Wonderful winter activities for families in Montréal

Bundle up and get ready to have some serious family fun this winter in Montréal. Ice skating, sledding, snow tubing and all kinds of winter activities and festivals make outdoor adventuring lively and memorable. While indoors, hands-on museum exhibitions, circus performances, live music and more spark young minds. And wherever you go, you're sure to find delicious things for everyone to eat!

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Winter playtime outdoors

Along with Montréal's many winter holiday activities for families throughout December, the city serves up all kinds of fun for families throughout the winter season. It's easy to go ice-skating as a family in Montréal, no matter anyone's skating skills. Dress warmly and rent ice skates at the picturesque Old Port of Montréal skating rink, tree-lined Parc La Fontaine rink and at beautiful Beaver Lake in Mount Royal Park, where you can also rent sleds, snowshoes and cross-country skis and even go on expert-led park tours. Also go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on the trails of Parc Maisonneuve and Parc Jean Drapeau. And try out snow tubing, snowboarding and more at Pente à neige in Parc Ignace-Bourget. Always a good time in the snow, BARBEGAZI turns the Olympic Park Esplanade Financière Sun Life into a welcoming open-air action sports arena from January 12 to 20: navigate a snowy obstacle course, try out snow skating and fat biking, watch freestyle snowmobile demonstrations and more while eating well at a variety of local food trucks. Every weekend from January 19 to February 10 at Parc Jean-Drapeau, take the kids snow tubing, ice sliding, skating, dog sledding and for a Ferris wheel ride at family-focused Fête des neiges de Montréal, where you'll also find an array of comfort food and warm drinks, live music and performances and other activities. When it’s time to re-fuel, try some of Montréal’s many great places to eat with kids in Montréal. And when kids inevitably ask for hot chocolate, why not go for the best hot chocolate in Montréal?

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City sights and sounds

This year’s Luminothérapie outdoor art installation, Domino Effect, invites us to play with 120 giant, luminous dominoes and make a symphony of sounds while we're at it – find the interactive art in downtown's Place des Festivals from December 11 to January 27. While there, look up to see the colourful animation of 100% Chance of Snow, celebrating winter playtime on building facades throughout the Quartier des spectacles. Get a bird’s-eye view of the city from the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park, on observation wheel La Grande Roue de Montréal, and from 46 floors up at the Observatoire Place Ville Marie. Catch the spectacular Natrel Fire on Ice fireworks in the Old Port on Saturday nights from December 15 to January 5, plus a special New Year's Eve event with music, fireworks and more activities starting in the late afternoon. Throughout Old Montréal, use a smart phone to find the history-illuminating projections of Cité Mémoire. Inside historic Notre-Dame Basilica, wonder at multimedia show AURA. From February 21 to March 3, the city's signature winter festival MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE makes winter feel more than welcome – at festival headquarters in the Quartier des spectacles, you'll find live music, theatrical and circus performances, fascinating art and all kinds of food, drink and activities, including a Ferris wheel, ice slides and Illuminart projections. Epic all-nighter Nuit blanche à Montréal closes out the festival on March 2, when people of all ages venue-hop, explore art in the underground city and dance to music in the streets. And if you're here in mid-March, put on your best green toque and join the crowds downtown on Sunday, March 17 for the Montréal St. Patrick’s Parade.

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Indoor shows and sports

Take a break from winter weather with indoor activities for the whole family, from circus shows to laser tag. In late December, enjoy the magic of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s The Nutcracker at Place des Arts and Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo at the Bell Centre. Another world-renowned circus company, Les 7 doigts, performs Passagers, a tale of train travel and relocation, at La TOHU, followed by the outrageous, multi-troupe gala circus show Coups de coeur from February 20 to March 2. DISNEY ON ICE! presents the antics of Mickey's Search Party from March 7 to 10 at the Bell Centre. Comfortably skate with your family indoors at Atrium Le 1000 downtown or learn the basics of rock climbing at Horizon Roc. Cheer on NHL hockey pros the Montréal Canadiens as they go for the win at home against a roster of opponents in home games at the Bell Centre. Or go for the pro hockey of CWHL champions Les Canadiennes. Watch Major League Baseball in Montréal as the Toronto Blue Jays play the Milwaukee Brewers in pre-season games on March 25 and 26 at the Olympic Stadium – it's also the 50th anniversary of the Montreal Expos, so expect a celebration. And the Harlem Globetrotters bring their good-time, high-energy 93rd Anniversary World Tour to the Bell Centre on March 29. Play video and board games for free in a fun atmosphere during Montréal joue from February 23 to March 10, and watch feature films and shorts at the Montréal International Children's Film Festival from March 2 to 10. The McGill Chamber Orchestra performs with Daphne the Dinosaur on April 11 at Oscar Peterson Hall, or see The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring in Concert on January 11 and 12 at Place des Arts, as well as French-language shows for young audiences all season. Finally, children's music legend Raffi warms our hearts at Place des Arts on April 9.

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Museums, nature and culture

Kid-friendly museums and galleries abound in Montréal – some even offer free entry to kids 12 and under, along with free weekend workshops all winter and spring break activities in early March. Take a kid-friendly tour through the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, see history from a new perspective in interactive exhibitions at the McCord Museum, Stewart Museum and Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, dive into the realm of science at the Montréal Science Centre and IMAX Theatre, and watch kids' eyes light up when they see the dinosaur skeletons and fossils at the Redpath Museum. Explore natural worlds at the Space For Life, featuring the Montréal Botanical Garden greenhouse, winter-ready insects at the Montréal Insectarium and the vastness of the universe at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. At the Ecomuseum Zoo, spot over a hundred animals native to Québec – like bears, otters, wolves, hawks and caribou. Barbie fans can see her style transformations through the decades at the free Barbie Expo downtown, while hundreds of celebrities and historical figures are rendered lifelike in wax at Grévin MONTRÉAL. For those obsessed with trains, go full steam to Exporail / The Canadian Railway Museum. In March, discover the wild artwork of annual event Art Souterrain in the maze-like underground city. And take a break with a book at Drawn & Quarterly's kids bookstore (one of the city's many great bookstores), at the Grande Bibliothèque downtown or any of Montréal's kid-friendly libraries.

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Family day trips

For the adventurous family, explore the regions around Montréal on a day trip out of town. Among the excellent places to ski, snowboard, cross-country ski and snowshoe, check out Mont Tremblant and other mountains in the Laurentians or in the Eastern Townships. Or take a day trip to the breathtaking Lanaudière region with a Bonjour Nature family friendly outdoor tour. Whether you’re in the city or the countryside from late February to early April, be sure to partake in a true Québécois tradition: the sugar shack. Eat sausages, pancakes, tourtière and so much more until you’re full, and go for a horse-drawn sled ride or a peaceful walk through the maple woods.

Robyn Fadden

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.

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