Mini Break in Montreal

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.

Monkey at the Biodome
Monkeys in the Rainforest Area

Frog at the Biodome
Frog in the Rainforest Area

Caiman at the Biodome
Caiman in the Rainforest Area

Lynx at the Biodome
Lynx in the Forest Area

Eggs at the Biodome
Eggs in the Gulf Area

Puffins at the Biodome
The Puffins were Playful

Penguin Feeding Time
Penguin Feeding Time

Rainstorm at the Biodome
The Rainstorm

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.

Cobbled Streets in Old Montreal
Cobbled Streets in Old Montreal

Bonsecours Market
The Bonsecours Market building in Old Montreal

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):

Montreal Science Centre
The Science Centre

R2D2 at the Star Wars Identities exhibit
R2D2 at the Star Wars Identities exhibit

Various Ship Models
Models used in the making of the Star Wars movies

One of the identity stations
This is one of the “Identity” stations. In this one you’re choosing your character’s job – you scan your bracelet underneath the job you want to record.

Padme Costumes
Padme Costumes, oh how I covet these

Darth Vader costume
A bona fide real Darth Vader costume, eek

Kit Fisto
The guy with the green tentacles is Kit Fisto. I may have a small crush on him. I admit nothing.

My personal Star Wars Identify
This is my personal Star Wars Identity, based on my selections at the exhibit – your character is displayed on a huge screen as you exit, and you can also have it emailed to you.

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!

4 thoughts on “Mini Break in Montreal

  1. We totally have the same problem every time we go to Montreal. It seems like there *should* be lots of different things to do with kids, but we always end up at the same things and a little underwhelmed. Biodome, Olympic stadium, waterfront, historic buildings, etc. It just seems like there should be more…

  2. smothermother

    the jellybean is going to the star wars exhibit with my mom today. i have to say that i am a more than a little jealous. and on friday we hit granby zoo. great zoo (if you like them) and has a great waterpark attached which is included in the price of admission. there is also the children’s museum in laval which is fabulous. and the cosmodome (space science museum which supposedly has the best summer camp programs). kids love going to the atwater or jean-talon markets as well. like the farmer’s market here, but bigger and better. though i might be slightly biased. oh and who doesn’t like going to schwartz’s for lunch? the line up can be a little much for little kids so best to make it an early lunch or dinner. chateau ramzy museum is fun and so is the red path, which is free. tiny, but some interesting things to see, including dinosaur fossils. and it’s on the mcgill campus which has lots of lawn to run around and have a picnic on. next time you head to montreal let me know and I’ll load you up with things to do. 😉 glad you had such a great time.

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