Things to Do in Montreal - page 2
Eighty-four acres of pure bliss – that is what locals are going to describe La Fontaine Park. Right in the hustle and bustle of the city stands a lavish green park, which features two linked ponds with a fountain and waterfall, an open-air theatre venue, a cultural centre, a dog park, playing fields, bike paths, barbecues and tennis courts. It remains one of the most popular parks among Montrealers, year-round.
But La Fontaine Park wasn’t always this urban forest; it is located on the grounds of what used to be the old Logan farm, which was sold in 1845 to the Government of Canada and used for military practice until the 1900s. This part of Montreal was still very much rural back then, and the soldiers used the surrounding wilderness to train. At one point, the military left, and the park got its first landscaping makeover – it was the first phase of the development of the city's large nature parks.
A lasting structure and symbol of Expo 67, the Biosphere is a unique architectural treasure of Montreal and the masterpiece of architect Buckminster Fuller.
Since 1995, it has been home to exhibitions, permanent and temporary, that are geared toward educating people about major environmental issues. Its interactive exhibits help those of all ages better understand the profound effects of climate change and provides information on how to make a lighter footprint on this Earth.
Such exhibits as "+1 Degree Celsius: What Difference Does it Make?" uses an interactive digital Earth globe and short films to demonstrate the science behind climate change.
Another exhibit, "Finding Balance", looks at how our consumer habits shape the environment while a temporary exhibit, "Water Wonders!", takes a fun spin on all things H2O with games and experiments for guests to tackle.
Open since 1933, Atwater Market is an important part of Montreal’s culinary heritage. While the city has a number of great markets, this one is considered to be more upscale than the norm. Here you’ll be able to get a true taste of the city, as the market features artisans and purveyors selling only the freshest foods, ingredients and products. Spread across two spacious floors -- as well as outdoor stalls when the weather is warm -- you’ll need a few hours to really see (and sample!) all that’s offered.
Keep an eye out for hard-to-find and specialty items, including ethnic specialties and rare spices. If you’re looking for fresh meats, upstairs you’ll find about 10 butchers. In their onsite wine store you can peruse many local varietals, while a large array of flower shops allows you to explore the colorful side of Montreal.
Located just south of artsy, boho-chic Plateau Mont-Royal, the Latin Quarter has been a center of student life since the 18th century. Now home to one of the largest universities in the country, its name doesn’t exactly come as a surprise; the neighborhood is filled with students, bookstores and inexpensive cafés with exceptional people watching opportunities. It is known for its many theatres, artistic atmosphere, lively restaurants, microbreweries and whisky bars, as well as independently-owned boutiques.
The best thing about the Latin Quarter is undeniably its eclectic crowd and its joie de vivre: both the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy, the local and the ethnic, the artistic and the intellectual mingle on the streets, be it during a summer festival or while queuing to get hot chocolate. Definitely a multi-layer neighborhood if there ever was one! One of the main attraction of the area, outside its buzzing nightlife, is the Grande bibliothèque du Québec.
Running from Old Montreal to Lake St. Louis in western Montreal, Canal de Lachine is a 14.5 kilometer-long (9 miles) inland waterway that was mainly used for commercial shipping. It was built to allow ships to bypass the treacherous Lachine Rapids, which were not navigable. Work on the canal started in 1821, and it opened for navigation in 1825. The opening not only made Montreal one of the most important ports in North America and a significant trade center for wood, iron and steel, but it also helped develop the neighborhoods surrounding the canal like Petite-Bourgogne, Saint-Henri, Griffintown and Pointe St-Charles – in fact, Montreal’s population quadrupled over the 50 years following the canal’s construction.
Although the canal is now obsolete for commercial navigation, it is possible to visit its historic docks, the most popular ones being located in Old-Montreal.
Talk about a museum that takes the art of make believe to a whole new level! Mingle with the (wax versions) likes of Celine Dion, Queen Elizabeth II, Albert Einstein, Lady Gaga, Ghandi and more at the newly opened Grevin Wax Museum in downtown Montreal. The museum is spread over eight different rooms or “worlds,” starting with the Palace of the Seasons, which takes visitors on a magic journey inspired by the beauty of the four seasons.
The New France room focuses on 16th century explorers in the company of the French navigator Jacques Cartier, while the Paris-Québec room presents famous personalities who made their mark on both sides of the Atlantic. The Sports Temple might as well be called the Hockey Temple since it features a hockey rink and several wax statues of celebrated hockey players. The Hotel Grévin room takes visitors throughout a series of hotel rooms, each with a distinct ambiance and guests.
Few people knew of Ville-Marie yet everyone has been; it’s the technical name for Montreal’s downtown area, and one of the most vibrant places in the world. It encompasses Old-Montreal, downtown Montreal, the Latin Quarter, the Gay Village, most of Mount Royal Park and the islands on the St. Lawrence River – indeed, it covers quite a lot of ground! It is therefore one of the most visited areas in North America, and one of the most densely populated too.
Attraction-wise, Ville-Marie isn’t a bore. Three of the four Montreal universities are located within its boundaries, as well as the notable district of Old-Montreal (and its historic museums, chapels and quaint squares), the lively Gay Village and its drag-queen bars, the business and high street shopping oriented downtown core area and, of course, the luxuriant Mount Royal and its unobstructed view of the neighborhood.
More Things to Do in Montreal
Place des Arts was inaugurated during what historians now refer to as Montreal’s 1960’s Golden Age; several major construction projects came to be in that period, including Expo 67, the metro system, skyscrapers and, of course, the much debated Place des Arts. The controversial mayor at the time, Jean Drapeau, was a fervent opera lover and longed for a hall that would welcome the world’s most fabulous performances as well as revitalize the business-oriented downtown area; despite not receiving the public’s nor the government’s support, visionary Drapeau still realized his dream, one that Montrealers are thankful for today.
Now consisting of six performance halls comprising of a total of 8,000 seats, Place des Arts is a classified building of exceptional heritage value, and a significant cultural hub for Montrealers.
While the actual mountain range stretches roughly from Ottawa to Charlevoix, the “Laurentides” refers to a mountainous region just north of Montreal. Other than being a nature’s lover idea of paradise, thanks to lush forests, the Laurentians are actually one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world - it contains rocks deposited before the Cambrian Period 540 million years ago.
The region is very popular with Montrealers wanting to escape the city’s hustle for a weekend, as well as visitors with a thing for hiking, rock climbing, rafting, cycling, canoeing, zip-lining, golfing and a host of winter activities like snowshoeing, alpine and cross-country skiing, dog sledding, ice skating and many, many more. In fact, the Laurentians are home to some of the best ski resorts in the province, top-notch golf courses, world-class Nordic spas and a 230-kilometer-long (140 miles) linear park. The first ski lift in North America was actually built in Shawbridge back in the 1930s!
The Americas are home to four ecosystems, and at the Biodome de Montreal you’ll be able to walk through them all (well, replicas of them at least). Visitors will be guided by naturalists through the biodome, traveling through the tropical rainforest, Laurentian maple forest, Gulf of St. Lawrence and Sub-Antarctic Islands, and observing over 4,800 animals representing 230 species and about 750 plants. Interestingly, these exhibits are housed in what was once the cycling stadium used in the 1976 Summer Olympics. Essentially, the experience is similar to visiting a zoo but delivers more of an immersive experience that makes you feel like you’re really in the wild.
While there is much to learn about as well as flora and fauna to see in these four ecosystems, there are a few highlights of a visit to the Biodome de Montreal.
Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art, the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art is a showcase of some 7,000 permanent works displayed in eight galleries. Focusing on work created since 1939, the museum includes work from Quebec legends Jean-Paul Riopelle, Paul-Émile Borduas and Génévieve Cadieux. There are also temporary exhibitions of works by current Canadian and international artists.
Forms range from traditional to New Media, from painting, sculpture and prints to installation art and video. The exhibition spaces are large and airy, ideal for regular modern and avant-garde performances held at the museum. The sculpture garden, with Henry Moore's work Upright Motive No. 5, is worth a look. On the first Friday of each month, the museum stays open until 9pm to host "Friday Nocturnes,” with cocktails and live music.
The largest inland port in the world, Montreal is also the busiest along the St. Lawrence River, which links the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. Founded in 1642 by French Catholic settlers, today Montreal is the second largest French-speaking city in the world. With its cobblestone streets and sidewalk cafes, the city has an undeniable European charm, so it is no wonder it welcomes over 7 million visitors each year.Cruise ships dock at the Iberville Passenger Terminal, which is walking distance from many of Montreal’s main attractions, including the Old Town. Taxis are also readily available at the port.
As one of the longest and most historic rivers in the world – penetrating 3,058 kilometers into North America- the St Lawrence River is omnipresent everywhere visitors look. Stretching from the mighty Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes of Ontario, the land on either side of it has been occupied by Native tribes for almost 10,000 years. And although many studies suggest Vikings were the first European explorers to navigate its waters, the river was only officially discovered by Jacques Cartier in the 16th century – which turned out to be one of the most important turning points in North American history. Indeed, the Saint Lawrence River served as the main route for European exploration of the North American interior in order to establish a lucrative colonial empire resulting from the trade with the Montagnais, the Etchemin and the Algonquin people.
As the only park in the province entirely dedicated to preserve and enhance an exclusively marine environment, the Saguenay-St Lawrence Marine Park understandably boasts exceptional whale watching opportunities. The limpid waters of the biggest estuary in the world, the St Lawrence River, joins those of the longest fjord in Eastern Canada, the Saguenay Fjord; the marine park that is created in the process is abundant in natural treasures and biological diversity, including some of the world’s most impressive cetaceans like the furtive blue whales, belugas, the harbor porpoise, the minke whale, the fin whale and the humpback whale as well as three types of seals and 150 species of birds.Stretching over 1,245 square kilometers, the park requires an entire day to visit, if not more! It offers a myriad of activities like scuba diving.
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