Montreal with kids, Oui Oui! This is going to be a fun travel blog post to write because Montreal is home for me. I was born and raised in the incredible city with deep French and European roots. Montreal is truly a unique place not only to grow up in but also to visit! It’s also a fantastic city to bring your kids to visit too. So, visit to Montreal with Kids? I say YES!
Do you need to know French to get around? NOPE! Montreal is a totally bilingual city and despite what people say, it’s a super friendly city to visit. It’s pretty cool to be immersed in a bilingual place, it makes visiting feeling like you are not in North America. all the different languages, the sounds, the people…it’s such a celebration of multicultural living. What a great opportunity for children to experience this part of Canada and the history. My boys love it.
WHEN TO GO?
Personally if you are going to be visiting Montreal I would highly suggest you do so in the summer. Montreal is always alive but in the summer it’s AMAZING, it’s vibrant, it’s eclectic, it’s hot and it’s got so much going on. There are some pretty epic festivals and events that take place between June and August that you probably want to consider crossing your vacation time over with. I listed some below with approximate times they takes place in the summer…
- If you are a car fanatic, Formula 1 Grand Prix takes place in the month of June. There is more than just the racing going on. The entire downtown turns into a massive party. Everyones fancy vehicles turn up, there are outdoor stages built around the downtown area with live music. Every pub, restaurant and bar is partaking in the fun. It’s really something to see once in a lifetime if you are car obsessed.
- The Montreal International Jazz Festival. I don’t even know what to say…this was my favorite summer event. Typically takes place the end of June and start of July for two weeks of AMAZING music events. There are hundreds of live music concerts and 60% are FREE! So many venues, bars, restaurants have live shows going on but for me the best is the outdoor stages! The shows are so good and the lineup of free shows has got something for everyone. It’s the worlds LARGEST Jazz festival in the WORLD! It’s quite the party!
- For almost 40 years Montreal has been the host of THE JUST FOR LAUGHS Comedy festival. Montreal has been called the funniest city in the world.Just after Jazz festival ends Just For Laughs starts and some of the biggest acts in the world come out to perform for 2 weeks. You can enjoy theatre, stand ups, movies and more.
- Montreal International Fireworks Competition takes place at the end of July every Saturday and Wednesday nights. event was one of my favorites as a kid. Since 1985 Montreal has been hosting countries from all over the world. You can view the fireworks from La Ronde, The old Port, The Jacques Cartier Bridge, Parc Jean Drapeau. We would turn on the radio station designated for the show and watch as the 30-40 minute fireworks performance would dazzle and dance to the music that goes with each event. Each night is a different country that performs. Last time I was in Montreal I took the boys out on a boat (was fairly reasonably priced) where we watched the fireworks right above us! You can catch the boat right out of the Old Port.
- OSheaga is one of the largest music and visual arts festivals in Canada. Located at Jean Drapeau park at the start of the month of August. They set up numerous stages around the park and the event attracts over 130,000 music fans! Over several days over 100 bands will perform.
ARRIVING TO MONTREAL BY PLANE
The Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport is literally 20 minutes from the downtown core. Whether you are renting a car, grabbing an Uber or taking a taxi you are close to where you want to be right from the get go. Taxi will run you about $35-$40.
Where to stay? There are so many beautiful hotels to choose from but if you are coming with littles, you can easily find yourself a superb AirBnb or VRBO. Areas I would recommend, Montreal Downtown, Westmount, Old Montreal, St. Henry, The Plateau, Little Italy… You can’t go wrong with a cute exposed brick loft in the heart of the city.
Of course when we go visit we stay with family. I grew up right inner city but my parents just recently moved out to a spot on the lakeshore (it’s pretty sweet). We can ride bikes right to the old port, kick it in the suburb by the lakeshore which is sprinkled with cute little shops and eateries or I can easily get back to my roots for a night on Monkland Avenue within 10-15 minutes.
WHAT TO DO
There is so much to see and do in Montreal and even more so when you have kids. Getting into all the details would be next to impossible in one blog post but here are a few MUST SEE AND MUST DO’s
First on my list is always going to be, visit the OLD PORT. I can’t even describe it to you in words. It’s literally like stepping back in time with impressive architecture, cobble stone roads, beauty, charm, old churches and European influence. You can eat anything and everything here. You will find some of the best little spots to grab a poutine, the original beaver tail shop, or step onto any terrace for a cold Molson…There are art shops, boutiques galore, street performers, a gigantic Ferris wheel and you can rent bikes, scooters, check out the boats…I can go on…Just go. Ben and I got married in this area, and I would recommend you take a moment to check out the church we got married in, The Notre Dame Basilica. It’s beyond beautiful.
Second would be to check out Little Italy and the Jean Talon Market. One of North Americas largest open air markets. This is also a must do. GO HUNGRY! The food is to die for. We typically try all the things, and if you go at the end of August you’re in luck! It’s CORN SEASON! and nothing beats the corn on the cob from the market. From fresh calamari, incredible gluten free crepes, gelato and more…You can easily spend a couple of hours wandering around and eating. Following our visits we always hit up the surrounding area of Little Italy where the market is located to grab a coffee and cannoli.
Third, restaurants! No place I have been to in North America, other than New York, compares to the food in Montreal. When I moved out to Calgary, this was literally the one thing I missed THE MOST. There are some very famous chefs that have come out of MTL and then there are some low key ma and pa spots that will blow your mind. My last trip out I was lucky enough to hit up some great restos
- Lucille’s Oyster Dive
But for you newbies, you will have to try the famous spots like Fairmont Bagels, Schwartz Deli, Joe Beef, Dunn’s Famous Smoked Meat, Chalet Bar-B-Q…Some not so fancy but each oh so good.
TO DO WITH KIDS
There are so many fun places in and just outside the city but here is my list of go to’s with the kids when I visit. We typically visit at least 2-3 of these places and it’s a full day of fun! You will need to organize transport for these, or rent a car.
Granby Zoo and waterpark (45 min from the city) This Zoo is super interactive and fun. The kids loved every minute. It’s a full day excursion. They also have a pretty amazing waterpark attached to the Granby Zoo with the largest outdoor wave pool in Canada.
Parc Safari (45-1 hour from the city) Similar to Granby but the in addition to the zoo they have a drive through safari experience where you can feed the animals and they come right up to your vehicle. There is also a smaller waterpark but still lot’s of fun.
St. Sauveur Waterslides (45 minutes in the laurentian area) They literally built these waterslides into the side of the ski hill. They have a huge wave pool, lazy river and tons of slides for all ages.
Mont Tremblant (1.5 hours from the city) This is the prettiest town and you do not feel like you are in Canada when visiting. IT’s truly an experience in itself going to Tremblant. I highly suggest you book a night or two as there is tons to do! You can LUGE, Take the gondola up to the top, hike, swim, eat at amazing little spots and more…
A morning at Beaver Lake, rent paddle boats and check out the scenery (you can bus or Uber) My kids loved walking around the are, we packed a lunch and hit the awesome park to play and climb!
Here are some other ideas: La Ronde, Which is a crazy fun amusement park and you can easily take transit to get there. You can also take a day to rent bikes and cruise the city, it’s a super bike friendly place. Montreal has a bike rental system called BIXI. Bixi is a public bicycle sharing system, it was north americas first and largest bike sharing system!
For us, Montreal is our second home. I have a huge family and I love going back to visit my cousins and friends. I take time to scope out the latest restaurants, grab some wine with friends, and hang out by the many pools (public and friends!) We always spend lot’s of time around the family business and visit my dad at TRANZO. Tranzo has been in the family since 1939 and my dad and his cousin have been the owners since the late 70’s. Today, Tranzo, known as an Italian specialty and butcher shop, is located in Notre Dame De Grace or N.D.G (My old Hood). My dad’s famous sausage has won numerous awards and is featured in some of the city’s most prominent restaurants.
Would love to answer any other questions you have, but overall, Montreal is definitely a city that should be on everyones bucket-list, and with kids, I say OUI OUI! COMMENT! Let me know if you have ever been and if so what was your favorite part!