Large parks offer winter fun close to home

The city's parks offer a number of activities for families, including fat biking, kite skiing, tobogganing, snow shoeing and skating

Are you ever stumped about what to do with the kids in the winter? You may take them tobogganing at the local park or go skating for an hour but what do you do for the rest of the day?

It can be a challenge to fill winter weekend days with the kids. So, if you’re looking for a three or four hour excursion to fill a big chunk of the day, where you can get outside and enjoy the winter without driving too far, Montreal’s large parks may be the perfect ticket.

The parks are part of the city’s efforts to conserve and promote its green spaces. Montreal taps a number of organizations, whether they’re privately-owned, publicly-run or citizen-led, to help plan and organize activities and maintain its 1,686 hectares of parks.

With some located in the west, north and east end, you can take your pick. Entry to the parks is free (you must pay for parking) and the majority offer typical winter activities (snowshoeing, tobogganing). Certain activities come with a fee such as cross-country skiing and fatbiking. Families can rent cross-country skis and snowshoes in certain parks. Some of them also have sleds, magic carpets and spikes for safe walking.

PARC-NATURE DE L’ÎLE-DE-LA-VISITATION (Ahuntsic-Cartierville)

On some Sunday afternoons, they do Sunday afternoons by the Fireside, where you’re invited to sit around the fire and take in the ambience. Admission is free. There’s also bird watching, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing, as well as toboggans and carpet sleds available for rent.

Hours: Open everyday from sunrise to sunset
Visitors’ Centre: open until March 29, 2020, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Address: 2425 Gouin Blvd. E, H2B 1X7

Accessible by public transit: Yes (Bus #69)

Phone number: 514-280-6733

Parking: $9 for the day, $7 for two hours, payable cash or credit card (Visa, MasterCard)

PARC-NATURE DU CAP-SAINT-JACQUES (Pierrefonds)

Cap-Saint-Jacques is the city’s biggest park, so it’s no wonder it offers the most diverse lineup of activities including workshops for cross-country skiing enthusiasts to bone up on their skills, snow-shoeing, tobogganing and, until March 9, a sweet treat: a makeshift cabane à sucre.

The park will also feature a fun activity this year: fatbike. Guides will be on hand with tutorials on how to ride the off-road winter bikes through the park.

On March 4 and 8, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the park will host free activities and educational rally games on the theme of maple syrup.

There are a few new activities coming to Cap-Saint-Jacques this winter. On three Sunday afternoons, Jan. 19, Feb. 6 and March 8, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m., a free, outdoor snow yoga session will be held for everyone. All you have to do is bring your own mat or small blanket.

On Feb 8, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., there is a day of outdoor activities planned: ice fishing, dog sledding, ice lake, sledding, kite pulling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Hot chocolate will be provided and there will be an outdoor fire and live music.

Also, on Feb. 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., visitors can take part in an outdoor obstacle course. 

Hours: Open everyday from sunrise to sunset
Visitors’ centre: open until March 8, 2020
Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 9 to 5 p.m.

Address: 20099 Gouin Blvd. W, H9K 1C6

Accessible by public transit: Yes (Bus #68)

Phone number: 514-280-6871

Parking: $9 for the day, $7 for two hours, payable cash or credit card (Visa, MasterCard)

PARC-NATURE DU BOIS-DE-LIESSE (Pierrefonds/St. Laurent)

This park features a century-old forest and a maple grove where rare trees grow. There’s also a diverse assortment of animal and plant life. They offer activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoes, toboggans and carpet sled rentals.

New at Bois-de-Liesse this winter is visitors can learn about the meaning of the talking stick, a First Nations item, by First Nations members themselves. The event is free and takes place on Feb. 8, 2020 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. It will be hosted by KINA8AT, a nonprofit organization that offers a range of training programs inspired by First Nations’ philosophy and traditions focusing on consciousness-raising and healing.

Hours: Open from sunrise to sunset
Visitors’ centre open until March 8, 2020
Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m and Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Address: 9432 Gouin Blvd. W, H8Y 1T4 or 3555 Douglas-B.-Floreani St., H4S 1Y6

Accessible by public transit: Yes (Bus #69 and #68 for Pierrefonds entrance, #175 or 215 for St. Laurent entrance)

Phone number: 514-280-6729 or 514-280-6678

Parking: $9 for the day, $7 for two hours, payable cash or credit card (Visa, MasterCard)

PARC-NATURE DE L’ANSE-À-L’ORME (Pierrefonds)

This park is right by the water and offers spectacular views of the Lake of Two Mountains. Ice fishing enthusiasts come here to practice their craft. KiteForce will also be available at this park.

Hours: Open every day from 7 a.m. to sundown

Address: Intersection of Gouin Blvd. W and l’Anse-à-l’Orme Rd., H9K 1C1

Accessible by public transit: Yes (Bus #64 and #68)

Phone number: 514-280-6871

Parking: $9 for the day, $7 for two hours, payable cash or credit card (Visa, MasterCard)

PARC-NATURE DE LA POINTE-AUX-PRAIRIES (Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles)

Right on the eastern tip of the island, this park is known for the ecosystems it contains, from forest to wetland and glades. It too is a great spot for bird watching and other animal sightings. There are kilometres of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails and toboggans and carpet sleds are available for rent.

KINA8AT will also be at Pointe-aux-Prairies to discuss the meaning of the talking stick on Feb. 16, 2020 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

On some Sunday afternoons starting in January, 2020,  visitors can enjoy a free Scandinavian way of life with their “hygge” Sunday afternoons, where Adirondack chairs, cozy blankets, and candles will be available to relax and enjoy.

Hours: Open every day from sunrise to sunset
Heritage visitors’ centre open until March 29, 2020: Every day from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

Address: 14905 Sherbrooke St. E, H1A 3X1

Accessible by public transit: Yes (Bus #186)

Phone number: 514-280-6691

Parking: $9 for the day, $7 for two hours, payable cash or credit card (Visa, MasterCard)

For more information on these or Montreal’s other large parks, visit the website.