Spring break in Montréal: Getting out and about as a family

Martine Rhéaume

Martine Rhéaume is a strategic writer. The texts she writes or edits are elegant yet precise, direct yet pleasant. Martine first got a degree in musicology before getting an advanced graduate diploma in Marketing Communications (HEC Montréal, 2016). She worked as an editor, then an advertising copywriter for TC Médias Livres from 2011 to 2016. Since 2017, Martine is editor in chief at C2 Montréal.

This article was updated on February 22, 2022.

The kids are home from school, full of energy and, like it or not, in need of some refreshing screen-free activities. Spring break is the perfect time to discover the city’s charms together, venture into unfamiliar neighborhoods and revisit the places you love. Here are some suggestions for fun activities for families during spring break. 

All around Montréal

Get to know another neighborhood better on professionally guided walking tours for family bubbles of four: architecture, history, murals and even ghosts are sure to brighten up your family walks. Take public transit to get to your starting point. Thanks to the Family Outings program, children aged 6 to 11 get free rides on the STM when accompanied by an adult with a valid transit pass.  

Downtown

Reconnect with the pleasure of strolling through shopping centres as a family, in search of a little something that will make each of you happy (or in search of pants that reach past the ankle, because even in a pandemic these kids are growing fast!) From east to west along Sainte-Catherine Street, choose your stops among Complexe Desjardins, Eaton Centre, Place Montréal Trust, Les Cours Mont-Royal and the versatile Alexis Nihon. Along the way, stop off at LOV on De la Montagne Street for a delightful vegan meal. In cold weather, pop in every mall – your teens might not even realize they’re walking the day away! 

A little further south, Place Ville-Marie is another great spot to shop and grab a coffee and something to eat. It’s also the temporary home of the Musée d’art contemporain (MAC), where you can visit fresh new exhibitions (access is via the Mansfield Street entrance). In the heart of the Quartier des spectacles, take part in a fun and entertaining experience at Luminothérapie, an outdoor exhibition of luminous and interactive works. Enjoy a skate on the brand-new refrigerated ice rink at Esplanade Tranquille or on MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE'S 300-m long elevated Skating Trail. 

Old Montréal

Anyone with young children might have already explored Come Aboard! Pirates or Privateers?, Pointe-à-Callière museum’s seafaring interactive adventure, but a complete redesign has made the exhibit an exciting new experience. If your kids like anything circus-related, visit the temporary exhibition It’s circus time!, which throws  open the doors to the fascinating world of circus arts through the ages. Buy your tickets online (without a reserved time slot) to take advantage of economical family and child rates, and be sure to consult the guidelines for visitors. In addition to the fascinating exhibitions, the museum has lots of free outdoor activities planned for spring break. There are guided tours to (re)discover the architecture of Old Montréal, opportunities to dive into the colourful world of circus arts with performances and workshops, and the chance to contribute to the “Mural of Hope”, a collective work that will be created in support of Accueil Bonneau, an organization that offers assistance to people experiencing homelessness.
 

See the spectacular ice on the St. Lawrence River and Montréal’s snow-covered skyline from a whole new perspective on La Grande Roue de Montréal: the observation wheel is open to the public, admitting one family bubble per cabin. As the wheel goes 'round, make a game of how many church bell towers, bridges and other landmarks the kids can count! Winner gets extra marshmallows on their hot chocolate or can pick whatever delectable snack they want from Délice Érable & cie, a bistro boutique with enticing take-out fare a few steps away on Saint-Paul Street.

The Château Ramezay is also open for spring break. Follow a multimedia circuit and catch up on local history. The family rate for one or two adults and up to three children makes a visit to this historic site a great budget option. 

Want to stop somewhere nearby for a hot beverage or for dinner? Try the fab Italian restaurant Un po di più and the famous Olive + Gourmando. (They also welcome take-out orders.)  Add to your list the heavenly pastries from Maison Christian Faure.

 

Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Olympic Park

Nature is never far away in the urban Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood. At the Biodôme, the lynx, monkeys, exotic birds and famous penguins are ready for visitors. Up the hill, the Botanical Garden outdoor paths are free to roam (or cross-country ski) in winter or opt for a ticket to the tropics in the garden’s nine greenhouses.

Nearby, Parc Maisonneuve features an ice rink as well as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails that will have everyone craving a good hot chocolate. Regulars buy it at Arhoma on Place Simon-Valois, and at the Canard Café east of Pie-IX. Third-wave coffee lovers head to Hélico Café

Lovers of well-kept secrets meet at the small ice rink in Parc Lalancette, a stone's throw from the Joliette metro station. And for a low-speed change of scenery, the Parc National des Îles de Boucherville offers bikes with oversized tires (yes, the famous “fatbikes”), as well as snowshoes and cross-country skis – buy passes online in advance and reserve your rental equipment over the phone. 

From the Plateau to Villeray

Near Beaver Lake on Mount Royal, lace up your skates and try a few tricks on the refrigerated ice rink. With on-site rentals of ice skates, cross-country skis, snowshoes and snow tubes you can fully enjoy winter on the city’s beloved mountain.  

Hundreds of city skating rinks dot the Montréal landscape, including in several large parks, such as Parc Jarry and Parc La Fontaine, where you’ll also find sledding hills. For hot chocolate, check out Montréal’s indie coffee shops or go into État de choc (shock or not, you’ll probably come out with a box of chocolates to enjoy later). And don’t head home with an empty tummy: enjoy an Italian dish at Fiorellino (Laurier). 

Parc Jean-Drapeau island getaway

With the right winter boots, there’s nothing quite as invigorating as a family winter hike on the 25 km of trails in Parc Jean-Drapeau. For a little more speed, bring your sleds and go sliding down the free slope near Espace 67. Glide along the 500-m Skater’s trail or help your kids refine their cross-country skiing on the island’s beginner (Île Sainte-Hélène ) and intermediate (Île Notre-Dame) trails. The fat bike hype has indeed reached Parc Jean-Drapeau too – and it’s an ideal place to experience what this winter bike and its giant tires can do in the snow.  

Quartier du canal and Pôle des rapides

Real sledding enthusiasts know to head to the city’s Southwest. Parc Le Ber in Pointe-Saint-Charles boasts a sledding hill that is rarely overrun with sledders (easy access from Ash Street, bring your own sleds). For warm-up breaks head to Café Bloom on Du Centre Street and Le Trou north of the Canal for beverages and bagels. Continue your visit west along Notre-Dame Street to taste the exquisitely delicious creations of Patrice Pâtissier or the scrumptious cereal bowls and brunch dishes at Barley. A little further, by car, metro or bus, Newman Hill at Parc Ignace-Bourget features several sledding corridors where you ride your own sled for free or rent snow tubes (online, the day before) – an outdoor adventure at a low cost. 

West Island wildlife

Discover an array of Québec wildlife in a natural and enchanting setting, without even leaving the island of Montréal. About 30 minutes from downtown, the Ecomuseum Zoo is home to otters, ducks, wolves, foxes, owls and more animals. No car to get you to the West Island? Make it a train getaway (around 30 minutes from Vendôme station; budget for a short taxi ride on arrival). As with many outings this spring break, remember to buy your tickets in advance! And have fun! 

Martine Rhéaume

Martine Rhéaume is a strategic writer. The texts she writes or edits are elegant yet precise, direct yet pleasant. Martine first got a degree in musicology before getting an advanced graduate diploma in Marketing Communications (HEC Montréal, 2016). She worked as an editor, then an advertising copywriter for TC Médias Livres from 2011 to 2016. Since 2017, Martine is editor in chief at C2 Montréal.

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