January 17, 2014 — When Old Man Winter comes a-callin’, Montréal families just bundle up and head out to take advantage of all the fun he brings with him! Indoors and out, Montréal is a spectacular place to be come wintertime for residents and visitors alike. All it takes is warm clothing (layers are key!) and a thirst for adventure. Have a couple of days in mind? Here are a few ideas to jumpstart your winter Montréal experience!
Day 1 - The Olympic Park
Begin your day with bugs—LOTS of bugs—at the Insectarium, located just a short metro ride away from downtown. Home to some 160,000 living and naturalized insect specimens, a honeybee hive, fascinating vivariums and an ant farm featuring the incredible Atta leafcutter ants, the Insectarium provides countless hours of creepy-crawly fun for curious kids who want to find out, “Just why are there so many insects, anyway?”. This is the place to find the answer!
Just a hop, skip and a jump away you’ll find the Biodôme, a former Olympic velodrome turned nature museum that recreates five distinct ecosystems of the Americas, including: Tropical Rainforest (a welcome respite from wintry temperatures), Laurentian Maple Forest, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Labrador Coast and the Sub-Antarctic Islands (yes, this means puffins and penguins!). A word to the wise: it’s best to visit in the morning, when the animals are most active and visible. You may want to tour around before grabbing a bite at one of the Biodôme’s two convenient dining options: a bistro for coffee, pastries and quick lunch or the self-serve cafeteria with its varied menu.
Once you’ve had your fill of insects, flora and fauna, it’s onwards and upwards to the Olympic Park’s Tower. The tallest inclined tower in the world, it’s just a short funicular-type elevator ride to the top where you’ll enjoy a spectacular view of the city and surrounding area.
Next, take a trip into the cosmos! The Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium stands out with its spectacular architecture and eco-friendly design. Its stunning performances and equipment at the cutting edge of technology will wow your budding astronauts.
Round off the afternoon at the Olympic Park’s Winter Village, which features an outdoor ice skating rink. Its refrigerated surface makes for smooth gliding even in mild weather. Bring your own ice skates after 4 p.m. on weekdays and the skating is free, just as it is all day during the weekends.
Day 2 - Parc Jean-Drapeau and Mount Royal
Now’s the time to pull out the winter boots – it’s off to experience the joys of winter in Parc Jean-Drapeau. Various activities are offered for families throughout the winter, including the oh-so-Canadian experience of snowshoeing. No equipment? No problem! Écorécréo provides it and can also take you on a fun-filled guided tour around the park.
For a more historical trek, try the guided snowshoe tours of the Stewart Museum's Military Complex. A costumed guide shares informational tidbits and interesting stories about the buildings and fortifications built in 1824.
Held in Parc Jean-Drapeau at the beginning of the year, the Fête des Neiges is the event par excellence to get introduced to cold season sports. The popular snow bash offers oodles of winter activities and entertainment from tube sliding to dog sledding and even zip-lining. Not to mention the friendly snowball fights atop the mighty ice fort!
Come afternoon, climb up Mount Royal, an urban playground that overflows with outdoor fun potential: sledding, tubing, skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, you name it… Mount Royal has it! And don’t worry about bringing your gear – equipment rental is available at Beaver Lake, right beside the refrigerated ice rink and the chalet that serves an exceptional mug of hot chocolate – the perfect end to a perfect day of wintry fun!