One of the questions I get asked the most by email is about visiting Montreal and what activities/restaurants to visit with young kids. Montreal has two vastly different seasons with the winter bitterly cold and snowy, and the summer sweltering hot and humid.
Although some activities will overlap, I think it’s easiest to talk about visiting during the winter vs. during the summer as they both have their challenges (welcome to Montreal!) So, since it’s February – I’ll start with winter!
First off – winter can be COLD. I am talking it can get to -40C/-40F with the windchill and several feet of snow. You don’t really want to be out in this weather longer than a few minutes, let alone an afternoon of sightseeing outdoors. Keep this in mind when deciding when to come visit! We usually get our first snow in November and hopefully it’s all gone in March.
A few other things to consider:
-It can be difficult to get around in a stroller after a snowstorm. Many Montreal families have a sled to pull their kids around in when it’s really bad.
-It also gets dark here quite early in the winter – around 4:30.
-Old Montreal is a prime tourist area and in the summer it is difficult to navigate with a stroller due to narrow sidewalks/tons of people/cobblestone. In the winter, this might be a bit of a nightmare. I’d try and use the baby carrier if you do want to explore this area. There is however a walkway along the river front which is smooth, wide and paved and should be OK if it’s been cleared of snow and ice.
Biodome: This is the perfect activity with an active toddler/baby. It’s all indoors and is very close to a metro (our underground transit system) if you don’t have a car. It’s at the Olympic Stadium so you’ll get to see that as well and you can ride up to the top of the tower if you want.
Walk on Mont-Royal: Let me be frank – even going up the mountain during the summer with a regular stroller can be tough because it’s gravel. I’d say you have two options. First is to park the car (or take the bus) to the top and wander around up there using a sled. Second is to walk through the cemetery on the paved road (follow the green line if it’s visible). To get there you need to have a car and you’d park at Boul Mont-Royal just above Guy St. This is what my friends and I do if we want to power walk during the summer with the stroller. BUT I have no idea what it’s like during the winter. It could be icy. The path is full of old tombstones which are interesting and you do eventually make it up (but it’s easy to get lost so pay attention once you are up top).
Wander Around the Underground City: Let me just say that this ‘Underground City’ seems to be world famous, but most Montrealers don’t even really know what it is or realize they are in this amazing ‘city’. Basically, it’s a bunch of malls connected underground. If you want to come to Montreal to wander around from mall to mall without stepping outside here’s your opportunity.
Visit a Museum: So, my almost-two-year-old is too old to sit in a stroller and wander around the museum, but not old enough to take part in some of the activities on offer. However, if your child fits the bill there are plenty of museums in Montreal. I’m not going to list them all here, but some of them, like the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, has activities on the weekend. Other major museums that may work include the Insectarium and Science Centre. If you search using ‘museum‘ on The Kid Scoop you get a great listing.
Visit a Sugar Shack: I wrote about my sugar shack experience here if you want to understand what a sugar shack is all about. These are out of town so you’ll need a car and often you have to reserve. Quality varies widely, so you really have to do your homework. Sometimes festivals in Montreal will offer a sugar shack ‘experience’. There is a listing if you search by ‘sugar shack‘ on The Kid Scoop website.
Participate in a Winter Festival: Montreal has tons of festivals celebrating winter. This may be an interesting option if your visit coincides with one. Examples include the Fête des Neiges.
Go Skating: If your child is old enough the Old Port has an outdoor skating rink (which I believe made a brief experience in the movie Blades of Glory). If it’s too cold 1000 de la Gauchetiere has an indoor skating rink and is located downtown.
Hang out in a cool café or restaurant: If your child is content sitting still for a while, check out my listing of kid friendly restaurants.
You can also take a look at my post on things to do in the winter with a toddler. It’s more aimed towards locals, but may offer some suggestions if you are stuck.
I discovered a few of these activities on The Kid Scoop – a great resource for discovering what to do with your kiddos in Montreal. The Kid Scoop has kindly sponsored Roasted, but please note that I would recommend them regardless!
www.thekidscoop.com – The ultimate destination for Canadian families who need to be “in the know” about kids’ activities. We help parents find, plan and organize their kid’s activities, get great deals and more.
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Thanks for the detailed outline. So does the harsh winter time start around the end of November? We thought of being in Montreal for 4-5 days end of November for our Thanksgiving vacation with our 27 month old toddler. Is this enought time to discover the city, especially if the weather is not that great?
We are from Los Angeles and would like to check out a city with some winter weather for a few days:)
Hi! Well we just got snow today which seems to be staying on the ground but it could melt. You never really know – it will probably be cold and we will likely have snow but it’s not a guarantee. Regardless I think 4-5 days is definitely enough time to get a feel for the city. Enjoy your trip!
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