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Montreal Families

Should You Take the Kids to: Just For Laughs?

Just for Laughs Festival
From: July 16 to 26
Festival site: between Ste. Catherine St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd., from Sanguinet to Berri Sts. (view map)
Parking: Although the festival site is closed to traffic, it’s fairly easy to find meter parking in the area.
Click here for festival schedule

Although day-to-day family life is rich with comic material, it’s often the kind of material that’s not particularly funny in the moment. It will be funny when the kids have left home and gone to university. And hilarious when they have their own kids.

In the meantime, it’s great that the Just For Laughs Festival, which runs from July 16 to 26, gives parents and children a chance to get their clown on. Even if you don’t have the means and/or the babysitter to get to one of the festival’s galas, you can get a taste of the event with the kids.

The Just For Laughs Festival site, which centres around St. Denis and Ste. Catherine Sts. (view map), hosts street performers and other activities for young children. Toddlers as young as 18 months may get a kick out of things like: a face-painting booth, a place to try on various costumes, a kiddie pool set up for fishing (with magnets), and a fun house. Early on a Friday night (around 6 p.m.), the streets weren’t too crowded and lineups were few.

Many of the activities are held in tents, so there is some shade, and there is also a diaper-changing station. Added bonus and photo op: Kids can get a free clown nose at the fishing pond. In fact, most of the activities are free. In terms of performers, there are music and dance shows involving Victor, the festival mascot; giant, ball-gown-wearing fair-keepers; pogo-stick competitions, hula hoop demonstrations and more.

There are also some games set up, like a dunk tank, where you can try to win a stuffed festival mascot. They cost extra, and you risk shaming yourself and disappointing your children if you “fail” to win a toy (that they would most likely forget about in 30 seconds anyway). Why risk it? Better to distract with a popsicle or ice cream.

Game Plan
Since the roving performances start later in the day (6 p.m. on weekdays, 3 p.m. on weekends), it’s a good idea to tie a Just For Laughs visit in with dinner. There are various food stands on the site, so you can eat there or get a quick meal at a nearby restaurant. Chinatown is a few blocks away, and there are lots of restaurants right on St. Denis St. Treat the kids to dessert – popsicle, ice cream or mango on a stick – at the festival, though. The streets can be crowded, so having a stroller, wagon or other child carrier will help.

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