Montreal with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day

by Jo Maeder, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Sep 15th 2010 11:17 AM

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Montreal with Tweens: A Family Vacation

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For those have never taken a family vacation outside the US, a trip to Quebec's city of Montreal with tweens will feel like a visit to a foreign country. Signs and websites are bilingual in French and English, and when you stop at a gas station even the men who look like lumberjacks speak in a foreign tongue. Thankfully, nearly everyone speaks English as well as French and, unlike exorbitant Paris, the exchange rate in Canada to the U.S. dollar is now about par.

Teach your tween the basics: "bonjour," "merci," and "parlez-vous anglais?" Then check out the options below for a perfect family vacation in Montreal with tweens.




Morning

As you plan out the best family vacation in Montreal with your tweens, make sure to start your day early by finding breakfast in a café along the main shopping drags, Rue St. Denis and Boulevard St. Laurent. Then head straight to the Montreal Biodome, which boasts four ecosystems under one roof. Careful, though: on our visit, a worker warned us not to get too close to a monkey-laden tree, "or you may receive a little gift!"

Montreal Biodome is located at 4777 Avenue Pierre-De Coubertin, Montreal, H1V 1B3. There have been ongoing labor disputes in recent months so be sure to contact them at 514-868-3000 to check opening hours.

Another of the top things to do in Montreal with tweens is visit the Insectarium de Montreal. This museum is full of fascinating facts - like how a certain type of wasp paralyzes a tarantula, drags it to its nest, and lays its eggs on it so the young can feed away when they're born. You won't be bringing back any lame mementos either. The gift shop sells everything from glimmering green scarabs made into necklaces to chocolate covered insects.

The Insectarium de Montreal is at 4581 Rue Sherbrooke Est, Montreal, H1X 2B2. Like the Biodome, there have been labor disputes so call 514-872-1400 to check on the status before planning your Montreal trip.

Other great family vacation ideas when in Montreal with tweens include visiting the Botanical Garden and Planetarium. The Botanical Garden has the odd sight of a Volkswagen Beetle covered with flowers in one of its ten greenhouses. It also claims 22,000 plant species and cultivars spread out over 185 acres. There are 4 official gardens: Japanese, Chinese, First Nations, and Alpine. It's located just down the road from the Insectarium, at 4101 Rue Sherbrooke Est, Montreal, H1XÊ2B2. Call 514-872-1400 for opening times. For tweens who like star-gazing and learning about the universe, the Montreal Planetarium is at 1000 Rue St-Jacques Ouest, Montreal, H3C 1G7.

Afternoon

Whichever of the above options you choose for your family vacation in Montreal with tweens, it will take at least the whole morning. Luckily, it's easy to find good food in Montreal. Even the street food is delicious. Hot dogs served with chopped cabbage and Montreal's sweet bagels are worth trying. To continue the French theme, there are many crepe and fondue restaurants. Ask a local for a recommendation. Oh, and a top tip from someone with experience: when eating at a fondue restaurant, be sure to take the beef cube off the slim fondue fork and place it on the non-hot regular fork before eating it.

After lunch, explore the city and find some more fun things to do. In Old Montreal, which is a very charming section of the city, you will find the 19th-century Notre-Dame Basilica at 424 Rue Saint Sulpice. On our last trip we attended a 35-minute multimedia show called "And Then There Was Light!" ($10 adults/$5 children, recommended for age 7 and older) and learned how Montreal and the church came to be. At the end, the many screens disappeared into the ceiling and revealed an ornate, jaw-dropping house of worship with a celestial blue background behind the altar. Call 514-842-2925 for more information on the show. The Basilica is open weekdays 8AM-4:30PM, Saturdays 8AM-4:15PM and Sundays 12:30PM-4:15PM.

L'Oratoire Saint-Joseph (free, donations accepted), on top of Mont Royal, overlooks all of Montreal. The Oratory was finished in 1960 and appears quite modern in comparison to the Basilica. It also houses the heart of Brother André, who campaigned to build it. Tweens will love seeing that.

Between the mystical smell of the wax of countless candles burning and the sight of hundreds of crutches hanging from the ceiling, left by people who no longer needed them, I was moved to tears. The oratory is famous for its miracles and there are a hundred steps that you can climb on your knees while praying for yours. For Christians this is one of the most moving things you can do during your family vacation in Montreal.

Evening

After enjoying some of the most spectacular daytime attractions that Montreal has to offer, plan for some evening festivities at a performance by the Cirque du Soleil, of which Montreal is the world headquarters. It's a phenomenal circus and gymnastic extravaganza and hands down one of the best things to do in Montreal with tweens during the evening. Book online well in advance for the best seats.

Jo Maeder is author of the memoir When I Married My Mother, the funny and poignant true story of leaving her life as a New York City radio DJ to move to the Bible Belt to care for her estranged, eccentric mother. Read her blog on Red Room.


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