© Eva Blue - Tourisme Montréal
It’s so nice on the ice
Rosy cheeks, limber legs, lungfuls of invigorating air: Montréal just wouldn’t be winter without lacing up for a skate. Lucky for us, the city has tons of options, including the brand-new refrigerated ice rink at Esplanade Tranquille in the Quartier des spectacles that can hold up to 400 skaters (plus there will be a multifunctional room for lockers, rentals, etc.), the giant refrigerated rink at the Old Port, the Beaver Lake ice skating rink atop Mount Royal, the pretty pond at Parc La Fontaine and the huge ovals at Parc Maisonneuve and Parc Jarry, Verdun’s BLEU BLANC ROUGE pro-size rink, or even the skater's trail in Parc Jean-Drapeau. All are popular picks, whether you have teetery legs or can twirl like an ace, plus they all include music, fairy lights and the general fun of propelling back on forth on blades. Indoors, Atrium Le 1000 is a skating go-to for people who don’t like to brave the cold. Check this out for the full scoop on the city’s outdoor and indoor rinks.
© Eva Blue - Tourisme Montréal
The hills are alive with the sounds of crazy carpets (wheeeeeeee!)
While skating is a big ticket in sub-zero temps in Montréal, we also know that kids can’t wait to hit the hills with their saucers, carpets, luges and whatnot the minute the snow permits. Mount Royal provides two choice locations: the natural slope facing Parc Avenue or the groomed corridors and natural hill that looks onto Beaver Lake. Parc Angrignon and Parc Jean-Drapeau two other prime place to go whoosh! ; plus, snowboarding, fatbiking and cross-country skiing are prime pursuits in these parks too. The borough slopes in Parc du Pélican and Parc Lafond in Rosemont-Petite Patrie, Parc Jarry and Parc Lafontaine or Murray Hill in Westmount are also options – you choose your level of steepness. You can also try cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in parks around town, and rentals often available. But how about just building an good old fashioned snow fort or snowperson? We’re betting all mittened hands will be on deck.
© Alison Slattery
From chilly feats to belly-warming treats
The ultimate reward of all this outdoor frolicking? Coming inside and warming up with some yummy treats, whether in the form of food or drink. Get a milk moustache when you stop for yummy hot chocolate, or watch how much fun they’ll have sinking their teeth into delicious churros or doughnuts. Check out Montréal’s best bakeries and pastry shops for the full deal on sweet and savoury. If you want something more sit-down, consider these kid-friendly restaurants.
Museums for budding cultural mavens
Museums offer great jumping off points for conversations about art, history and social issues with the kids and now you can take them in virtually or in person. Check out exhibitions at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the McCord Stewart Museum and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Fall under the spell of Montréal, then and now, at the Pointe-à-Callière Museum or at Château Ramezay, which even gets a nod from UNESCO, for its history-rich program. Devotees of model trains young and old will love Train, A Railroad to Dreams at the Canadian Railway Museum and the public-bathhouse-turned-history museum at the Écomusée du fier monde is an off-the-beaten path point of interest, while the Marguerite-Bourgeoys Historic Site will take them 2,400 years back in history. Head to ARSENAL to catch Pink Floyd, which turned rock concerts into an art form. And you can always take an art trip outside: check out the city’s fabulous outdoor murals or make a day of gallery hopping – your kids probably have a great eye. For more inspiration, go here for the full round-up of kid-friendly museums.
© Ulysse Lemerise, OSA Images
Light up their lives
Days are shorter, nights are longer, but Montréal does not incline to the winter drearies. Make it a date at Luminothérapie, where light, interactive installations and winter wonderment will boost everyone’s spirits. MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE’s outdoor site is epic, with installations, awesome illumination, games and entertainment (not to mention its fab foodie events and shows). La Grande Roue is another excellent option for getting a new perspective on the city, especially with its cool night lighting. From Old Port you can see another high-tech wonder: majestic Jacques Cartier Bridge which pulses and glows with input from social media. For indoor light experiences, the stunning and universally-acclaimed AURA light show at the Notre-Dame Basilica will impress all ages. OASIS immersion, created by the world’ most prominent digital artists, is another mood-booster happening the Palais des congrès.
© Horizon Roc
Expend that pent-up energy
Kids need to move, and Montréal totally gets this. Let them bounce themselves silly on trampolines at iSaute, head the figurative wall climbing off at the pass with literal rock climbing, then get them using their heads with escape game adventures. Wee Luke Skywalkers? You’re headed to Laser Game Evolution, but you can also look here a very full list of indoor family activities. Splishing and splashing is not only a total hoot, but very relaxing, so why not take them swimming at the Big O’s Sports Centre or the Aquadôme. Ever considered hotel pools? Be sure to check these kid-friendly hotels too, even if you’re already in Montréal (think: awesome staycation!).
© Tourisme Montréal, Mathieu Dupuis
Lots of cool stuff for bookworms and movies buffs
They may already be voracious readers, or maybe they need a nudge. But books are an excellent (and calming) activity for kids of all ages. Get them poring over the pages with a trip to these beautiful Montréal libraries, or by perusing cool bookstores, some of which also stack vinyls. If they’re into manga, the O-Taku Manga Lounge is can’t miss, and features both a bookstore and coffee shop, while 1000000 Comix says it all – gazillions of them. For some down-home reading picks, check out these comic books and graphic novels about Montréal. And what about a movie night or afternoon? Show your love for neighbourhood theatres and arthouse film at Cinéma Moderne, Cinéma Beaubien, Cinéma du Parc, Cinéma du Musée and Théâtre Outremont. You can also catch a show at multiplexes it or get enjoy the crystal-clear lifelike immersive experience of the IMAX®TELUS theatre at the Montreal Science Centre. And don’t miss the family film extravaganza that is the Montréal International Children’s Film Festival (FIFEM). Of course, young stargazers, biologists and environmentalists will be thrilled by the incredibly rich and diverse offer at the Montréal Space for Life, which encompasses the Botanical Garden, Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, Biodôme, Biosphere and newly revamped Insectarium.
© Eva Blue
Winter festivals and outdoor exploring
They’ll be racing to get bundled up for outside when they know a festival is on the program. If they’ve got dance in their pants, then everyone will love the groovy beats, wild snowsuits and impressive illuminations on the program at Igloofest. Bring them out to learn more about the city’s history, art, neighbourhoods and even ghosts with these winter walking tours. In February, Cité Mémoire is a really great idea for a nighttime stroll illuminated by video projections (tableaux) of Montréal’s history and people in the charming streets of Old Montréal. What about planning an outdoor family outing where you can all buff up on Montréal’s most famous icons?
For encounters with the feathered and furry, the Ecomuseum Zoo, an outdoor zoo dedicated to Québec’s wildlife, is a perennial favourite.
You’d be surprised and how many parks Montréal is home to, from friendly neighbourhood parks to major nature parks, the discoveries to be had are endless.
Happy winter fun with your family!
Hailing originally from the big country skies of Manitoba, Rebecca adopted Montréal over 20 years ago after living in Québec City and France as a student. When she is not writing, translating or teaching English, she can be found pedaling the city’s bike paths, strolling the streets in search of hidden gems, and striking up conversations with local merchants, creators and folks in the neighbourhood.