Guided Tour: Ecomuseum
Address: 21125 St. Marie Rd., Ste. Anne de Bellevue (view map)
Cost: Adults (age 16 to 64), $12.50, age 3 to 15, $7.50, free for age 2 and under.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, closed Dec. 25
Parking: Free parking lot in front.
The Ecomuseum in Ste. Anne de Bellevue is a beautiful fall destination for parents with young children. It’s a private, nonprofit wildlife park that houses animals from the St. Lawrence River Valley area, including deer, caribou, bears, raccoons, porcupines, foxes, otters, turtles, plus beautiful owls and birds of prey (eagles are really massive!).
What’s great about the Ecomuseum is the low-key, natural setting. Once you walk through the museum’s main centre, you’re back outside and ready to stroll trails and boardwalks that lead through the animal enclosures. In the fall, you’re surrounded by the changing leaves, and get to observe many animals native to Canada. A caribou with a crazy set of antlers made an impression on our kids during our most recent visit; in other visits, they loved getting an underwater view of otters as they twist, turn and play in the water.
The walkways are wide and stroller friendly, although there are a few stairs along the way. A double stroller may be hard to manage, so a baby carrier/backpack might work better. Children about 2.5 and up should be able to walk the circuit by foot. It takes 30 minutes to an hour to walk (depending on how much you want to see). Although children three and under may not stay interested in the animals for the whole time, they’ll be happy to explore the area, climb rocks, collect new sticks, etc., just as they would at a park. Once you’ve done the animal circuit, you can always go to the playground area in the parking lot, which has a slide, row-boat and tunnel.
Natural, non-commercial, educational fun
There is a gift shop at the Ecomuseum, but the whole place feels very non-commercial and geared toward educational fun. There is an indoor lunch room with lots of tables and chairs where you can eat food that you bring. Aside from a couple of snack- and drink-vending machines, there’s no food for sale on site.
The Ecomuseum is open year-round and hosts a number of activities for kids of all ages. In October, for example, the Ecomuseum hosts mom-and-tot story time on Friday, Oct. 2 and 16 at 10 a.m. There is also Breakfast with the Bears, which includes continental breakfast, a special presentation on black bears, and preparation of the bears’ breakfast. It’s held on Oct. 17, 18, 24 and 25 from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for age 3 and up.
Read more about Ecomuseum events here: http://www.ecomuseum.ca/Ecomuseum_Calendar_of_Events.pdf