Montreal is one those rare cities where residents who stay home for the summer just might have more fun than those who leave. The city and surrounding areas offer a slew of activities, especially for families. There are festivals and fairs, green spaces and beaches, as well as music and games for every age. So grab your calendars and start penciling in dates, because you and your kids won’t want to miss the fun.
St. Jean Baptiste (Fête Nationale du Québec)
June 24 is the day Quebecers celebrate their history and identity, with blue and white flags appearing almost everywhere. While many communities and boroughs organize events, one of the biggest celebrations takes place at Maisonneuve Park where thousands of Montrealers gather, after an afternoon parade, for a concert and other activities. For more information, visit www.fetenationale-montreal.qc.ca.
The Montreal International Jazz Festival
During the first two weeks of July, this festival will feature more than 3,000 musicians from 30 different countries and music of all kinds including jazz, blues, Cuban, reggae and electronic. The festival’s site is located in a four-block radius, bounded by Ste. Catherine, President Kennedy, Bleury and St. Urbain streets.
You can start your festival adventure at the Little School of Jazz, an interactive show presented daily. Kids learn about jazz through hearing and singing some familiar tunes that are then transformed into jazz rhythms and riffs. And don’t miss the daily parade, featuring toe-tapping music. at the corner of Ste. Catherine and St. Urbain streets and goes through the festival site. Children who want to burn off a little energy can visit the Parc Musical, in the middle of the festival site, which features climbing structures shaped like instruments as well as crafts and face painting. Admission to the site is free. For a full list of activities as well as the site layout, visit www.montrealjazzfest.com.
Canada Day at the Old Port
Whether you’re a proud citizen or just a happy visitor who loves Canada, don’t miss the July 1 celebration at the Old Port. It’s free of charge and kids can spend the day playing on giant inflatables, watching clowns and getting their faces painted. There will be a mini-farm, mini-car racing and a sports clinic where professionals will teach kids the basics of how to play soccer. Older kids and adults can check out the soccer competition as well as a night show featuring a giant discotheque with special effects (3D screens, musicians, dancers, singers, flame throwers, laser beams and fireworks). And when the kids or parents get peckish, they can sample food from various countries at the multicultural food fair. For the full schedule, visit www.celafete.ca.
Just for Laughs Festival
Come laugh out loud with the whole family at this festival (usually held mid to end of July), which is famous for bringing performers from all over the world. On the festival’s site, near lower St. Denis St., families will find outdoor shows, street entertainers, acrobats and mimes who will keep everyone amused. A not-to-be-missed part of the festival is the Twins Weekend, which includes a parade for twins, look-a-like contests and more. For a list of activities and comedians, visit www.hahaha.com.
Expo de St. Hyacinthe
This huge agricultural exposition (held third week of July to beginning of August) not only teaches families about Quebec’s farming industry but also offers a wide-range of activities including an amusement park with 27 rides, a circus show, music and theatre productions, a special play area for kids featuring inflatable toys as well as a skate park.
The Expo won the Grand Prize from Quebec Tourism last year. The Expo is held at 2670 Beauparlant St. in St. Hyacinthe. For more information, call (450) 773-9307 or visit www.expo-agricole.com.
Dragon Boat Festival
Families can experience a bit of China’s culture by going to the Dragon Boat Festival where more than 200 teams from all over North America will take part in two races (held near the end of July). Both adults and children can enjoy live singing and dancing from Japan, China and Korea as well as culinary delights and exhibitions. Children can enjoy games, arts and crafts and drawing contests.
The festival takes place at the Olympic Basin in Jean Drapeau Park. Admission is free, but there is a parking fee. Free shuttle buses operate from the corner of de la Gauchetiere St. W. and St. Urbain St. to the site. Buses will leave every 30 minutes. For further information, call (514) 866-7001 or visit www.montrealdragonboat.com.
International Balloon Festival of St. Jean sur Richelieu
The International Balloon Festival of St. Jean sur Richelieu (held the second and third week of August) is the biggest gathering of hot air balloons in Canada and a fun event for the whole family. It features a hundred colourful balloons (in many special shapes and characters), games, contests and nightly entertainment as well as a big playing area, farm animals and a pond where children can enjoy a pedalo ride and inflatable air toys. The festival site also has a breastfeeding room, changing tables and a stroller rental service to make it easy for families to enjoy their visit. The festival site is located at 5 chemin de l’Aéroport, St. Jean sur Richelieu. For more information, call (450) 347-9555 or go to http://corpo.montgolfieres.com
La Fête des Enfants
One of the city’s premier family events, this three-day festival (held in mid-August) specifically targets children ages 12 and under and features music, dance, art workshops, sports and games — all free of charge. The focus is on encouraging people of all backgrounds to learn from and understand each other. Parents will find changing tables, stroller parking and other services designed to facilitate families with babies and toddlers. The festival takes place at Jean Drapeau Park in Île Ste. Hélène. The STM public transit (bus and subway) will be free on the Saturday and Sunday of the event. For more information, call (514) 872-6120 or go to www.fetedesenfants.ca.
The Brome Fair
Finish off the summer with a visit to the Brome Fair, (usually held at the first week of September). It takes place in the Eastern Township’s village of Brome and attracts more than 40,000 people each year. Besides being able to admire horses, cattle, sheep and poultry (a novelty for many a city-dwelling child), there will be circus acts, a magician show and a petting zoo. There will also be amusement park rides, talent shows, clowns and even a competition to see which truck can pull the most weight. The site is located at 345 Stagecoach Rd. in Brome and is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission rates vary depending on the day of the week. Passes, which include parking, are available for the four-day period. All prices include midway rides. There are also camping sites available during the fair for an extra cost. For more information, call (450) 242-3976 or visit www.bromefair.com.