Every day in Montreal can become a mini-adventure for the whole family, especially during the summer months. With so many free outdoor activities – from festival entertainment to adventure parks – and numerous indoor attractions, Montreal is well-equipped to keep parents and kids smiling…
(park life) One of Montreal’s best natural features, located a few blocks north of downtown, Mount Royal Park and adjacent Jeanne-Mance Park, provide a cool, green oasis in the middle of the city – the parks boast grassy picnic grounds, children’s play areas and numerous walking and cycling trails as well as tennis courts, a lake and, at the top of Mount Royal, an unparalleled view of Montreal, the Saint-Lawrence River and beyond. Parc Jean-Drapeau just one metro stop away from downtown, offers a view from the other side of the river, as well as flower gardens, a huge outdoor pool, a lake and sandy beach, the Biosphere ecological museum, and events throughout the summer, including family- and community-oriented Week-ends du Monde in mid-July, a festival of culturally-diverse music, dance and culinary delights. Right next to the park, the Stewart Museum offers a guided history tour of Île Ste-Hélène and human-sized games such as Battleship and checkers outside – plus, kids big and small can go on the rides of their lives at La Ronde Six Flags amusement park. Many of the city’s smaller parks also feature outdoor pools and water parks – see our Swimming and Beach Guide for details. And for those who’d like to see the city sights by bike, consult our Bike Guide for info on bike paths, bicycle and child-carrier rentals, the BIXI system and more
(earth & space) One of the top destinations for families is Montreal’s Space for Life, the nature-focused home of the Biodome, Botanical Garden, Insectarium and Planetarium. Visit mini versions of the globe’s ecospheres at the Biodome, currently host to nature’s slowpokes, the sloth, as well as numerous other animals and educational activities. The Botanical Garden’s summer plant-life abounds during summer – take a guided tour through the themed gardens and the greenhouse and hear live music every Sunday – and visit the nearby Insectarium to see how insects live among us, whether we like it or not. And the new, state-of-the-art Planetarium lets kids interact with the universe on a small-scale, from hands-on activities to full-scale multimedia shows.
(old & new) For indoor days, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the McCord Museum offer workshops and tours just for kids that let them engage with history and with art in memorable, fun-filled ways. Meanwhile, in Old Montreal, an architectural echo of European cities with cobblestone streets and charming storefronts, historic and quaint meets modern and fun. Home not only to a bounty of restaurants and boutiques, but to the Pointe-à-Callière history museum, where kids can find out what life as a pirate was like in the early-18th century, join in on the travels of Marco Polo and, in late August, visit the museum’s open-air 18th-Century Public Market. Meanwhile, modern science is on display in the Old Port at the Montreal Science Centre, where science education is hands-on and fun all the time – this summer the Science Centre also features The Cave of Lascaux – Prehistoric Masterpieces exhibition of ancient cave paintings as well as two IMAX films: Galapagos 3D and Madagascar 3D.
Follow the sun in the Old Port by walking the riverside promenade and stopping in at Clock Tower Beach and the surrounding park area, also a great location for watching the annual international fireworks competition, L’International des Feux Loto-Québec. This summer, the beach – equipped with umbrellas and a bistro – is free to access during the daytime (until 5 p.m.) and hosts a sand sculpture exhibition until July 27 to inspire young, architecturally-inclined minds. And for pure, joyous entertainment, head to the blue-and-yellow-striped big top tent located in the heart of the Old Port: Cirque du Soleil’s latest spectacular show, Kurios, swings from the rafters until July 13.
(adventure time) For kids – and adults – who like to climb, try out the first urban acrobatic park in North America: Parc Exalto at the Olympic Stadium Esplanade features a three-storey rope-climbing structure with three skill levels, as well as a soccer zone, mini-golf, an acro-bungee trampoline and more. BMX and mountain biking fans can see pro-bikers in action at free event Mud Rocker, June 27-28 on St. Denis between Sherbrooke and Ontario And July 18-20, watch and even take part in skateboarding, parkour and other urban sports at the Jackalope Action Sports Festival, at the Olympic Park Esplanade. More extreme adventurers can look to the city’s indoor climbing gyms and water-based outdoor options, such as Rafting Montreal and H2O Adventures, located along the historic Lachine Canal. And after all that activity, keep everyone well fed: check out some of the city’s best family restaurants and track down one of the city’s many fabulous food trucks for on-the-go eating.
(festivals for families) Throughout the summer, all manner of entertainment populates downtown’s Quartier des Spectacles, where Sainte-Catherine Street is closed to traffic during the busy festival season. Hear the newest in international and local French music at Les FrancoFolies, featuring dozens of free outdoor shows to June 22. One of the city’s biggest festivals of the summer, the Montreal International Jazz Festival, June 26 to July 6, is a haven for music lovers of all ages – with free outdoor concerts and activities every day, the festival is perfect for families, especially when faced with short attention spans and varying interests. Montreal Complètement Cirque, July 4-13, brings circus from around the world to the city centre, with indoor spectacles and outdoor shows and activities, as well as shows and workshops at La Tohu circus centre.
Comedy festival Just For Laughs, July 9-28, keeps the streets funny with circus acts and more. Further afield, the Montreal St-Ambroise Fringe Festival features kid-friendly events and music performances in Fringe Park (corner of St-Laurent and Rachel), and the Montreal Folk Festival, outdoors along the Lachine Canal, keeps kids dancing to free music performances all weekend, June 20-22. In mid-August, FestiBlues International de Montréal highlights local blues, rock and folk on outdoor stages, and summer-long Shakespeare in the Park lets kids roam free in many of the city’s parks while taking in a bit of the Bard’s magic words. And young dancers let loose to the constant beat of the Montreal Reggae Fest, August 15-17.
Photo credits : Maxime Juneau and Old Port of Montreal
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