Montreal is truly beautiful during the winter holiday season – lights adorn the historical buildings and churches of Old Montreal, Christmas trees sparkle in the streets and windows – yet somehow beauty doesn’t always keep kids happy. Here are some ideas for holiday season family fun in Montreal…(festive outdoors) With snow days on the way, winter sports are one way for the whole family to burn off energy. Picturesque and welcoming to all level of skater, the outdoor skating rink in the Old Port is open all winter – children under 6 skate for free and it’s only $6 for adults, with rentals available on site as well. Also at the Old Port every Saturday night at 8 p.m. is the TELUS Fire on Ice musical fireworks show, lighting up the Montreal sky until January 5. Snowshoers, cross-country skiers and anyone who wants to go walking through a winter wonderland should head to one of Montreal’s large parks, such as Mount Royal Park, Parc LaFontaine or Parc Jean-Drapeau, home to the Biosphere eco-museum and, beginning January 4, the Snow Village. And downtown in the Quartier des Spectacles, play music on an arty, multicoloured, lit-up “iceberg,” part of the Luminothérapie interactive art installation.
(illuminated learning) Hands-on learning about how music works on our minds is at the heart of Musik: From Sound to Emotion, a cool new exhibition at The Montreal Science Centre. Every step of the exhibition’s journey is interactive – each visitor carries an MP3 player to listen to music of all kinds (including by pop-punk band Simple Plan, who collaborated on the exhibition), answer questions and create a personal composition. Less high-tech, but delightfully educational nonetheless is a visit to the Insectarium and The Botanical Gardens, where the main greenhouse is decked out for Christmas with lights, new plant life, choir performances on some afternoons, and even a craft fair December 7-9.
(glorious showtime) Lumberjack acrobats tumble among pine trees in Cirque Alphonse’s Timber!, a comedic, musical circus for the whole family, December 18-31 at Montreal’s one-and-only circus centre, Tohu. Geordie Productions specializes in creating shows for children that their parents can also truly enjoy – this year they’ve put a new twist on Robin Hood, the classic tale of do-good outlaws and their merry ways, playing December 7-16 at the Centaur Theatre in Old Montreal (453 St-Francois-Xavier). For more traditional holiday theatre fair, see Les Grands Ballets unveils its colourful annual performance of The Nutcracker, December 13-30 at Place des Arts, while Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol becomes a musical, complete with 14 songs, at Theatre Rialto on December 14.
(holiday history) A question possibly on many a kid’s mind this season: Who is the real Santa Claus? Pointe-a-Calliere Museum of Archaeology and History answers with an theatrical tour of international holiday traditions, from St. Nicholas, Melchior and Babushka to Santa Claus, throughout December – see the museum’s website for tour times. For toys and nothing but toys, visit The McCord Museum’s Toys 3 – The Voyage exhibition, where children aged 3 to 9 can travel through the adventureland of Abracadabra, where 200 historical toys are on display in wild jungles and next to crackling campfires.
(joy of art) The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts gives the gift of free tours and art activities this season: wander through an indoor forest of 35 Christmas trees, decorated in different styles, see museum’s permanent collections, kids and parents can make their own tree decorations and wrapping paper in a Holiday Decoration Workshop (Saturdays and Sundays, drop in), paint a pastel and ink landscape (Saturdays and Sundays, 1 and 2:30 p.m.) and listen to stories (in English Saturdays and Sundays, 1 p.m.). The Musee d’art contemporain also has art workshops for the family every Sunday afternoon, with a different theme each week. And traditional and contemporary art as well as plenty of craft – including all kinds of hand-made toys – that you can not only look at but buy is in abundance at Montreal’s artisanal and craft fairs.