Sometimes called "the Paris of North America," Montréal is a captivating city that straddles two worlds: there’s a hint of old Europe, with French accents, Québécois cuisine and cobblestone-lined neighborhoods, but plenty of familiar North American food and shops as well. Montréalers tend to have a soft spot for kids, and families are generally given the royal treatment.
Is Montréal good for kids?
Most children have a blast in Montréal. There are many kid-friendly attractions, from hands-on science museums to amusement park rides within easy reach of downtown. There are spaces where you can look for rainforest creatures, take a trip to the stars and gaze at creepy crawlies all within easy reach of the metro. More active adventures range from cycling, boat rides, and amusement parks. Much-loved parks and green spaces give kids the chance to have some unstructured downtime.
However, it’s not always smooth going in Montréal. The narrow sidewalks and cobblestone lanes of Old Montréal are a challenge for stroller navigation, while the lack of public toilets can lead to frustration. The weather is also no small consideration, with long, cold winters and short, steamy summers – plus a late spring that sometimes means snow is still falling in early April.
Where is best in Montréal for kids?
Old Montréal steals the show, with a number of top kid-approved sites. This is the place for pirate-themed exhibits, ghost tours and waterfront activities (zip lines, jet boats, a Ferris wheel). When hunger strikes, the streets have plenty of bakeries, cafes and other spots for snacking. If you need a break from sightseeing, head up to Parc du Mont-Royal for walking forested trails, picnicking and enjoying some free time by the lake. Another big draw for children is the Olympic District, where you’ll find a biodome, planetarium, insectarium and botanical gardens.
Best things to do in Montréal with babies and toddlers
Learn about nature in the Biosphère
Built for the 1967 World’s Fair, this massive geodesic dome houses a playful environmentally themed museum with lots of fun interactive features for young visitors. Check out nature-themed films designed for youngsters, grab a seat for story time (ideal for ages 5 and under) or head to the ecolab to peer through microscopes. Afterwards, get some fresh air on nearby woodland paths. The Biosphere sits on an island in the St Lawrence, and is an easy metro ride from Old Montréal.
See wildlife in the Biodome
Out in the Olympic District, the Biodome is a futuristic building that houses five different areas, each dedicated to a different ecosystem brimming with plant and animal life. Watch penguins gliding through the water in the sub-arctic section, then warm up in the humid rainforest as parrots squawk overhead and capybaras scurry beneath the undergrowth. Amid the Laurentian maple forest, keep an eye out for river otters, porcupines and a majestic lynx.
Best things to do in Montréal with school-aged kids
Journey into the past at Pointe-à-Callière
One place not to be missed in Old Montréal is Pointe-à-Callière, a history-themed museum with eye-popping exhibitions. Start off with Generations MTL, an impressive multimedia show that brings Montréal to life across five centuries. Older kids will enjoy the exhibition Crossroads, with interactive displays illuminating life in an indigenous village as well as city life under both the French and British. There’s also a hall dedicated to Pirates and Privateers, where you can climb aboard a pirate ship and learn about the tools used for navigation, sailing and of course combat!
Get active at Voiles en Voiles
Speaking of pirates, Voiles en Voiles takes things up a notch, with an adventure park set around faux pirate ships. There are activities here for all levels, including climbing walls, a zip line, bouncy castles, archery and a merry-go-round. The biggest draw though is the collection of aerial ropes courses, rated from easy to extreme, where you’ll don a helmet and harness and make your way over suspended log bridges, through tunnel nets and along hanging beams. Afterwards, you can reward the efforts of your hardworking sea dogs over treats at the nearby Marché Bonsecours – the basement-level Cave à Manger has deliciously buttery croissants and cinnamon rolls.
Best things to do in Montréal with tweens and teens
Ride a jet boat on the St Lawrence
Give the whole family an adrenaline rush on a jet boat ride. Departing from the Old Port (opposite Old Montréal), these jet boats will put a smile on the face of every daredevil-loving kid. There are three tours, including a wild 20-minute adventure called Spin Boating (fairly self explanatory) and the classic 60-minute high-speed ride where you’re sure to get soaking wet, whether or not you opt to wear the provided poncho and waterproof face shield.
Embrace wintertime activities
Don’t let the sub-zero temperatures deter you. Most Montréalers love the winter because there’s so much to do: ice skating on frozen ponds around town (like the Parc La Fontaine in the Plateau district), cross-country skiing on Parc du Mont-Royal and watching hockey matches at the Bell Centre. Afterwards, you can warm up with hot chocolate by the fire and have a hearty meal of poutine – that all-essential comfort-loving Québécois dish of fried potatoes topped with cheese curds, gravy and other ingredients. La Banquise serves up some of the best.
Montréal’s extensive metro system and the city bus lines are the best ways to get around town. Traveling on either is free for kids aged 11 and under riding with an adult. When you’re getting around on foot, a sturdy stroller is handy for negotiating the sometimes uneven pavement (and snow and ice in the winter).