Last weekend we jaunted off to Montreal for a couple of days. Montreal is so close, it makes for a nice weekend visit or even a day trip, but we have often found that no one seems to know what the heck there is to do in Montreal, for kids. I’m sure there are guide books and websites and such, but whenever we ask friends of ours who know Montreal, or who even grew up in Montreal, for suggestions, they always say, “Um…there’s the Biodome…and…I don’t know, some parks and stuff?”
Montreal, you need an family-activities ambassador, stat.
We do love the Biodome, so this year we made our annual trip and the kids really enjoyed it, as always. It’s kind of a zoo, but the animals (for the most part) are in an open environment, so they’re free to climb and/or fly all around you. There are four rooms with animals from four different environments: rainforest, Laurentian forest, Gulf of St. Lawrence, and sub-antarctic islands. There’s also a display area with a really cool exhibit on birds’ eggs and nests, and another area featuring fossils found in Canada. As you exit, there’s a (temporary, I think) exhibit where they recreate a rainstorm, and your brave kids can stand in the water with an umbrella and pretend to be Gene Kelly in Singin’ In The Rain.
All in all it takes about three hours to go through the dome, so you can definitely make it out there and back for a day trip. If you have more time, your entrance to the Biodome also gets you into the nearby Insectarium (SO HORRIFYING, for the brave and bold only – well, at least those without a giant centipede phobia), and also the nearby Ornamental Gardens, which are really lovely to walk through and have a quiet picnic. You can also tour the Olympic Stadium next door, and take a ride up to the top of the tower overlooking the stadium.
Here’s some of our shots of the Biodome. We drove down on Saturday morning and spent most of the afternoon there.
After dinner we headed down to Old Montreal, just to walk around. It’s busy in the evenings with tourists eating, taking photos, watching buskers in the various squares, and shopping for cheesy souvenirs. I thought the kids would be tired and cranky but actually they liked just being out for a walk and were fascinated by the cobblestone streets and the crowds of people. We also took the subway from our hotel to get there, which was a fun bonus for them, I think it was the first time they had been on one.
Sunday morning we headed over to the Montreal Science Centre (see! There’s something else in Montreal besides the Biodome!). It’s located right down in Old Montreal as well, right on the pier. Tip for you: if you’re parking in their parking garage, you must choose right when you enter whether you’ll go upstairs or stay down. If you choose to stay downstairs and the spots are all gone, then you’re booted out of the lot – so annoying. If it’s after 10:30 a.m. or so (the museum opens at 10 a.m. on weekends), just do yourself a favour and drive on upstairs.
We specifically went to the museum to see their Star Wars: Identities exhibit. It’s a collection of memorabilia and fascinating facts about the movies. But best of all, it’s an interactive journey where you get to create your very own Star Wars character by visiting 10 stations where you answer questions about your personal history (or, the invented personal history of your character). At the end they take all your answers (stored on a digital bracelet you wear) and create a digital poster and description of your character for you. SO COOL. We all LOVED this exhibit, it was fascinating and fun. Worth the drive alone, and I must say, we had a great time checking out the rest of the museum, too – it’s highly interactive, informative, and just really entertaining.
Note that the Star Wars exhibit requires separate tickets, and these tickets are for a specific day and time. You can buy yours on their website and print them out at home (DO NOT FORGET THEM). The Star Wars tickets include admission to the rest of the museum, too. I would highly recommend buying your tickets in advance. I bought ours a few days before we left and the morning times were already sold out. When we were there on the Sunday, there were crowds of people for every time slot all day long.
Anyway, here’s some shots of the exhibit (non-flash photos are allowed):
After the science museum we headed home – all in all a great trip that I think will become a regular Summer of Awesome event. Next year, we’ll have to find time for La Ronde!