Like most parents, when I’m planning a family vacation, there are competing factors to consider. My priorities are travel time, new experiences, culture, food and fun. Montreal ticks all the boxes for me. Given that it’s only a 1.5 hour plane ride from Halifax, it may come as no surprise that we took the kids on a winter AND summer vacation there last year. To me, Montreal is like finding a little piece of Europe without having to cross the pond or purchase Euros. This post highlights some of our fun, and my top recommendations for Montreal with kids.
Let’s start with the most obvious: La Grande Roue, shown above and below. My goodness, it is HIGH. I’m not afraid of heights – I’ve gone zip lining and sky diving – and yet, when we started reaching the top of La Grande Roue, I had a few butterflies in my stomach. Lucky for me, the butterflies didn’t last and by the third time around, we were having a family dance party! The views were spectacular and the kids loved it.
Next up is Mount Royal. You can get to the top using a long path and stairs up the front of the mountain, or you can do what we did: we took a cab part of the way up the back of the mountain, then walked the remaining distance (don’t judge: I had a 30 pound kid in a carrier so it was still a workout). There’s usually an ice cream truck at the top in the summer, so obviously, we did that before taking the stairs back down to the city. Side note: one of my favourite shops, Anthropologie, is within walking distance of Mount Royal. It’s a women’s store so I recommend you do what I did: send the kids back to the hotel with your spouse and make a stop at “Anthro.” They always have a jam-packed sale section near the fitting rooms.
My kids love art galleries, and Montreal has some great ones. The Museum of Contemporary Art had a Leonard Cohen exhibit while we were there, and we went through the whole thing twice at Amelia’s request. We also visited the Musee des Beaux-Arts and had a teeny tiny incident while we were there. We enjoyed the Picasso exhibit before heading to the kids’ area with child-friendly art activities. We no sooner got there and Ewan said he had a tummy ache. You know where this is going. My “mom-reflexes” kicked in and I was able to grab a bucket of pastels and dump them on the floor just in time for Ewan to be sick the bucket. Unfortunately, it wasn’t perfect aim so we had to do the walk of shame back to our hotel smelling not-so-fresh. That aside, I highly recommend checking out the museums.
Old Montreal has a beautiful waterfront, and we took it all in. The buildings inspire awe, and there are so many fun activities for the kids. Amelia and Ewan loved the giant bouncy castles (some of which have wading pools in them), and for older kids, there’s an adventurous climbing area. Kids of all ages love the carousel, of course – or is that just me? We also took a peddle boat out for a spin but it was old and hard to navigate. We got a great family selfie but it was otherwise a fail. Dana had the pleasure of competing in a triathlon in Old Montreal. Wife brag moment: he won in his category and qualified for worlds!
My next suggestion is the Barbie Expo. OK, here’s the part where I admit that I have never been a Barbie fan. As a child, I had no interest in them and as an adult, I steered clear of their svelte figures. AND YET. I’m telling you, if you have even the least bit of interest in fashion, the Barbie Expo should not be missed. I happened upon it completely by accident while shopping in Les Cours Mont-Royal and loved it so much that we have visited it a couple of times. Noteworthy: the exhibit is free and accepts donations for a children’s charity.
It should be mentioned that we also visited the Biodome, which is a great indoor facility with different eco systems (this is where I first fell in love with penguins as a child). I didn’t get any good photos to share, and it’s temporarily closed until September, but worth a visit when it re-opens. In the same area are a Planetarium, an Insectarium and a Space for Life museum. We didn’t get to any of these! And while I’m on the topic of things not featured in my photos, there is a great Quebec-based kids’ clothing store called Souris Mini. They have a few locations in Montreal and it’s worth finding one of them.
Moving on to where we stayed and ate. For our winter and summer trips, we stayed at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, which was surprisingly very family-friendly. The staff was even so kind as to leave colouring supplies in the room for the kids! As an added bonus, European royals staying there while we were, and we caught a glimpse of them from the restaurant a couple of times. The Roselys restaurant in the hotel had a knock-out breakfast/brunch, and we indulged daily, needing only a small meal between breakfast and dinner. I’m sorry I’m not able to provide more information on our meals but I did a poor job keeping track of where we ate. We had dinner at the Roselys a few times and really enjoyed it. There is a kid’s menu, as well as the option for kids to order off the adult menu at half price.
My final suggestion is to visit the churches. I took great delight in attending Mass in a beautiful location, but even if you’re not religiously inclined, the churches are beautiful and peaceful, and I recommend stepping inside any of them to take it all in. The Notre Dame in Old Montreal also has a light show called Aura. It’s set to music and it’s really cool! Fair warning: even though the kids liked it, they found it a little scary. Tickets are sold in advance.
That’s it from me! I’ll leave you now with a few photos of the beautiful churches. Enjoy your adventures!