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Montreal: A Family Getaway To Canada!

Montreal

Bienvenue! Join us on our family getaway to Belle Province – Montreal, Canada.  Located in eastern Canada, just above Vermont and New York states.  Montreal has been home to Expo ‘67 and the Summer Olympics in 1976 and prior to covid many festivals occur all year round.  The city is an explosion of culture with many things to discover such as art, museums, heritage sites and of course, cuisine. 

 

How To Get There

Plane – fly into Montreal – Trudeau International Airport, one of Canada’s major airports.  There are many local transportation options if you decide to opt out of car rental.  The airport is located in the west end of the City and only 20 minutes from the downtown area.  

Train – Via Rail is the national rail service in Canada, however due to the size of the country it is not widely used to travel in between most cities. The busiest rail corridor would be Toronto – Montreal, which takes approximately 5-6 hours by train depending on stops.  

Car – Renting a car is a great way to explore Montreal and its outer regions if you will be staying for longer than a city break.  Areas such as The Laurentian Mountains offer great hiking and outdoor activities, or drive up to Quebec City to explore the UNESCO heritage site, just 120 minutes from Montreal.  

 

Why Go

Montreal has great European vibes, without the airfare and cost of transatlantic flight.  Explore the old city and many neighborhoods celebrating all different cultures.  Terraces are a great spot for people watching, and many parks and streetside art line the city streets. Its museums are a great way to learn more about Canadian history and our relationship with our original people of the land.  Kanien’kehá:ka—who named the island Tiotia:ke—in the Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory on the South Shore and the Kanehsatà:ke Lands on the North Shore, near Oka.(source)

Kids Friendly

Old Port – during the summer months this is a great spot to spend the day.  Our kids were between the ages of 3-8 and the Voiles en Voiles, had bouncy castles for the little ones and an aerial ropes and adventure course for bigger kids.  Still requiring more adrenaline? Try the zip line across the harbour.  

Redpath Museum – McGill University

A free entry and located on the University grounds in central Montreal, there are many exhibits for the kids to check out exploring geological and natural history.  While entrance is free it is recommended to leave a donation for families of 20CDN.  Currently due to the pandemic this museum is closed, make sure to check opening times before going.

Point-à-Callière

Located on a historic archaeological site, this interactive museum gives a history of Montreal from the traditional territory of the Kanien’kehà:ka to present day. Family entrance fees are 50CDN.  

Biodome – Nature and Bug Museum

Curious adventurers of all ages will want to check out the Biodome, explore five ecosystems under one roof! Download the app prior to arrival to ensure you get the most out of your visit.  The Montréal Biodôme supports people to better experience nature through educational activities as well as research and conservation initiatives. A tip for little ones still needing some assistance, it is recommended to use a baby carrier or travel stroller as there are areas where ramps are not available.  Family rates are available and fees depend on visiting one or all three museum spaces.  Children under four are free.  

 

When To Visit

Montreal is a three season destination, just depending on what you are looking to do!  Summer can be hot and humid, but there are plenty of parks like Mont Royal to spend the days playing.  Winter can be very cold, but winter festivals and local ski areas are a great way to enjoy the outdoors, or catch a hockey game to cheer on the Montreal Canadiens!  Fall is known for the ‘colours’, drive through The Laurentian Villages and see the changing of the leaves.  

 

We Liked

My husband grew up in Montreal so we get to visit family is our main reason for visiting, however on this trip I had my sister and her family with us, so we visited areas like Old Port which we normally don’t check out very often. Montreal definitely has its own unique vibe and energy, with lots of street performers and captivating street art on every turn.  

Keep in mind that all road signage is in French, with little or no English translation.  Be prepared to know your directions (north, south, east and west) in French for getting around or make use of an app such as Waze for navigating the city.  While everyone does speak English, there are language laws where French needs to be the predominant language shown. Be sure to check out popular US chains that have a slight name variation while in Quebec.  

 

Day Trips

St. Sauveur – a 45 minute drive from Montreal, this little village is famously known for its winter activities and the entrance to the Laurentian Mountains for fall colour viewing. The little village is lined with cafes, restaurants and shops.  For the kids in the winter there is a skating trail that is 1.5 km long, as well as outdoor skating rinks.  

Quebec City

The drive up to Quebec City which boasts one of Canada’s UNESCO world heritage sites of the old walled city, a must stop if you are visiting Quebec or Montreal.  It can be done as a day trip from Montreal (two hours), but if you can add a night or two there is plenty to explore in this city on its own.  Stay tuned for a future trip review!

Where To Eat

This list could get very long for all the places that are a must try when visiting the city.  From bagels to smoked meat or a poutine you will not run out of options.  A popular way to dine in Montreal is checking out a restaurant that allows you to bring your own wine.  For a nominal fee or often complimentary, bring your own bottle and sit out on the terrace in areas like Mont Royal Avenue or Saint Laurent.  For more on these click here

Jean Talon Market – pick up all you need for a picnic in the park at one of the city’s markets located in all corners of the city.  Jean Talon is our favorite as they have a great selection of pre-made Italian goodies, fresh local fruit and vegetables, cheese and bread.  

Lafleur – there will always be a debate on who has the best poutine in Montreal.  We love Le Fluers for the fries and steamie hot dogs (ask for your steamie all dressed).  Steamie hot dogs are as described, steamed instead of boiled.  This is a local chain restaurant that has been around for 70 years, and only found in the Montreal area.  

St. Viateur Bagels – much like New York, Montreal also has a cult following on its bagels in Canada.  Be sure to check out the original location and other Jewish bakeries like Boulangerie Cheskie famous for their babka’s.  The Plateau area of Montreal is a day in itself, and is considered one of the most densely populated borrows in Canada.  

Jardin Nelson – while we opted to not go into this restaurant with our kids or wait in line (forgot to make a reservation), this is a great spot to take in all that Old Montreal has to offer.  It’s an outdoor cafe that looks indoors from the outside, but outdoors from the inside.  Using eco-friendly and locally sourced ingredients such as real Quebec maple syrup, no specific children’s menu is offered but has plenty of options for the whole family.  

Le Trois Brasseurs 

With a few locations throughout the city, this family friendly brasserie is a great choice with a dedicated children’s menu.  The menu offers a wide variety of choices, including the famous Flammekueche, a typical Alsatian dish and a must at Le Trois Brasseurs! 

 

Where To Stay

Le Square Philip Hotel

Montreal has a variety of hotels so there are plenty of options to choose from all centrally located in the downtown core.  However with kids in tow and wanting the ability to not eat out for each meal we selected a suite hotel located in the Quartier des Spectacles and Place de Arts.  The two bedroom suite was large and well appointed with a full kitchen and 1.5 bath, plus 10 foot windows provided great city views.  Breakfast was included in the rate, and due to Covid measures was picked up from the lobby and brought back to the room.  

Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth

Always a favorite in any major city across our country, the Fairmont experience brings back a bit of old world charm and modern amenities.  Many of the rooms are suites  perfect for families and even offer babysitting services so that parents can sneak in a date night to check out some of the city’s famous restaurants.  

Fun Facts

  • Montreal has an underground city, which is a series of interconnected tunnels beneath the city itself, that run for over 32Km. The tunnels connect shopping malls, over 2000 stores, seven metro stations, universities, banks, offices, museums, restaurants and more. 
  • Next to Paris, Montreal is home to the largest French speaking population in the world.

 

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