Guided Tour: La Ronde

La Ronde Address: 22 Macdonald Rd., Île Ste. Hélène (view map)
OPENING DAY: May 19, 2018
Daily Tickets:  Various ticket prices starting at $49.99; age two and under, free (details)
Season Passes: There are many pricing options starting at $54.99 for a season pass (details)
Season Dining Pass: Various options available starting at $71.99 (details)
Hours: Usually 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily. Open till 11:30 p.m. for fireworks shows. Please check online as days and times fluctuate in the early season
Public transport: Jean Drapeau Station, 767 La Ronde bus; Papineau Station, 769 La Ronde bus
Parking: There are several pay parking lots on Île Ste. Hélène.
Telephone: 514-397-2000
Website: laronde.com

 

You could call it a dry run for Disney. Montreal's La Ronde is the closest thing we've got to the world-famous family mecca, so consider your first family visit an introduction to navigating amusement parks.

They're expensive.
They're huge.
The lineups are long.
The expectations are high.
The potential for great memories – and meltdowns – is everywhere.
But, hey, better to find out here than in Orlando, right?

A roller coaster of a day
Overall, the kids (age 2 and 4.75) had fun and our older son would definitely want to go back. The two-year-old also had fun, but could just as well have been at a neighbourhood park. Mom and dad? We would be in no rush, but we bought mid-season passes, so we're sort of obligated to go at least one more time. We would consider taking only our older son next time, or doing an early evening visit when (hopefully) the crowds have thinned out. The park seems best suited for about age five and up, because kids that age will be better able to enjoy the rides, handle lineups and last the whole day (no need for naps).

What we liked about La Ronde

  • There are about 12 rides that are appropriate for all ages (but not necessarily for pregnant women), including old-fashioned carousels, rides that rise and spin, spinning tea cups and a mini-train. On these rides, parents have to accompany children who are under 36 inches tall. Most of these rides are located in one area, called Au Pays de Ribambelles, which is conveniently close to the main entrance. There are also children's shows in this section hourly from noon to 7 p.m. (presented in French only).
  • In terms of food, there's a huge McDonald's right in the family area. Outside the family section, there are tons of other restaurants including Fines Poutines, Lafleur,, Subway and Pizza Pizza. There's also no shortage of concessions selling candy, cotton candy, popcorn, popsicles and ice cream. Don't pick the "healthy food" battle at La Ronde – you'll most certainly lose. 
  • Aside from the rides, there is a small playground area where you can take younger siblings who may not have the patience for lineups.
  • In the main park area, there are more rides suitable for older children, as well as an elevated train/monorail for all ages. The 20-minute train ride is a good idea because it gives everyone a break and an overview of the whole park.

What we didn't like about La Ronde

  • On most days, the park doesn't open until 11 a.m. Since most young children are up at about 7 a.m., it's a drag to have to kill time until 11 a.m. before getting the day started.
  • We arrived at opening time on a Sunday, and then stood in line for around half an hour to buy tickets. By the time we got into the park, the kids were impatient and getting hungry. All of the rides in the children's area already had lineups (about 10 minutes each). Our kids had fun on two rides before being seduced by McDonald's.
  • After lunch, we tried a few more rides, but the kids needed more and more cajoling as lineups got longer. That's when ice cream comes in handy. After three hours at the park, we gave up on the last ride we wanted to try because the line just wasn't budging.
  • The park no longer allows patrons to bring outside food to the park (water and baby formula is permitted).

Game Plan

If you can, plan to go on a weekday when lineups are presumably shorter than on weekends or holidays. Due to the fact that the park opens at 11 a.m., parents with children who still nap after lunch may want to consider going in the late afternoon and staying through dinner time.
Don't go if it's very hot outside: There are shaded areas, but when you're stuck in line, there's no escape from the heat.
Buy tickets online: There are often special discounts if you order online; plus (as long as you have a printer to print the ticket), you don't have to wait in line when you arrive.
Bring your own stroller or wagon (although you can rent them there).
Catch the fireworks: La Ronde is a great place to see the annual series of summer fireworks displays, but they're held at 10 p.m., which is pretty late for young children.

This article was published in May, 2013 and updated in May, 2018