The best of international cinema for kids and families.
“Spring Break” is a misnomer – it should be called “Spring Blast.” Whether you call it Spring Break, March Break or as we say in French, “la semaine de relâche,” the weeks ending February and beginning March in Montréal are exploding with entertainment and events tailored to the kids and the kid in you.
It begins with the end of massive winter arts and culture festival MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE (February 19 to March 1), which takes place in the Quartier des Spectacles in downtown Montréal. The festival presents an action-packed program of performing arts, culinary creations and a dynamic range of outdoor activities. The free and family-friendly outdoor site is alive with interactive installations, dining areas, a Ferris wheel, ice slides (one each for adults and the little ones) and, new this year, zip lines that run the length of the festival site.
MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE concludes with the epic Nuit Blanche all-nighter on February 28, which consists of more than 200 (mostly free) activities including live music, film, performance art, interactive installations and visual arts. Nuit Blanche takes over three districts of aboveground Montréal (served by shuttles) as well as underground Montréal. In fact, the city’s renowned “Underground City” is the site of perennially popular Art Souterrain, which this year showcases 75 contemporary art projects throughout 13 buildings over 7 km. (And these are quite apart from all the other citywide outdoor winter sports and activities beckoning for your attention.)
If, when you hear the words “Spring Break” you start thinking “Animal House,” then we’ve got just the thing for you. From March 2-6, the Ecomuseum Zoo – the only outdoor zoo on the island of Montreal – is celebrating Spring Break with special activities (and exclusive prizes) for the kids. The Ecomuseum Zoo is unique in that it’s home to more than 115 animal species native to Quebec, and all the animals there – bears, otters, wolves, birds of prey, caribou and more – were either injured, orphaned or born in captivity, meaning they can’t be released into the wild.
Spring Break, no matter the age, should be freaky and fun. Grévin Montréal, the city’s wax museum experience (with emphasis on the experience) excels at both. From February 28 to March 8, kids of all ages are invited to Grévin to accessorize with their favourite stars, carve wax, mingle with mystery characters and win prizes. And frozen in a very different way is Disney on Ice’s live presentation of the smash hit animated feature Frozen, which will take over the Bell Centre from March 4-8.
If you’ve had your fill of Frozen and want to expose your budding film aficionados to some broader movie-making horizons, the 18th Festival International du Film pour Enfants de Montreal (FIFEM) offers parents an opportunity to take their kids around the world. Action, animated and dramatic films (for ages 2-14) from some 25 countries comprise this year’s festival, February 28 to March 8. And if it’s music more than movies that moves the young ones, Jeunesses Musicales Canada is presenting 75 concerts and music workshops (how to make instruments out of recycled materials, discover your own body percussion, make a soundtrack for your comic strips and more) for young audiences over the winter break. Admission is free for most activities, also February 28 to March 8.
During the break, play is the thing, and perhaps none embrace that notion more than the Montréal joue (“Montréal plays”) festival. From February 21 to March 8, Montréal joue will host 16 major, and majorly fun, gaming and gaming-themed events (from board games to video games) around the city. Also, some 200 gaming and creative activities will take place in Montréal’s libraries, all of them free. Speaking of the best G-rated “F” words, fantastically fun and free come to mind at the TOHU centre for the circus arts. Located in the Cité des arts du cirque in Montréal’s St. Michel district, from March 2-6 TOHU will be juggling an entertaining array of March Break activities including kick sledding, ice-road skating, an indoor adventure course, circus workshops, aerial hoop (lyra) tutorials and more for free, and that ain’t no clowning around.
And no strangers to fun themselves, the Pointe-à-Callière Museum of Archaeology and History have made a name making words like “archaeology” and “history” synonymous with good times. Have your doubts? Try this on for size: As part of Pointe-à-Callière’s Spring Break activities, February 28 to March 8, children 6-12 can discover their inner swashbuckler with Pirates or Privateers, an immersive exhibition during which kids learn about life at sea and face challenges that include getting their sea legs, raising an anchor, arming a cannon and pretending to attack an enemy ship. Did we mention fun?