I love Montreal! The food, the bohemian neighbourhoods, the vibe – even all those vines growing all over the buildings! Montreal in the summer is jam-packed with festivals and events, and it’s about a five hour drive from Toronto so really, there’s no excuse not to go!
For our little jaunt to Montreal with the young kids, we considered beforehand what we might endeavor to do to keep the kids entertained. Sure Old Montreal is interesting; Parc Jean Drapeau a beautiful escape and downtown exciting, but four kids don’t think the same! So for this trip, we decided to seek out a swimming pool, some great parks/playgrounds and a child-friendly place for crepes. Sight-seeing came secondary.
Where to Stay
I have been to Montreal several times, always without children and have always stayed near Crescent Street where all the bars are. However, this time around and for every time hereafter, we booked an apartment through Airbnb.com. What an awesome website. You get to choose from dozens of apartments owned and maintained by regular people; read reviews and save tons of cash! We found a two bedroom apartment, a 2o-minute walk out of the city centre and bordering an awesome park with a playground and splashpad for about $120/night. What a steal! Like many apartments in Montreal, the only issue was a rickety old staircase leading to the front door, but the updated kitchen and location made up for any quirks.
Parks & Pools
Montreal is such a great, accessible city – there are bike lanes all over, many large green spaces and artful public areas. In an effort to just chill out and blend into the city, we decided to walk wherever we wanted to go (fortunately we had a reliable, fold up wagon!) and hang out with the locals a little. So on the first day we trekked to the local pool. Not the greatest idea – first, you have to pay to use the public pools in Montreal ($13 for 4) and they are not heated! We are so spoiled in Toronto I suppose, because none of us wanted to stay. So after about 30minutes we left.
Fortunately, we stayed near a large park, Parc du Faubourgs, that had a climbing structure, splash pad, large fountain and even barrels that the kids used to roll down the hills. You could never do that in Toronto these days! Needless to say, we spent a lot of time at the park!
Walking Around Montreal/Old Montreal/Gay Village
We walked and walked and walked, wagon in tow – in the rain, in the dark and did I mention rain? It poured for a whole day during our trip. So, we grabbed some umbrellas and walked about 30-40 minutes to Old Montreal because a trip to Montreal isn’t complete without heading to the historic city centre. Yes, we were drenched. So we did the tourist thing and went for some poutine that just happened to be in a restaurant that recently got burned down in a fire and was operating from the patio that simply used umbrellas as a roof. It was a very wet day.
The rain eventually stopped as we walked back to our apartment through the Latin Quarter and Gay Village. It was such a nice walk, especially since most of the walk along Ste. Catherine Street was pedestrian only (no cars) with 170,000 pink balls suspended overhead. Gotta love Montreal!
Our other walks led us to a lovely outdoor creperie, through the Latin Quarter that was almost too busy to wheel the wagon through and downtown where all the shopping is.
Mont Royal & Greedy Squirrels
Mont Royal rises like a big hill in the middle of Montreal. It’s the city’s largest green space used for hiking, sports, cycling, picnicking and tobogganing. We had grand visions of packing a lunch and spending the day climbing the mountain (or at least attempting a lofty hike upwards). It didn’t quite happen that way. First, we were pretty confused as to where to go from the parking lot. Where were the hiking trails, what way to walk, any playgrounds? So after a little jaunt in the woods, we decided to have a picnic. Now some picnics are ruined by bees…or seagulls… This was like the picnic of aggressive squirrels! We were surrounded by squirrels – so much so that after everyone wolfed down their fromage sandwiches, we left! Seriously, beware those squirrels at Mont Royal.
photo: Pink Balls
Montreal is such a vibrant city that even a day of rain, cold pools or hungry squirrels couldn’t diminish our excitement. We brushed up a little on basic french, the kids got to experience a different culture; we got to see art and design all over the streets, eat crepes and poutine and roll down hills in plastic barrels. There were entertainers in the squares, movies in the park and graffiti on the buildings. The greatest thing though about any trip is that we all got to spend most of our time outside, exploring and enjoying each other’s company. The 5 hour drive getting there is tough – but so worth it once you arrive!