot to enjoy sandwiches in a casual, friendly setting. The selections in this french-style deli are fresh, the service is super friendly, and the food so, so delicious! Families will enjoy the fun atmosphere with its international style and decor.
Shop at Mortimer Snodgrass which is a fun place to shop for quirky gifts for friends and family. I adored their children’s section and even picked up a few fun gifts myself. Unlike most tourist shops in the area, this colorful shop provides guests with a more upscale, unique selection and something more special than just the “I love Montreal” t-shirts found everywhere.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Delta Centre-Ville hotel. The hotel is big and has recently undergone renovation. The Delta Centre-Ville is located in the heart of downtown, at the crossroads of Old Montreal and the business district, Le Quartier international. Close by are the Palais des congres (Convention Centre), the Bell Centre and the Casino. The metro (subway) and underground pedestrian network can be accessed by the hotel.
They offer tons for family travelers such:
- Free accommodation for children 17 and under when staying with a parent or guardian.
- “Eat for free” from the special children’s menu for children six and under.
- For children, ages seven to 12 years, “eat for half price” from the regular menu, or at list price from the special children’s menu.
- Individual check-in cards are given to children to complete upon arrival.
- An age-specific “Kids’ Essentials” kit for infants to seven years is given upon check-in.
- Front desk provides information on family attractions.
Residence Inn Montreal Westmount is located in downtown Montreal, near major sights and restaurants. This locale follows the standards of the Residence Inn we know and love, with spacious suites and kitchenettes for families to enjoy.
Many thanks to Montreal Tourism and their partners for their generous hospitality.