Just because we live in or visit the city of Montreal in times of pandemic and during the cold season, doesn’t mean we should stay indoors and stay warm. You don’t need to own or rent a cottage in the country to enjoy the joys of winter. Whether on the island or just a few minutes drive away, a host of outdoor activities are available to us. As a good urban mom, here are 6 that I have experienced with my family and that I recommend.
1. Strolling in and around the city of Montreal
Discover Montreal’s winter stations
To brighten up the winter, the city of Montreal has designed 26 winter stations to visit in each neighbourhood. Living downtown, I explored some of them, to the delight of my two little accomplices. A short walk of only about thirty minutes is enough to change the air. Go out and discover the ones near you!
Walking in Mount Royal
Although many parks in Montreal offer pleasant landscapes for a stroll, I love walking in Mount Royal. The place being very popular, I prefer to visit it in the morning or at the end of the day. Admiring the view of downtown from the observatory located at the Chalet du Mont-Royal, with the light of the setting sun, is a very resourcing experience. A good way to decompress after work.
Visit the outdoor gardens of the Montreal Botanical Garden
The outdoor gardens of the Montreal Botanical Garden are open to the public. It is possible to visit them free of charge, every day from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The vast expanses and magnificent landscapes they offer promise you long hikes that are as good for the eyes as they are for your health!
Let yourself be enchanted by Illumi
Until March 7th, you can go and admire the magnificent installations of the Illumi light course, located in Laval, a few minutes from Montreal. Accessible on foot or by car, it offers you the opportunity to enjoy it in the warmth or to venture there. Go there as soon as it opens at 4:30 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. to give you time to come home before curfew. Make it quick. Quantities are limited!
2. Skating in the different parks and arenas of Montreal
Introduce the little ones to skating
Some rinks are more recommended than others to introduce toddlers. The skating rink at Beaver Lake in Mount Royal is one of them. There is also a small corner for little ones. Since access is limited due to the pandemic, it is advisable to go there in the morning, starting at 8 am. Otherwise, lines of 60 to 90 minutes may form.
We had to turn back on our last visit because of the traffic. Fortunately, we found a small neighbourhood skating rink where my daughters were able to practice. Several other rinks located in large parks in Montreal allow children to practice skating without the risk of being pushed around. Here are the best ones recommended by the city.
Favour arenas in cold weather
When the mercury drops several degrees Celsius below zero, facing the cold is not the best option, even less in the company of our offspring! My favorite indoor rink for kids is the Atrium du 1000.
Unfortunately temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it normally offers mornings for families and young children, which can be practiced on cute penguin-shaped learning aids. A mascot representing this friendly animal is also present on weekends and vacations.
Fortunately, neighbourhood arenas offer free services. This is the case of the one in Outremont, which we tried during the holidays. Welcoming only 22 people at a time during the pandemic, you have to arrive early and expect to be able to skate at the next available time slot. A coupon is then given to families who are denied access so they can come back later and keep their priority. You can inquire about services in other arenas in town. Here is the updated list.
3. Skiing in and around some of Montreal’s parks
Take a ride of the Botanical Garden’s outdoor gardens
The Montreal Botanical Garden offers a three-kilometre circuit of groomed trails where cross-country skiers can practice their favourite winter sport. From sunrise to sunset, the snowy trails that cross the Arboretum invite sports enthusiasts to explore them. For an extended circuit, the trails connect with those of Maisonneuve Park. A great way to make the fun last!
Rent equipment for children free of charge
Thanks to an initiative by the City of Montreal, children aged 4 to 17 are benefiting from free snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals this winter in several parks. This is the case in Mount Royal Park, among others, which offers an online reservation service for snowshoes and cross-country ski equipment (boots, skis and poles) for adults and children wishing to discover its trails.
- This offer is only available to residents of the Island of Montréal.
- Children must be accompanied by an adult.
- Maximum of 4 free loans per family per 7-day period.
Parents can rent their equipment at a cost of $20 for 2 hours. For children who are not residents of Montreal, the rate is $18 for 2 hours.
Explore the city’s most beautiful trails
The island of Montreal is full of parks and little corners of nature, allowing outdoor enthusiasts to find what they’re looking for without having to leave the island. The City of Montreal offers the best cross-country ski trails in the city in the following article.
Introduce children to downhill skiing less than 20 minutes from Montreal
More precisely, it takes exactly 17 minutes to get to the Mont-St-Bruno ski resort from the Jacques Cartier Bridge. The mountain, located on the south shore of Montreal, offers the possibility of going skiing with the family and teaching alpine skiing to your children without breaking the bank. In fact, it costs only $17.50 for a 4-hour ticket for children aged 5 and under. The same rate is charged to parents who accompany them to the conveyors serving the beginners’ slopes.
A great way to assist toddlers and introduce them to this beautiful sport in times of pandemic, when group and private ski lessons are suspended. And believe me, after 4 hours in the squat and snowplow position, your legs will have gotten their money’s worth and your kids will have enjoyed it immensely. A little break in the enchanted forest, a fairy-tale glade specially designed for families, will be well deserved!
Online reservations required. For more info
Unfortunately closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, la Pente à neige, a small hidden treasure located in the South-West of Montreal, normally offers ski and snowboard lessons. Hoping for a return after the pandemic, this is a place where Montreal families can enjoy board sports in abundance. Here is the link to sign a petition contributing to its return.
4. Snowshoeing in Montreal’s most beautiful parks
As mentioned earlier, several Montreal parks offer free outdoor equipment rentals, including snowshoes, to children aged 4 to 17 Island residents. For their parents and non-residents, the costs remain very reasonable, approximately $20 for 2 hours. In addition to the Mount Royal trail, vast natural areas can be explored in all four corners of the city. The nature parks are part of this and promise a change of scenery without having to leave the city of Montreal.
5. Sliding in and around Montreal
Taking to the slopes of Mount Royal
Being a native of Mont-St-Hilaire and enjoying the mountains, I am sold to Mont-Royal and its park where one can practice various family winter activities, including free sliding or tubing.
Overlooking Lac aux Castor, the center offers 4 wide freestyle and 4 tubing trails, which can be rented for only $6 for children aged 4 to 11 and $10 for those aged 12 and over. Crazy carpets can also be rented for 6$ for 2 hours. Fun and laughter guaranteed!
Explore the city’s best parks to slide through
For thrills, Francesca-Cabrini Park in Hochelaga and Pélican Park, located in the Rosemont district, are the parks of choice, as the slopes are a little steeper. The Francesca-Cabrini park was once an alpine ski center. As for the Pelican Park, you can take advantage of the loan of sports equipment.
To slide with a view of the iconic Olympic Stadium, Morgan or Les Hirondelles parks are recommended. For more information, here are the best slides suggested by the City of Montreal
Participate in the Polar Rendez-vous
Just a few minutes by car on the South Shore, the city of Sainte-Catherine invites you to its Polar Rendez-vous from January 16 to February 14. In addition to the novelty of the year being the illuminated snow slide, a half km illuminated skating trail, a 10.4 km cross-country skiing trail and a 2.5 km snowshoeing trail promise to make you enjoy the pleasures of winter. A skate, snowshoe and snow tubing rental center is also on site.
6. Building a snowman
Finally, as soon as the first snowfalls, nothing is easier and more accessible than building a snowman. It’s a good excuse to go out and get some fresh air with the kids, if only for 30 minutes. The City of Montreal has launched a snowman or snow sculpture contest for families, but also for any individual or group wishing to participate.
Some of you may have noticed all the cheerful characters and the different snow structures that have grown in Montreal parks since the last snowfall. Even my family, living downtown, managed to find a little corner in the backyard to spontaneously make a snowman. However, we’re going to skip our turn for the contest!
7. Go for a dog sled ride
This activity inspired by the Quebec roots of woodland trappers makes you feel like a tourist in your own area! This is a great outdoor outing to do in your family bubble, without having to go too far from the city. Only 45 minutes from Montreal, Laforce Expedition allows you to live this fabulous experience. In addition to giving you a warm welcome, this passionate team of guides will teach you how to drive the sleds and how to approach the friendly dogs, while supervising you in complete safety during the ride. The family package costs only $180 for a 50-minute tour, so it would be crazy to miss such a great deal!