Montréal winter fun for families

Rebecca Sellers

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.

This article was updated on March 14, 2022.

Whether your crew is made up of thrill seekers, budding bookworms, science geeks, nature enthusiasts or art lovers, Montréal has tons of options for your family this winter. Some activities require reservations, equipment or rentals, while others just require you showing up with your sense of adventure (and of course, respecting applicable health measures). So, say goodbye to cooped-up cabin-fever and say hello to fresh air, exercise, city sights and inspiration!

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 Radio-Canada Skaters 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.

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!, as is Parc Ignace-Bourget in Lasalle; 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.

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.

Catch some special holiday shows

There’s nothing quite like music and singing to set the holiday mood. Leave them in starry-eyed wonder with a special double bill of The Nutcracker (Clara’s Journey) by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. Get a little deeper with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal’s  performance of Hervé Niquet and Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ (The Childhood of Christ). Or hear Handel’s Messiah performed by the Orchestre Classique de Montréal high atop the mountain at St. Joseph’s Oratory, or later by La Chapelle de Québec and Les Violons du Roy, then the Ensemble Caprice at the Maison symphonique. As part of the Festival Bach Montréal, you can enjoy J.S. Bach – Christmas Oratorio, or reacquaint yourself with the Peanuts gang during A Charlie Brown Christmas at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art’s Salle Bourgie. Finally, let the sounds of gospel stir your soul during ONE21 - Gospel Christmas Celebration featuring the Jireh Gospel Choir and Montréal Gospel Choir at Salle Pierre-Mercure. Sing, sing, sing!

Other special shows and exhibitions

Some special shows and exhibitions are coming to the city this winter too. Have any of your kids been trying to teach Fido tricks? Take them to see the world premiere of SuperDogs: The Musical, and see these 20 amazing stunt dogs and their amazing capers at the Segal Centre until December 19. If you’ve got Lego buffs in your midst, they’ll love witnessing the infinite stackable possibilities with the colourful Animal Super Powers LEGO display by New York-based contemporary artist Sean Kenney at the Palais des congrès.

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 Museum which, In celebration of its centenary, is offering free admission until January 19, 2022, and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Catch the history of circus at Pointe-à-Callière Museum  - you can even climb into a mini clown car! – or reacquaint yourself with holiday traditions 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. At the PHI Centre, follow your breath with the We Live in an Ocean of Air immersive exhibition. Speaking of immersive, ARSENAL will be featuring Imagine Monet: a wall-to-wall immersion in more than 200 paintings created by Claude Monet. 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.

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.

Expend that pent-up energy

Kids need to move, and Montréal totally gets this. Take them whizzing across the Old Port with MTL Zipline (yes, in winter), 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!).

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 Insectarium (which reopens on April 13th, after major renovations).

Winter festivals and outdoor exploring

They’ll be racing to get bundled up for outside when they know a festival is on the program. Get them in the holiday mood (though they’ll hardly need it!) at Christmas in the park in three Montréal parks, at Merry Montréal in Old Montréal, or with Christmas in Montréal, which is happening at the Jean-Talon Market, Atwater Market and the Quartier des spectacles. Taking snow fun to the next level is Barbegazi – it even has Christmas-tree throwing! Bring them out to learn more about the city’s history, art, neighbourhoods and even ghosts with these winter walking tours. Over the holidays and 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!

Rebecca Sellers

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.

Enjoy the best of Montréal

The Tourisme Montréal newsletter gives you the inside scoop on everything happening in the city.

Moments nearby