Spring Break, more commonly known as March Break or semaine de relâche in Montreal, isn’t all about escaping to warmer shores – relaxation, new discoveries and genuine family fun can all be had in Montreal as the sun shines even while the snow falls…
Start March break early with a visit to Montreal en Lumière, on until March 2. The winter festival’s outdoor site – with free entry at all times – is located in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles outside Place des Arts and boasts an illuminated ice slide, a ferris wheel, games and activities for kids, music and circus performances, a “vidéomaton” that projects people’s faces onto the side of a building, an interactive laser-lit dance floor, fire pits for roasting marshmallows, and much more. On March 1, the whole city gets in on the Nuit Blanche celebrations, with indoor and outdoor activities and entertainment for all ages all night long. And with special performances throughout the evening and inventive art around every corner, Art Souterrain provides a good reason to wander through downtown’s underground passageways connecting malls and office towers – the exhibition continues until March 16.
Winter sports and other activities at Montreal’s park’s can keep everyone busy day and night throughout March Break. Ice skate and cross-country ski at Parc Jean-Drapeau, Mont Royal Park and Parc Lafontaine: Mont Royal’s Beaver Lake features tobogganing and snow tube hills (with sled rentals on site) as well as animal-tracking, hot-chocolate-fueled snowshoeing tours, while Parc Jean-Drapeau boasts a new tele-traction ski and snowboard mini-hill along with its regular winter programming. Or go ice fishing and skating in urban style in the Old Port of Montreal. And don’t miss visiting the Olympic Park Winter Village, open all day and into the night during March break, with free ice skating and entertainment, and on March 1 a gourmet gathering of the city’s food trucks.
Staying active indoors always remains an option too. More than one day can be spent at the Montreal Space for Life, right next door to the Olympic Park and home to the Biodome, Planetarium, Insectarium and Botanical Garden. Over spring break, special tours highlight the planet’s diversity of plants and animals at the Biodome, the Insectarium’s butterflies take part in a multimedia show, the maple syrup begins to flow at the Botanical Garden (also open to cross-country skiing), and the universe expands in glorious colour on two domed screens at the Planetarium.
Animal lovers should also check out the Ecomuseum Zoo, home to hundreds of different regional animals – from March 3-7, kids between 7 and 12 years old can become an animal care apprentice, trained by staff zoologists specializing in different animals every day, from eagles to wolves to snakes. Or push the activity level up a notch or two by trying an extreme sport like rock climbing – kids courses happen every day at Montreal’s three rock climbing gyms, Allez Up, Horizon Roc and Zéro Gravité – indoor surfing or skydiving, along with the more tried-and-true indoor fun of go-carting, paintball, laser tag and mini-golf.
Montreal’s big museums and galleries take up the spring break challenge with special programming as well. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts offer free activities for children and parents, including treasure hunts, drop-in art workshops, guided tours and film screenings reflective of the museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions. Pointe-à-Callière museum lets kids become archaeologists for the day in a guided workshop about the profession and reveals the real history of New France’s days of Pirates and Privateers, from life at sea to stepping ashore. And Pointe-à-Callière’s Port Symphonies coaxes music from trains and boats on February 23 and March 9 at 1:30 p.m. The McCord Museum’s Adventure at the Museum treasure hunt, workshops and storytelling hours enthral while educating, inspired by the museum’s Toys – Mission Cosmos exhibition. And one of Montreal’s newest additions, the Musée Grévin de Montréal wax museum, offers make-up and costume workshops along with guided tours of its hyper-realistic displays.
And, after all that action, simply sit back, relax and be entertained. The Montreal Science Centre transports visitors to the tropics in new IMAX film Galapagos 3D and asks kids to determine fact from fiction in the mysteries of the Truth or Lie exhibition. For pure spectacle, see the newest action-packed musical show by Disney on Ice: Let’s Party! brings more than 50 of Disney’s heroes and villains to the Bell Centre March 5-9. Aspiring dancers might opt for the youth-friendly urban dance of NYC choreographer Kyle Abraham, whose show Pavement entertains at Théâtre Maisonneuve March 6-8, with a chance to talk with the artists right after the performance on March 7. Montreal’s circus centre, La Tohu thrills with From the Ground Up!, a new show by brilliant Australian circus troupe Circus Oz, February 27 to March 9, as well as interactive entertainment every afternoon March 3-7, from circus demonstrations and workshops to fun in the snow outdoors.
Photo credit: Les amis de la montagne (Winter activities photo)
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