Montreal has its fair share of trees, so there are plenty of leave piles for kids to jump in come fall. But sometimes that doesn’t quite cut it, entertainment wise, right? Shake things up with this list of autumn must-dos for every kind of family!
Culture Vultures: Right in the action of the buzzing Quartier des Spectacles, kids of all ages can create art inspired by the contemporary collection at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, while the ‘rents visit the exhibitions. Themes for fall 2012 include Voracious Colours, inspired by an expressive painting by Lise Gervais, and Rectangularity, whereby kids will get inspired by local artist Pierre Dorion’s solo show. From September 28 through 30, the Journées de la Culture take over town: three days of constant culture, whether it’s hip-hop dance classes, calligraphy workshops, face painting parties, free exhibitions of all sorts – you name it.
Musical families will be transported away in the Salle Bourgie at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, where, starting on Sunday, September 23, there’s a series of five hour-long concerts designed for inter-generational entertainment. Between 1 and 4 pm, the concerts will be followed by either an art workshop for kids, a guided tour for the whole family or a type of treasure hunt, designed to give young’ns a different perspective on the museum’s wide-ranging collection.
Mary Poppins – the musical – will be presented for the first time in Montreal from November 21 to 25, so your tots can finally see the fun in cleaning their room! The show, which took top honors on Broadway, will be presented at the Place des Arts’ Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier for eight performances only. Reserve now!
Starting on December 7, head to the Centaur Theatre for a different take on a familiar tale: Geordie Productions presents the world premier of a large-scale staging of Paula Wing’s new adaptation of Robin Hood. It promises a rollicking good time and just enough bad lessons to keep your kids healthy.
The Botanical Gardens has seen the light – this fall there are over a thousand lanterns in the shapes of princesses, peach trees, pandas and tigers in the picturesque Chinese Garden, for the 20th annual Magic of Lanterns celebration. Plus, for the first time the Japanese Garden is aglow too – in the mysterious evening atmosphere, the interplay of light and shadows in its tall tree forest creates an eerie musical happening. Check it out at dusk for best results!
History Buffs: You want history? Montreal’s got it! On September 22, from 10 am to noon, the inaugural edition of Heritage Montreal’s family workshops presents Little Burgundy: On the traces of the village of Sainte-Cunégonde, an outdoor exploration of the vanished industrial town of Sainte-Cunégonde. Guides and animators will help young explorers – workbooks and pencils in hand – and their parents follow clues to find the traces of the village that still exist today.
Meanwhile, starting in September at the McCord Museum downtown, history is in its Sunday best… so strike a pose! Inspired by the museum’s Notman photographic archives, this Sunday workshop (free to kids aged 3 to 10) invites families to blend old and new techniques to create their own photomontage. From 11 am to 4 pm.
Pointe-à-Callière (Montreal’s Museum of Archaeology and History), located right on the spot some of the first Europeans landed in the area, is inaugurating a new pavilion this fall: the Mariner’s House. Connected to the main building by an underground tunnel, this new multi-purpose, educational space is home to the “Archaeo-Space” – a simulated archaeological dig for kids. In October and December, young and old are invited to enjoy two very special tours of the archaeological remains. Highlighting two of the year’s most highly anticipated celebrations, the museum is presenting Jack O’Lantern and Who Is The Real Santa Claus? On these two whimsical tours, children will meet colourful characters who will explain the origins of Halloween and Christmas. Which brings us to…
Thrill Seekers: Halloween is second only to Christmas on most kids’ excitement-o-meter, and in Montreal we love to celebrate our ghoulish side. Starting at the Botanical Garden, where pumpkins, a witch and her black cat are all waiting to haunt you and yours. This is the 25th anniversary of the Great Pumpkin Ball, featuring the wackiest pumpkin designs imaginable! Visit the exhibition between October 6 and 31, and remember to enter your own masterpiece in the pumpkin-decorating contest by October 14.
During the Halloween FrightFest at La Ronde, Montreal’s amusement park becomes home to zombies, vampires and giants rats. Dare to enter the Haunted House, also known as Dr Von Terror’s clinic, or hold your breath on over 40 rides and attractions – there’s something for kids of every age, plus plenty of thrills for mom and pop. From October 6 to 18.
From now to November 4 at the historic house right next to the Olympic Stadium, Château Ramezay, there’s an exhibition in the Governor’s Garden where gourds get some glory! While the pumpkin rules Halloween, there are a slew of other squashes out there that deserve their fair share of love. From your plate to beauty products to musical instruments, squashes have been used in a million different ways for millennia – they were even cultivated 5,000 years ago by Native peoples right in this spot. Now that’s a tasty morsel of history.
What would fright night be without the ritual of the Rocky Horror Picture Show? Get your dry toast, toilet paper and rice ready and give your older kids a fun time to remember on October 26, 27 or 31 at the Imperial, a beautifully restored historic cinema right next door to the Quartier des Spectacles.
Movers and Shakers: The TOHU is known as a place where things move and shake – it’s home to tons of circus performances, dance and theatre. On October 7, starting at 8 am, it’ll be the site for a race! Adults can run either 5,5, or 11 kilometres around the St-Michel Environmental Complex, during which your tots aged 2 to 12 will burn through some of their excess energy too on a more reasonable 1 km track. Discover a cool part of town in a new way.
Right nearby you’ll find the Le Taz, a skateboarder and rollerskater’s paradise. Opening at 10 am on weekend and 3 pm weekdays, this indoor centre presents a skatepark on one side – a gigantic obstacle course of bumps and half-pipes for skaters and BMXers – and a roller derby track on the other, where Montreal’s teams practice and where skaters of all talents levels and ages can skate to music on weekends from 1 to 6 pm. Both skates and boards can be rented on the spot, and lessons are available.
The climbing center Allez-up just reopened in a brand new location on September 6! Check out the new digs right by the famous Redpath silos in Old Montreal, where big and small can climb the walls, literally, all the way up to the mile-high ceiling and over all sort of weirdly shaped installations. Courses available.
Kids bouncing off the hotel room walls? That’s why La Récréathèque was invented! This activity centre in Laval offers an arcade, bumper cars, laser tag, and activities of all kinds, including a huge playground for kids 6 months to 10 years old called the Bananazoo that has a new giant maze, a mini-train ride and a special area exclusively for children under 4.
Critter Lovers: Montreal’s Biodôme holds countless treasures, but these days the cargo’s even more precious. Last spring saw the birth of the Biodôme’s first baby lynx! Bring the whole family to watch it play hide and seek, learn to climb trees and leap from rock to rock like any other kitten. It’s also a great chance to explore the Laurentian Maple Forest ecosystem yourself, without even leaving the city.
The Insectarium, right next door, also offers some natural wonder, though acrobatic spiders may not rank quite as high on the cuteness front. Remains that your tots – especially of the boy variety – will be amazed by the spiders; they’re true tightrope walkers and aces at lassoing, sprinting, weaving and tagging. Wait, maybe this should have gone into the Halloween section…
The Ecomuseum Zoo houses over 155 species native to Quebec’s St. Lawrence Valley under one roof, just a hop, skip and a jump out of downtown, on the western tip of the island. Operated by the St. Lawrence Valley Natural History Society, a not-for-profit organization that focuses on education, research and applied conservation, the zoo offers all-day classes on animal care for kids aged 7 to 12 on September 23 and October 21. Who wouldn’t want close contact with arctic foxes, black bears and spotted turtles? There are tons of other activities to check out too right here.