Montreal in the Fall
In the fall, I get the “7-week itch”. The kids are back in school, we are knee-deep in sports, homework and after-school activities. I feel like the family could use a quick vacation to regroup and there is no better, or closer place, to do it than Montreal. Did you know it is the second largest primarily French-speaking city in the world? In a way, traveling there feels like a trip to Europe when it is only a trip over the border.
Our family frequently visits Montreal. We would actually like to get there more; there is so much to do. Montreal is a city filled with history, science, art and fabulous food. Here are some suggestions for fun in the City of Saints:
Let’s just talk about the food for a moment, the public food markets in particular. I think the vendors must get up at 2:00am just to make sure their displays look so artistically beautiful. There are four major markets: Jean-Talon, Atwater, Maisonneuve and Lachine. I’d highly recommend working a stop at one of them into your trip.
If going out to eat is more your style and you need a kid-friendly suggestion, try the Deville Dinerbar on Stanley Street. With a nostalgic, yet hip vibe, this place serves up huge portions and awesome shakes. Reserve a booth or sit at the luncheonette style counter.
You may, or may not, be familiar with Montreal’s Underground City. It a vast nexus of pedestrian tunnels and walkways below downtown that connects shopping centers, attractions, and the metro. What you need to know is that it will enable your family to get around the city without ever having to go outside if the weather isn’t cooperating. Check out this full-size, indoor ice skating rink called the Atrium Le 1000 that you will find in the Underground City. There are skate rentals (smallest kid size is 9) and 15 restaurants surrounding the rink. Perfectly comfortable inside on a snowy, icy cold day day!
When the kids were younger we never got away with a trip to Montreal without going to the Biodôme. Why? Because there are Penguins, that’s why. If you can drag your kids away from these guys, be sure to check out the 7,000+ other animals that live there as well.
Exploring Montreal by bike is a great choice. We’ve biked along the paths around downtown. There is a huge network of connecting bike lanes, paths, and trails enabling riders to explore the city. This map will show you how that works downtown.
When you have kids, biking in a park that has a restaurant is an excellent choice! You know kids, they always need a snack, drink or the bathroom. Parc La Fontaine has this adorable bistro with indoor and outdoor seating, that offers small meals, desserts, and drinks. There is no kids menu per se, but I always like to have the option of something, rather than nothing.
Every fall, for two months, the Botanical Gardens are lit up with The Magic of Lanterns. This is a must-see in my book. If you can, I would recommend going during the week when it is less crowded. Also purchase your tickets online in advance to avoid the long lines at the front gate. If you are traveling with younger kids, this is not a particularly stroller friendly event. I would suggest carrying them in a child carrier instead.
If you don’t make it up to Montreal until wintertime, check out the Montréal en Lumière Festival, one of the largest winter festivals in the world. It closes on the last night with Nuit Blanche (all-nighter) which has 200, mostly free activities that are all linked together by a free shuttle service. There is music, dance, rides, art exhibitions and more. I went a few years ago and was totally blown away. The whole city is absolutely alive with excitement.
Where to Stay
When I think about booking a vacation with my family, staying in a hotel room always leaves me feeling a bit hesitant about the prospect of our impending trip. Not because I don’t want to travel with them, quite the contrary. I would gladly be away with them for weeks at a time. But with a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy, sharing one room with so many beds and rollaways becomes overcrowded really quickly. There is such a thing as a family being too close.
By the time I price out booking two rooms it is actually more cost effective to consider home or apartment rental. More often than not, you can get a whole home for less than the price of a single hotel room. Plus homes often come with a kitchen, washer/dryer, wi-fi, free parking and many other perks that are usually considered add-ons at a hotel and will add up quickly!
HouseTrip.com has a nice selection of rental properties in Montreal. You can find anything from a studio apartment or a 3 bedroom home. You can find rentals near Mont-Royal or on the Golden Square Mile. I recently stayed in one of their homes in Playa del Carmen, Mexico that was beautiful. I think next time we head up to Montreal we will definitely check them out.
Disclosure: the post was brought to you with thanks and support from HouseTrip. The information and experiences are as always, entirely my own.