Things to do with babies and toddlers
This article was updated on July 2, 2019.
Anyone who has traveled with a baby or toddler knows that there are challenges involved, to say the least, but whether you’re in Montréal with a newborn or a new walker, you’ll find plenty of baby-friendly places to go and pint-sized things to do.
Parks and nature
In summer or in winter, there's always something to do with kids on a family vacation in Montréal. The city's many parks and green spaces provide places for free-form play for the small set. Any time of year, explore Mount Royal Park, whether you stroll its winding path to the top or bus up to Beaver Lake and the Kondiaronk lookout, where you'll not only find an incredible view of the city but a café, seating and bathrooms in the chalet. Picnic and play in the playground in Parc Jeanne-Mance at the base of the mountain or go over to Parc La Fontaine in the Plateau, where you can see performances at the park’s open-air Théâtre de Verdure.
All year round, families flock to the environment-focused Space For Life complex: walk through the Montréal Botanical Garden greenhouse and its sprawling grounds – in early spring, watch butterflies at the Butterflies Go Free event, see brightly-hued lanterns in autumn, and listen to music outdoors in summer. Watch the antics of lynx, otters, bats, penguins and more wildlife at the Montréal Biodome, reopening in late 2019 after extensive renovations, and squeal at the Montréal Insectarium's creepy crawlies (closed for renovations). Or go for a dip at the Olympic Pool and the indoor wading pool next door. And over in the West Island, spot all kinds of animals native to Québec at the conservation-focused Ecomuseum Zoo.
Outdoor events and markets
Montréal's pubic markets and seasonal outdoor markets and spaces offer a variety of local food, drinks, entertainment and family-friendly activities. In summer, check out morning and afternoon activities for kids at Jardins Gamelin outside Berri-UQAM metro station, POP Montréal’s Marché des Possibles in Mile End (close to toddler-friendly snacks like bagels), Village au Pied-du-Courant near the Jacques-Cartier Bridge and the Old Port’s Marché des Éclusiers.
Summer action sports event JACKALOPE keeps kids on the go with sports, entertainment and other activities at the Esplanade of the Olympic Park and features chill-out zones plus food trucks to keep everyone fed, while in winter, the snow sports of BARBEGAZI are a sight for little eyes to see. Winter markets and outdoor holiday events like Christmas in the park and festival MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE keep the parks and city streets bright and shiny with performances and free kids activities. Escape the city in Parc Jean-Drapeau, a short metro ride away and host to numerous events, including family-oriented Week-ends du monde, one of the many free things to do in summer in Montréal, and wonderful winter festival Fête des neiges de Montréal, among the city's free winter activities.
When it comes time to wind down and get a bite to eat, Montréal has parents covered. Melons & Clementines and Biscuits & Confetti in the neighbourhood of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, west of downtown, and Westmount, are an upbeat oasis for parents of babies and small children. Nearby, find Studio Jabberwocky, a creative space for kids ages 0 to 8. More excellent places to feed babies and for toddlers to eat and play: Café Ze Yéti and Café Bébé Lala in the Plateau; Caffe della Pace in Outremont; Cafe Sfouf and Le Milieu café and art studio in the Village; and Bouge Petit Café on Papineau Avenue. At the end of the day, sleep tight at family-friendly hotels.
Wading pools and splash pads
In summer, beat the heat at the city's swimming pools and beaches and at splash pads and wading pools. Find wading pools at centrally located Parc Jarry, Parc Jeanne-Mance and Parc Sir-Wilfrid-Laurier as well as in neighbourhoods across the island, including at Parc Jean-Drapeau's Aquatic Complex and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce's Trenholme Park. Check out splash pads at Parc Sœur-Madeleine-Gagnon in Little Italy, Parc Saint-Michel in Mile End and Parc Luc Durand behind Bibliothèque Marc Favreau, as well as even bigger splash pads at Parc du Père-Marquette, Parc de Normanville and Parc Lalancette. When it’s time to re-fuel, try some of Montréal’s many great places to eat with kids in Montréal, and, of course, locally made ice cream and other frozen treats!
Stimulate growing minds in the Quartier des spectacles area downtown, host to numerous kid-friendly festivals. Among Montréal's many major summer festivals, MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUE delights with world-class circus performances indoors and outdoors, while music fills the streets during the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal and comedy fest Just For Laughs features a playful kids zone, street performances and a parade. La TOHU hosts circus shows and activities made for high-energy toddlers. Geordie theatre specializes in theatre for kids. Maison Théâtre programs events and shows for toddlers, pre-schoolers and older kids. Take a break with a book and stay for story time at Librairie Drawn & Quarterly (one of the city's many great bookstores), at the Grande Bibliothèque downtown or any of the Montréal's kid-friendly libraries.
Babies and toddlers aren't left out of the many indoor activities for families in Montréal. Kid-friendly museums and galleries abound – and many offer free entry to kids 12 and under. Take a family tour at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, where little kids can make art in workshops on the weekend. See history from a pint-sized perspective in interactive exhibitions at Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, featuring multimedia shows and family activities. The McCord Museum hosts weekend story hours and free parent-and-tot activities on the last Wednesday of the month. Older toddlers can experiment, play and explore with hands-on activities and exhibitions at the Montréal Science Centre. Go full steam ahead on Exporail / The Canadian Railway Museum's trains. And watch toddlers' eyes light up when they see the dinosaur skeletons and fossils at the Redpath Museum.
Among Montréal's family-friendly winter activities, Santa's Kingdom at Complexe Desjardins stands out as an entertaining indoor escape, featuring a mini train, carousel and visits with Santa and his elves. And any time of year, take playtime up a notch at massive indoor amusement parks just for kids: not far from central Montréal find Kazoom Café, Kidzilla Fun, while just off the island of Montréal kids run free at WooHoo!, Funtropolis and Zig Zag Zoo.
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.