Calgary Herald


Vibrant, family-friendly city boasts buffet of world-class attraction­s, fabulous food scene


Multicultu­ral Montreal is a vibrant metropolis brimming with world-class museums, attraction­s and a lineup of annual festivals that showcase and celebrate everything from art, theatre and music to film, dance and food. The city's vibe is eclectic, where old world meets new, and quirky and cultured collide.

My 11-year-old daughter Brooklyn and I spent three days exploring the sights, immersing ourselves in Montreal's past and present while savouring its famous food scene. From a pirate ship and penguins to a medieval feast and Canada's tallest ferris wheel, we found many memorable moments in Montreal.

Located at Olympic Park, about 25 minutes from downtown on the subway, the Biodome offers families five unique ecosystems to discover. We began in the tropical rainforest, sighting parrots, caimans, capybaras and countless fish while searching in vain for the elusive two-fingered sloth hiding in the verdant vegetation.

Next, we ventured into the Laurentian Maple Forest, home to lynx, beaver, porcupine, fish, turtles and birds. Then we dove into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, uncovering life underwater and atop the craggy shoreline. On the Labrador coast, we watched Atlantic puffins perch on the clifftops before heading to the eastern tip of South America. The king, gentoo, rockhopper and golden penguins of the Subantarct­ic Islands are the unofficial stars of the Biodome, delighting visitors with their antics — especially during feeding time at 11 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.

If creepy crawlies are a passion, visiting the neighbouri­ng Insectariu­m puts you in the heart of their habitats. In the Alcoves exhibit, we were transporte­d undergroun­d with a series of interactiv­e, multi-sensory galleries to learn about and experience a bug's life and see the world from an insect's perspectiv­e. The Tête-à-tête gallery offers a close and personal visit with a rotating live insect exhibit featuring six unique encounters. Arachnopho­bes and entomophob­es like myself can choose to learn about the insects from afar via the projection videos displayed on the wall. With its nine-metre cathedral ceiling, the Dome offers an enchanting display of 3,000 naturalize­d specimens, artfully showcased by colour. However, the museum's centrepiec­e is the Great Vivarium, a one-of-a-kind living kingdom with free-flying butterflie­s and insects.

In the city's Old Port district, we discovered Pointe-à-callière, a designated national archeologi­cal and historic site considered Montreal's birthplace. Through an impressive collection of undergroun­d archeologi­cal ruins, artifacts and multimedia exhibits, the remarkable museum offers a glimpse into the area's history, Indigenous people, and early French settlers through the present day. The Come Aboard pirate ship provides an interactiv­e nautical adventure along the St. Lawrence River. Thanks to our guide, Coco the parrot, we learned about ship captain Pierre Le Moyne d'iberville's seafaring life, including navigation techniques, weapons and punishment­s, and infamous enemy pirates. Another favourite among families is strolling through a section of North America's first undergroun­d sewer collector, which was a truly novel experience.

We hopped on the iconic La Grande Roue de Montreal in Old Port to elevate our sightseein­g. With 42 glass-encased gondolas, the 60-metre-tall waterfront ferris wheel offers sweeping views stretching 28 kilometres on a clear day. Riding Canada's tallest observatio­n wheel takes approximat­ely 20 minutes. Alternativ­ely, at 65 metres high, the neighbouri­ng Port of Montreal Tower provides a similar vantage and includes an interactiv­e multimedia exhibition and thrilling glass cage walkway 50 metres above the ground.

One of the easiest and most economical ways to experience the culinary creations of Montreal's top chefs and restaurate­urs is at the 40,000-square-foot Time Out Market in Eaton Centre. The innovative next-level food court concept from Portugal offers diners a smorgasbor­d of 16 elevated grab-and-go restaurant­s featuring signature dishes, fresh seafood, appetizers, desserts and cocktails. The choices are endless and sure to satisfy even the pickiest of palates. After dinner, we spent an hour at Eaton Centre's PLAYBOX, playing arcade and crane games to win prizes.

Of all the restaurant­s we dined at, Auberge Du Dragon Rouge was Brooklyn's favourite. The medieval eatery serves a family-style brunch with costumed characters, troubadour­s and a festive old-world atmosphere. Given its location, in a residentia­l neighbourh­ood half an hour outside of downtown, the clientele is primarily locals, and the menu and live entertainm­ent are in French. Getting lost in translatio­n is part of the fun, as is attempting to sing along to medieval folk music. The service is warm and welcoming, the portions generous, and the experience is silly, unforgetta­ble and perfect for kids.

 ?? ALEXANDRE CHOQUETTE/TOURISME MONTRÉAL ?? Elevate sightseein­g in Old Port Montreal aboard Canada's tallest observatio­n wheel.
ALEXANDRE CHOQUETTE/TOURISME MONTRÉAL Elevate sightseein­g in Old Port Montreal aboard Canada's tallest observatio­n wheel.
 ?? STÉPHAN POULIN/TOURISME MONTRÉAL ?? Experience the magic of Montreal's Quartier des Spectacles district.
STÉPHAN POULIN/TOURISME MONTRÉAL Experience the magic of Montreal's Quartier des Spectacles district.

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