March 12, 2014 — Montréal is a magnificent place to visit with your family. Its compact size and convenience cannot be beat, and because it is one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the world, you can easily get from one attraction to another worry free. For slightly longer trips, the city’s extensive subway (Métro) and bus system helps you navigate effortlessly à la Montréal!
Day 1 – DOWNTOWN
On the first day of your tour, take in some interesting attractions in downtown Montréal, all family-friendly and within walking distance of each other.
At the McGill University grounds, the Redpath Museum is a natural history museum chronicling evolution from the primordial to the present and featuring a permanent exhibit on the history and diversity of Québec, which includes fossils, minerals, and zoological specimens. World culture exhibits focus on Egypt, Africa, and Oceania.
The McCord Museum is another great stop and one of the most important historical museums in Canada. Celebrating Montréal life past and present—its people, artisans, communities, and metropolitan area—the Museum offers stimulating exhibitions, educational and cultural activities, and innovative Internet projects.
In contrast, the Grévin Museum allows visitors to take pictures of major stars, both local and international... or at least their wax replicas! From Céline Dion to Justin Bieber to Barack Obama, the 120 statues of this museum seem as real as the celebrities they represent.
For hockey fans, the Montréal Canadiens Hall of Fame and Bell Centre should not be missed. The Hall of Fame recounts through objects, pictures, and interactive screens, many of the historic moments of the Montréal Canadiens, the team that has enlivened crowds since its founding in 1909. The Bell Centre is where the Habs currently play their home games and where spirited rivalries continue to entertain the team’s followers. The public space just beside the Bell Centre has been defined as Centennial Plaza where, in addition to statues of four hockey legends, you can see the silver plates from every Stanley Cup the team has brought home and read more than 20,000 messages from fans to their idols.
For your own battle of the blades, head to the Atrium at Le 1000 De La Gauchetière, a superb indoor ice rink offering visitors the chance to skate under a giant dome, regardless of what the weather is like outside, and at any time of the year! No skates? No problem. Equipment rental, including helmets, is available on-site for an enjoyable, safe, family activity.
Some colourful entertainment awaits families at Putting Edge, which offers a special version of classic miniature golf. On a luminescent path full of neon lights, players are transported into the infinity of the universe, lush rainforests and Aztec jungles, for 18 holes full of laughs and fun challenges.
Wienstein & Gavino’s Pasta Bar Factory is a good place to end the day and feed your hungry bellies. Its Italian-influenced menu showcases traditional dishes with a modern twist and enticing choices for everyone in your crew. Adults will also enjoy the extensive wine list. Bon appétit!
DAY 2 – OLD MONTRÉAL
Old Montréal is one of the areas that most people want to see when they arrive in the city, and amidst the historical buildings, cobblestone streets, and Old Port are numerous family activities, the abundance of which just might encourage you to extend your stay. A true witness of the city’s past, Château Ramezay is a good place to start. The history museum takes families on a trip back in time, from Native prehistory to colonial New France and finally to the 20th century.
The Montréal Science Centre provides loads of cultural and educational activities for the entire clan. Your family will enjoy the exploration halls, multimedia challenges, games, interactive areas, and IMAX® TELUS theatre.
For a glimpse into the past through guided tours and theatrical presentations, the Sir George-Étienne-Cartier National Historic Site commemorates the life and work of Sir George-Étienne Cartier, a renowned politician and Father of the Canadian Confederation.
If you need a break, head to rue de la Commune, just steps away from Place Jacques-Cartier. Café-terrasse Chez Catherine, with its country theme and warm atmosphere enhanced by Québec music, is a family-friendly place where you can sit and enjoy the eclectic menu. With their tantalizing sweet and savory crêpes and homemade ice cream, they have something for everyone!
One guaranteed fun-filled, family adventure is riding the majestic waves of the St. Lawrence River. Amphi Tours offers passengers young and old the opportunity to travel the streets of Old Montréal in an amphibious vehicle, which then splashes into the water for a wonderful ride on the river. Another company, Le Petit Navire, offers leisurely boat rides in the basins of the Old Port of Montréal and the Lachine Canal. It’s the ideal way to see Montréal from a different perspective!
DAY 3 – HOCHELAGA MAISONNEUVE
With expansive green spaces and a multitude of attractions surrounding the Olympic Park, the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district, affectionately called “HoMa” by Montrealers, is filled with pleasant family adventures. Consider the Esplanade of the Olympic Park, where activities including culture, sports, food and environment are enjoyed year-round, or the breathtaking view from the Montréal Tower at the Olympic Park.
Space for Life, which includes the Biodôme, Insectarium, Botanical Garden and Planetarium, is a paradise for families.
The Montréal Biodôme comprises four Ecosystems (Tropical Rainforest, Laurentian Maple Forest, Gulf of the St. Lawrence, and Sub-Polar Regions) where over 4,800 animals from 230 different species and 750 plant types coexist. Experienced nature interpreters will accompany you on this journey through the Americas.
Not far from the Biodôme is the Montréal Insectarium, home to some 160,000 living and naturalized insect specimens, an ant farm, bumblebee and honeybee hives, and many other spellbinding vivariums. Entomologists will educate you on the amazing diversity of creepy crawlies!
Just across the street from the Montréal Tower and Olympic Park is the Montréal Botanical Garden, which holds an extensive collection of 22,000 plant species and cultivars, 10 exhibition greenhouses, the Tree House, and some 30 thematic gardens (including the Chinese, Japanese, and First Nations gardens). One of the world's largest and finest, the complex has something interesting for everyone in your familial unit. During autumn, the Garden hosts the annual Gardens of Light event, which features over 700 superb traditional Chinese lanterns, as well as the Great Pumpkin Ball, which showcases hundreds of decorated pumpkins in a one-of-a-kind exhibition.
The Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium offers a journey into the cosmos. Besides its spectacular architecture and eco-friendly design, it innovates with its stunning performances and equipment at the cutting edge of technology, promising a unique experience for budding astronomers.
If you look up anywhere in the city, you won’t be able to miss seeing the Montréal Tower rising above the stadium built for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games. A funicular-type elevator ride up the structure—the tallest inclined tower in the world—brings you to three observation floors offering awe-inspiring views of the city.
Next stop, climb every mountain! The Horizon Roc Climbing Centre, an indoor climbing complex, offers 12 metre high cable bridges, a 25 metre zip line, and more than 2,600 square metres of unique features for enthusiasts of all ages and levels. For their part, speed and action junkies will be fulfilled at Action 500 Karting & Paintball, the largest indoor karting circuit in Canada and the largest indoor paintball center in North America.
All this adventuring is bound to work up your appetite, so head back downtown, to Old Montréal, or to any of the city’s fine neighbourhoods to experience one of the excellent restaurants of Montréal’s very happening culinary scene.
DAY 4 – PARC JEAN DRAPEAU
Parc Jean-Drapeau has two islands to explore: Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame. Throughout the year, Montrealers come to the Parc by bike, car, subway (Métro Jean-Drapeau), boat, and on their rollerblades. Spending your last day here will give you the opportunity to relax on a beach, have a picnic, pedal out on an Écorécréo quadricycle and check out some of the city’s most popular family attractions.
In summer, the park hosts the Weekends of the world, a family-friendly celebration of cultural diversity, and the Children's Festival, which offers hundreds of free activities including song, music and dance performances as well as creative and sports workshops. Its winter equivalent is the Fête des neiges, inviting children and adults to engage in wintertime outdoor activities such as snow tubing, ice skating and amusing snow games.
Once you exit the Jean-Drapeau Métro Station, you will see the large geodesic dome from the 1967 International and Universal Exposition (or Expo 67), which now houses the Biosphère, Environment Museum, a terrific venue for learning about some of the major environmental issues related to water, air, climatic changes, sustainable development, and responsible consumption for future generations.
When you are done at the Biosphère, take a short walk to the Stewart Museum, where historical times come to life through a remarkable collection of maps, antique weapons, and instruments, dating from the beginning of the New World to the mid-19th century. The Stewart Museum also offers you a glimpse into the past through activities for the family.
To cap off your trip, let loose at La Ronde (Member of the Six Flags Family), a mammoth amusement park offering more than 40 rides and attractions, dazzling shows, and other entertaining activities. During the summer, the amusement park produces a renowned international fireworks competition, and, during every weekend in October, it hosts the annual Halloween Fright Fest.
OTHER ITINERARY OPTIONS – THE SOUTHWEST AND PÔLE DES RAPIDES
If you’re staying in Montréal a little longer, head west to explore this section of the island on two wheels. Before leaving for their biking adventure, the kids will love filling up on fresh, local food in Atwater Market, the Southwest’s large public market.
Close by, at the boutique-workshop Ma Bicyclette, one can easily find the perfect bike for the day. The shop is conveniently located near the bike path and the Lachine Canal, a national historic site whose shores form an urban park spanning 14.5 kilometers. A historical route along the banks of the canal takes visitors through an open-air museum of sorts, unveiling the region’s rich industrial past.
To take a break from their cycling adventure, families can brush up on the history of New France at Maison Saint-Gabriel. The 300 year-old residence housed the King’s Wards, young women who came from France to marry and ensure the survival of the colony. Further along the canal, the Sisters of Saint Anne Historic Centre invites visitors to discover the history of the former convent dating from the nineteenth century.
End the day floating on the Lachine Canal on one of H2O Adventures’ rental watercrafts. On offer: all types of contraptions, such as kayaks, electric boats and paddle boats. Ahoy, mateys!