Every city has its quirks and every city has its charm. What you’ll find is that your experience can vary considerably based on your travel companions. It’s one thing when you’re jetsetting around the world as a romantic couple. It’s another thing altogether when you’ve got a rambunctious toddler at your side. We recently made our way over to Montreal with our 1.5 year old and I have a few thoughts I’d like to share about what we learned.
Montreal Is Not Stroller-Friendly
Something that I’ve taken for granted in Vancouver is accessibility. We can wheel around town with our stroller with no real concerns about not being able to go this place or that. Vancouver is filled with elevators and accessibility ramps, which is perfect for strollers and wheelchairs alike. Such is not the case in Montreal.
We opted out of renting a car while there, so we relied heavily on public transit to get around town. It was surprising to see that the vast majority of metro stations lack elevators. If you’re traveling alone with a little one, this can prove awfully problematic. We also found that many “street-level” stores require walking up or down a flight of stairs. You’ll want to keep this in mind and perhaps use a carrier more often.
Scout Your Eateries Ahead of Time
You’ll probably encounter a similar scenario in many major cities, but not all restaurants are going to be exactly kid-friendly. We were told outright by Chef Chuck Hughes’ Garde Manger that they don’t allow children. In choosing where to eat in Montreal, you may need to be more selective. La Banquise, Juliette Et Chocolat, Creperie Chez Suzette and St-Viateur Bagel were all very accommodating.
Take Advantage of Car-Free Areas
It should come as little surprise that your little ones are going to get pretty restless. They’ll want an opportunity to stretch their legs and burn off some of that anxious energy. Thankfully, Montreal has got some open spaces to do that. A good example of this is the Old Port area. A boardwalk lines the area with a number of vendors, a small amusement park is there with some fun rides, and a decent sized playground has been set up a little closer to the water.
You should also check out Espace Pour La Vie to run around the Biodome and explore the botanical gardens too. These are a perfect reprieve from the more hectic city center. A number of parks with plenty of green space can be found just outside the downtown core too.
Education Can Be Fun Too
Depending on the age of your children, education opportunities abound in Montreal. These will get your kids off the streets for a bit, which will be more than welcome if you visit during the colder months. Redpath Museum on the McGill University campus is free (by donation) and offers a good collection of dinosaur fossils, taxidermy specimens and more.
For kids that are a little bit older than my little one, the Montreal Science Centre and Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium are good options too. For more of a cultural or spiritual experience, I’d also recommend both Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal and Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde. Just try to keep those little ones reasonably quiet.
A Remarkably Safe City for Everyone
Whenever you are traveling, safety will always be a concern. And this becomes even more important when traveling with children. The good news is that Montreal has been rated as one of the safest cities in North America. Even when we were walking around some less desirable neighborhoods at night, like just outside of Chinatown, we never really felt threatened or unsafe. If there is a homeless problem, we didn’t see much of it.
For Canadians and Americans who wish to give their children a European-like experience without the transatlantic flight, Montreal is about as close as you’re going to get. Indulge in some delicious food and soak in some of that French culture. Magnifique.