Montreal is a place that is perfectly suited for both adults and kids. Being that this was a business trip, I see why the city was selected for professionals, however there were tons of fun things to do with the kiddos. But, sadly, the city overall did not live up to my expectations. I don’t know what I had built up in my head. Maybe it was envisioning a little bit more of what Quebec City has to offer or I took those other references of “feeling like you’re in Paris” a little too literally. And it was cold last Fall. Like really cold. Like Chicago at the end of October cold. For this California girl, it didn’t make for the most pleasant experience. Fortunately, we had been to London earlier in the year and were all set with our layers, jackets, and boots.
We stayed at the Le Centre Sheraton Montreal Hotel which is situated in the business district, close to a couple of different metro stations for optimal convenience. Sheraton is always a spot-on choice for a host hotel. The arts district is quite close and a couple of blocks up, there’s plenty of shopping along Rue Saint Catherine. The Montréal Canadiens’ hockey stadium is just across the street. We had every type of weather; wind, rain, light snow flurries, and brilliant sunny skies.
The walk to the gothic Basilique Notre Dame was a quick one and included a stop to a great café for lattes and croissants. I’ve been to quite a few churches and cathedrals in Europe and the Basilique was one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. Simply breathtaking inside and, fun fact, it included an extravagant chapel in the back area where Celine Dion was married. From there we hopped on the metro and headed down towards Town Hall and the port area. We discovered a secret garden and ate crepes and French onion soup for lunch after shopping for souvenirs in the Vieux Montreal area (supposedly the authentic French part). All of the activities down by the waterfront were pretty much shut down at this time year (early October), however we had a great time with the kiddo at the Centre des Sciences de Montreal, complete with animatronic dinosaurs, an archaeology center, and an IMAX theater. We walked back through Chinatown and had some great dishes in a busy, authentic eatery.
During our other free day (I tend to spend more time at conference sessions when I’m not presenting), we took the metro to The Biosphere, which is a fun way to spend some rainy hours learning with the kids about environmental issues and they had some really cool exhibits for the adults. From there, we hopped back on the metro to the vast area that includes The Botanical Gardens, The Biodome, and Montreal Olympic Stadium. Make sure you have your walking legs to experience all of this. We started out walking past the Olympic Stadium which looks much cooler from far away. It’s from the 70’s and needs some upkeep but still a very iconic and impressive photo-op. The Biodome (which I kept getting confused with the Biosphere) plays host to several different environments and houses many different types of wildlife including otters, alligators and penguins. I’m a sucker for a good gift shop and theirs has a ton of fun, educational stuff to take home. Although it was quite cold that day (at least it wasn’t raining), we spent a lot of time at The Botanical Gardens. They had an entire section set up for kids that was Fall/ Halloween themed including a playground, crafts, and games. It was too adorable to see all the little ones all bundled up and waddling around the place. We took sometime to go into the indoor area of the Botanical Gardens where they had a witch telling scary stories and a display of elaborately decorated pumpkins. The most visually stunning part of the gardens was the lantern displays in the Japanese and Chinese gardens. Massive, brillantly colored dragons rose out of the ponds and vibrant horses lined pathways. I’m sure it was quite a sight after dark when they were all lit up.
I’ll have to say, we ate pretty well in Montreal. Umm, did you see that pulled pork poutine? Poutine burgers, amazing Italian, and my favorite breakfast dishes were abundant in the city. Crescent Street, walking distance from the Sheraton, had several great options for casual and nice dinner spots. Our must- visits are listed below.
Breakfast & Coffee: Cafe Difference, Eggspectation, Melk
Lunch: Chez Suzette Crepes & Fondues
Dinner: Weinstein & Gavino’s, Burger Bar
Please let me know the other areas I should have seen while in Montreal. I know I missed some well-reviewed areas and I would love to have some more recommendations in the case I find myself there again!