It is not always easy visiting a large city with a small child. We took our two-year-old son, David, for a weekend trip to Montreal and were pleasantly surprised. The city proved to be remarkably accessible and there were plenty of family-friendly attractions to keep all of us entertained.
We started the vacation by taking the Metro. This proved to be a runaway hit for David. He loves trains of all sorts and all sizes. As the Metro train whizzed up and opened it’s doors, our son climbed on and took his seat with a sense of awe. I was more concerned with practical matters like trying to find space for our stroller. Luckily, there is an area for wheelchairs, strollers and bikes on every train thus it was not a problem.
When we arrived at our Metro stop, we had to convince David that fun and excitement were just beyond. He had so much fun with the train ride he did not want to leave. After some persuading, we exited and visited the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. An art museum may not be the most obvious family attraction. The Montreal Museum does a great job of family programming and events. Our son enjoyed some of the modern art displays. The unique sculptures and paintings seemed to appeal to him more than the classical works. We were also lucky to see the Terracotta warrior exhibit from China. David kept saying “look at all the horses.” His artistic critiques gave a smile to a number of museum staff and visitors.
The following day, we decided to visit the Montreal Science Centre. The Centre is located in the revitalized Old Montreal. During the summer, Old Montreal is the perfect place to enjoy a meal outdoors, go for a stroll or see a street performance. The day we visited, the weather was quite cold so we did not linger exploring Old Montreal.
The Science Centre is the perfect place to take an active child. There are many interactive exhibits that are good at burning off their extra energy. We met friends who have an eight year old and a five year old. All three children enjoyed the various activities of the Science Centre. David particularly enjoyed the drums exhibit. Children were allowed to use a number of different percussion instruments. Our son banged on the drums with the verve of a drummer in a rock band. He spent about twenty minutes just trying out all the different instruments. I think I may have many years ahead of hearing my son on a drum kit.
The Science Centre hosts an IMAX cinema and a small cafeteria. There are also frequent special exhibits so it pays to check out the website to see the most current attractions.
We ended our trip the next day with a visit to the Biodôme located on the Olympic park grounds. The Biodôme was originally the cycling venue for the 1976 summer Olympics. The building was transformed into an indoor nature exhibit in 1992. It features plants and animals of five unique ecosystems.
Entering the Biodôme is like being transported into a tropical rainforest. Lush trees and the smell of flowers overwhelm the senses. It was hard to believe we were inside a building. David loved seeing the exotic birds and monkeys.
We then moved on to the Canadian Forest ecosystem. It felt like spending the weekend at the cottage. We observed beavers, birds and porcupines.
After our relaxing observation in the Canadian Forest, I was not prepared for the excitement we would find in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence maritime ecosystem. There was a chance to observe large fish like salmon. Our son seemed motivated that he wanted to feed the fish. The only thing at his disposal was the cap on his head which he threw into the water with much gusto! We had to inform the staff that we had a hat floating in the Gulf of St. Lawrence display. They heroically rescued the cap with a fishing net while cell phones and digital cameras were flashing away. Temporarily, we had become the featured attraction.
Cap rescued, we finished our time with the Antarctic ecosystem and the penguins. Penguins are naturally a source of amusement for young children and adults. They put on quite a performance diving into the water and generally just being mischievous.
The Biodôme perfectly combines education with entertainment. I would also recommend taking time to visit the Montreal Botanical Gardens which are located just a short walk from the Biodôme. Last year, we visited the Gardens for the butterfly release. Thousands of butterflies occupy the various greenhouses and fill the air with a rainbow of colours. It truly is spectacular.
During our time in Montreal, we stayed at the Marriott hotel located downtown. It was a great location as it is directly connected to the Metro thus making it unnecessary to go outside in bad weather.
There are literally thousands of restaurants to try in Montreal featuring cuisine from around the world. With our son, we did not want to get too fancy so just stayed to family-fare type restaurants. Perhaps when he is older, we will introduce him to more exotic cuisine.
Our trip to Montreal, was the perfect way to spend Easter weekend. We had the excitement of big city life without any of the hassles. We will be returning to Montreal in the near future – just perhaps without any hats for David to throw in the water.
Check this Out!
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – www.mmfa.qc.ca
Montreal Science Centre – www.montrealsciencecentre.com
Biodôme – www.biodome.qc.ca
Hotel Marriott – www.montrealchateauchamplain.com
If You Go
Take Highway 417 east until it turns into Highway 40. It is about a two hour drive from Ottawa but traffic can be very heavy in Montreal, particularly during rush hour. Once in Montreal, the metro and bus system are an excellent way to get around the city.