How to Visit Montreal With Kids

Walk along the Lachine Canal while visiting Montreal.
Walk along the Lachine Canal while visiting Montreal. (Image: Images)

Montreal, Quebec is full of historic charm and is home to many fascinating buildings and neighborhoods with kid-friendly museums and activities. Traveling with kids will change the focus of your trip, but you'll get to experience and enjoy some activities that you would never contemplate trying if you were on an adults-only vacation.

Take the Metro. Unless you are familiar with Montreal's streets, drivers and summer road construction, the Metro is the easiest way to get around. Most tourist destinations are accessible from the Metro and special one- or three-day tourist passes are available for sale at Metro stations.

Use the Bixi bicycle system to get around if you are visiting Montreal between April and November and your kids are tall enough to use full-sized bikes. Bixis are bikes you can rent for 24 or 72 hours. Simply swipe your credit card at any of the many Bixi stations throughout the city, grab a bike and go. If your journey is less than half an hour, it's included in your rental fee and no other charges will be made to your credit card. You can take out two Bixis on the same credit card.

Visit the Shed 16 Labyrinth at the Old Port. The Labyrinth is located in a old warehouse on the docks and is the home of a maze from May until October. While it's not elaborate, it's a lot of fun and will keep kids and parents busy and entertained for a few hours. Before you go through the maze, you'll be shown a short film that explains the theme for the year and what you'll be looking for in the maze. As you go through the maze, you will find clues that point you in the right direction. In some spots, you'll need to climb over or under obstacles and may even need to slide down a sliding board, so you and your children need to be able to walk easily.

Explore the world and the universe at the Montreal Science Centre while visiting the Old Port. Interactive exhibits and an IMAX theater provide educational entertainment for kids of all ages. The Montreal Science Centre houses boutiques and restaurants so you can do some shopping or grab a snack after the kids have enjoyed the exhibits.

See Old Montreal, which is a short walk from the Old Port. Visit the Notre-Dame Basilica or go shopping at the Marché Bonsecours where you can find food and arts and crafts produced by local farmers and artisans. Visit Chateau Ramezay for a glimpse at the life of early settlers in Quebec and a soothing walk through the Chateau's gardens. Hire a horse and carriage -- called a "calèche" in Quebec -- for a guided tour through the cobbled streets of Old Montreal.

Go to the Biodome and Botanical Gardens on Île Sainte-Hélène. The Biodome often has long lines in the summer, so you'll probably want to visit the Biodome first and then take the shuttle bus to the Botanical Gardens. Housed in a geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller and used as the United States Pavilion during Expo '67, the Biodome is a walk-through exhibit containing a number of different ecosystems - tropical, local forest, marine, Arctic and Antarctic. There are also hands-on activities for kids on the lower floor. The Botanical Gardens hosts seasonal events and activities for kids.

Relax at the beach while on Île Sainte-Hélène. Parc Jean Drapeau, located on Île Sainte-Hélène in the middle of the St. Laurent River, offers a lake and three pools for swimming. When the beach opens for the day, you may notice employees cleaning picnic tables and the trash cans. Yes, it's that clean. The Parc offers changing rooms and snack bars and is a change of pace after a few busy days of touring. The La Ronde amusement park is also on the island if your kids are in the mood for rides and games.

Check out the Canadian Centre for Architecture located in downtown Montreal. The grounds of the building include gardens which are calm and cool on even the hottest day, and the CCA offers workshops and films for families and kids in the mornings, afternoons and on weekends. Entry to the Centre is free for children and the CCA is a short walk from most downtown hotels. Workshops require a small fee and reservations.

Take a riverboat tour if your kids enjoy boats. A short tour on the St. Laurent River will give you a unique view of the city and is an activity that your kids will be sure to remember. If your kids are feeling adventurous, go jet boating on the Lachine Rapids in the St. Laurent River. Take a one-hour tour with the Saute-Moutons jet boating tour company -- saute-moutons means "jumping sheep" in English -- to experience the St. Laurent up close. Prepare to get wet as the rapids do get wild.

Walk along the Lachine Canal to the St. Ambroise Brewery. The brewery has a large patio and yard where you can rest, watch the canal and have a grilled sausage or burger. Kid-friendly food, live music and a large garden to explore will keep the kids busy while you check out the beer brewed on the premises. The walk along the Lachine Canal to the brewery is about half an hour, or you can rent in-line skates or bikes.

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