Kid-friendly museums in Montréal
NOTE: As of June 2020, Montréal is moving toward a progressive reopening of businesses and a return to many public activities, while respecting public health guidelines on social distancing and the use of non-medical masks. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites of the businesses and attractions mentioned in this article or to call to verify whether they are open and what their current hours are.
With visitors of all ages in mind, Montréal's museums constantly reinvent themselves with new multimedia exhibitions, hands-on workshops and educational activities that defy expectations. Among the many indoor activities for kids in Montréal, museums rank high for kids, whether they love science, the animal world, fine arts or the thrill of stepping into the past.
Science and nature
Montréal's hands-on science and nature museums let curious young minds explore our endlessly fascinating world. The Space for Life museums take kids from digging in the dirt all the way into the furthest reaches of space: roam the outdoor spaces and greenhouse of the Montréal Botanical Garden to learn more about the variety of plant-life in Québec, Canada and the tropics and see what the universe is really made of in exhibitions and immersive films at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium (the Biodome, famed for its multi-ecosystem atmosphere, re-opens in 2020 after an extensive renovation). The Montréal Science Centre is a must for interactive educational entertainment, from its STEM-centric creativity labs to giant-screen adventures in the IMAX® TELUS Cinema. Under the geodesic dome of the Biosphère, Environment Museum in Parc Jean-Drapeau, learn more about protecting the environment in kid-friendly exhibitions, workshops and tours. And explore Québec's indigenous animal species indoors and outdoors at the Ecomuseum Zoo, where you'll spot bears, otters, wolves, hawks, caribou and more creatures all year round.
Art and culture
In the heart of the historic Golden Square Mile in downtown Montréal, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts masterfully curates its collections exhibitions and hosts a roster of high-quality international exhibitions. Those major exhibitions are free for kids 12 and under, while the museum's collections are free for anyone 30 and under, as are Saturday and Sunday family activities, including art workshops for preschoolers and their parents, themed workshops for kids to explore the museum's exhibitions, musical activities and family films during the Montréal International Children's Film Festival. Close by in the Quartier des spectacles, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal focuses on contemporary art from Canada and around the world in its themed collection exhibitions and in temporary major exhibitions that shed further light on well-known artists. The MAC is free for kids 12 and under and features Family Sundays hands-on workshops and interactive tours led by energetic staff.
Archaeology and natural history
An expert in creating educational exhibitions and activities for kids – and their parents! – the Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, in Old Montréal, takes us back to Montréal's very beginnings in multimedia exhibitions and lets kids play on the high seas in Pirates or privateers?, experience a simulated archaeological dig in an Archaeo-Adventure workshop, and even explore a (clean) sewer dating back to the 1830s. On the McGill University campus, you'll find a real hidden gem in the Redpath Museum, especially for kids who love dinosaurs and whales. The Redpath features skeletons, fossils and life-like preservations of beasts big and small, long-gone and still roaming the earth, as well as local geological collections and archaeological material from ancient Egypt. Every weekend, the museum hosts a variety of science and archaeology workshops and tours for kids and families. And the Musée de Lachine lets kids step inside its 17th-century buildings and takes families on a fur-trading adventure through New France.
Local and global history
Montréal's history museums go out of their way to bring history to life for kids of all ages. In Old Montréal, the Château Ramezay - Historic Site and Museum of Montréal opens a portal to 500 years of history, tracing the city's past in its exhibitions (including the original home of Claude de Ramezay, a Governor of Montréal in the 18th century), an engaging multimedia circuit and a beautiful French colonial garden. Downtown's McCord Museum explores the diversity of Montréal’s history in its main exhibitions, tracing the cultures of indigenous peoples and immigrants, highlighting local and international contributors to art, music and fashion, hosting the annual Toys exhibition during the holiday season, and welcoming families to Sunday workshops and story hours. In Parc Jean-Drapeau, the Stewart Museum features an historic Santa Claus winter holiday exhibition and outdoor activities like curling and snowshoeing in the courtyard, while summer brings escape games and more outdoor activities. Kids can climb aboard locomotives and hear stories all about trains at Exporail / The Canadian Railway Museum. Young fashionistas can see Barbie through the decades at the free Barbie Expo downtown. And hundreds of celebrities and historical figures are rendered lifelike in wax at Grévin MONTRÉAL, where kids can also create a 3D wax sculpture of their own hands in workshops every weekend.
Robyn Fadden, blogger
Robyn Fadden is a Montréal-based writer and editor who searches out city secrets, new bands, life-changing art and things to do with her perpetually active kid. Robyn has covered major events for HOUR, MUTEK, ARTINFO, CKUT 90.3FM and more.