Montreal boasts so many fun things to do with kids, you truly run the risk of exhausting yourself. I admit, during our three days in the city with our 20-month-old toddler, Colin and I messed this up. We got so gluttonous about doing and seeing everything that we accidentally walked 10.5 miles the first day, and 14 miles the second. Whoops! And also: pant, pant, pant… don’t do that.
I’ve put together this guide to Montreal with kids so that you can plan better than we did, taking your time to savor the many delights of the city, while bearing in mind its large size and cornucopia of offerings so you can pace yourself.
1. Start in Old Montreal.
I always advise beginning your sightseeing in the most famous part of the city, so set your sights on Old Montreal: the cute cobblestone streets with buildings dating back to the 1600s!
The cafe-lined pedestrian road at Place Jaques-Cartier is an ideal place to stroll for lunch, admiring the energetic street performers and artists. Note that some of the best hotels are a healthy walk (or train ride) from Old Montreal (use the following affiliate link to click here to see our Montreal hotel) so allow for travel time.
A short walk from Place Jaques-Cartier, you’ll find Montreal’s lovely Notre-Dame cathedral. If you want a good shot of it, arrive several hours after noon, since you can see how the sun washes out photos at or before mid-day. I’m happy to make the mistakes so you don’t have to! Sigh.
(Love beautiful stone buildings? Check out these photos of the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh!)
The museum called Chateau Ramezay, pictured in the first photo of this article and the shot below, has fun costumed employees and a delightful garden. Devi enjoyed swatting at the bright green bushes as he held his Daddy’s hand.
Parents with young children, be warned that many of the pretty little restaurants in Old Montreal have no changing tables in their restrooms. I tried to work around this by switching Devi’s diaper in the bathroom while my little guy was standing up, but he proceeded to unleash a waterfall upon me, then tap dance in the resulting puddle. Pro tip: Pack a change of clothes for baby and parents. (Oy vey… we forgot to.)
Wandering Old Montreal can keep your family happy for a few hours, culminating in lunch. If you’re feeling cultural, there are museums to pop into, most notably the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History, built on the exact spot where Montreal was founded in 1642. See how interactive it is? Devi even got to do some digging for artifacts! You can see by his expression that he was rather perplexed.
After you’ve had your fill of Old Montreal, trot a few blocks towards the Saint Lawrence River to the next neighborhood of child happiness: Vieux-Port.
2. Spend the afternoon in Vieux-Port (Old Port)… and take a boat tour!
At this point, if you have a young child, he or she will either be melting down from exhaustion, or already deep in dreamland in the stroller. Devi was mightily into the former state, and Colin and I were exhausted, too, so we grinned to see the wide green park on the water that is the heart of the Vieux-Port area.
My talented husband rolled the stroller in circles until our little guy conked out, then we collapsed, ourselves, under a tree and fell asleep. (If you’re planning this tactic, bring a towel or sheet, as I did not, and ended up smelling strongly of lawn for the rest of the day. Alternately, if your hotel is nearby, you could just nap there!)
Montreal’s Old Port has an unbelievable amount of attractions for children. Devi was too young to partake, but your kids may be at a perfect age to squeal about this Labyrinth maze game…
Or they might like this choo-choo train that toots its way up and down the port for just a few dollars…
Or you may have an adventurous child who relishes jumping through the air on the epic pirate ship-themed adventure course that overlooks Old Port. I couldn’t get a good picture of it, but trust me, it looks awesome.
Finally, if your child is a brainy bunny, the Montreal Science Centre offers interactive intellectual stimulation. Devi was a big fan of the molecule sculpture directly outside.
To wrap up your time in Vieux-Port, hop on a boat tour with le Petit Navire, which boast a zero-pollution, scenic way to take in Montreal’s skyline from the river. (Boat tours are my favorite! To see a gorgeous one I did in Istanbul, Turkey, click here.)
I warn you, however, that the hot new thing in Montreal is this water jetpack flying contraption pictured below, so if your partner or child is a wild one, they may spot it and beg you to do it the whole rest of the trip! The man we saw was a pro, and did dips and flips like you wouldn’t believe.
Ta da! That wraps up what I’d recommend you tackle for your first day in Montreal. Click here to read the rest of my Montreal to Quebec City articles. For those who have been to Montreal already, do leave your additional recommendations for the area. For those of you who haven’t been yet, what questions do you have? Comment away!
We were guests of Tourism Quebec and Montreal, but all opinions and mischievous babies are my own.
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!