Guided Tour: The Great Pumpkin Ball
Actually, this is not a guided tour of the Great Pumpkin Ball, because we didn't get to it on this year's visit to the Botanical Gardens. Our guys were happiest to be outside, in the Little Monsters Courtyard. This was also their favourite activity last year, but there are a few new attractions at this Halloween-themed playground that stays up through Oct. 31.
The thing with visiting the annual pumpkin display is that it's often crowded and hot in the main exhibition hall. On previous visits, the kids were jazzed to see a few pumpkins, then raced through the rest in under 10 minutes. Also, at the suggestion of visiting the pumpkin display this year, the 3-year-old became incensed that it wasn't an opportunity to decorate his own pumpkin. "Right now."
The Little Monster's Courtyard has enough to keep kids busy for at least half an hour. Throw in a train ride, lunch and you're done. There's a hay maze with tunnels that's great for toddlers up to about age 6. Perfect for a little chasing or hide and seek. There's also a tug-of-war rope setup and an area for doing sack races. (Sibling rivalry advisory: our 3-year-old's inability to secure a sack-racing victory against his 6-year-old brother resulted in a category 4 meltdown.)
But, before that, they loved exploring the freaky forest.
And trampling the wooden wiggly bridge.
Then there are various giant masks set up and chairs in the shape of ghosts, which kids can use as props for taking pictures. For parents who are organized enough – nope, still not one of them! – to bring their own picnic lunch, there's a large tent in the Little Monsters Courtyard, with picnic tables inside. If the kids get tired of the Little Monsters Courtyard, head over to the BuzzGround, the playground outside the Insectarium.
We ended up doing the train ride around the grounds, which allows both parents and kids to relax. We bought sandwiches at the café, which has a beautiful patio.
Montreal Botanical Gardens Great Pumpkin Ball and Fall Activities
Cost: Adults: $14, children 5 to 17: $7, children 2 to 4: $2, free for age 0 to 2.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Address: 4101 Sherbrooke St. E. (view map)
Parking: Pay parking in lot outside; $5/hour, $10/day.