We’re not going away this holiday season. The big kids are off from school for two weeks and Leo’s daycare is closed for one week. While I do want to keep them busy and entertained I don’t want this stay-cation to end up costing as much as a vacation. And most of all, I don’t want them to be bored (or rip my hair out trying to keep my sanity!) So I put together this list of mostly free things to do in Montreal from December 23 to January 7. Also included, are some paid activities that are fun for the whole family for $25 or less.
Hopefully we’ll be checking a few of these off of our lists to make the days merry and you can too!
festival noël dans le parc – until december 25th
On our agenda for this Pre-Christmas weekend, we’ll be visiting either Place Émilie-Gamelin (just east of Quartier des Spectacles) or Parc des Compagnons de St-Laurent (Papineau and Mont Royal E.) to discover a country-chic winter village. Free sleigh rides, fire pits to roast marshmallows, sheep to pet, games, circus performers, clowns and so much more are all on the daily schedule. Santa Claus will be there too (check his schedule on their Facebook page).
nordic square – until december 31st, thursdays-sundays
Another outdoor wonderland, this time in Old Montreal. Fun for kids of all ages includes drawing on giant billboards, Flocon the penguin mascot, a candy cane photo booth and lots of outdoor games. Mom and dad can warm up with a craft beer while the kids have a hot chocolate at the tasting bar.
Lace up your skates and glide along Beaver Lake while taking in the beauty of Mont Royal. Skates are available to rent on-site for a fee. Don’t forget to bring along the hot chocolate to warm up afterwards!
winter village at the olympic park
(closed december 25-27 & january 1)
Another outdoor skating opportunity awaits at the Olympic Stadium where an ice-cold trail is open and free to the public. Rentals are available for an additional fee. Also, a pop-up boutique of local brands including one of our favs Electric Kidz and a restaurant.
Entry for children under 12 to this downtown museum is always free. The holidays are a great opportunity to discover one of their new exhibits that is all about fairy tales, from Jack & the Beanstalk to Cinderella. The exhibit includes an interactive activity where visitors have to find ten lost objects. Plan your trip to the museum to coincide with one of their free family activities. Multiple story hours are available throughout the day and there are two workshops: Gingerbread House building (11am-4pm, December 28-31 and January 3-7) and a parent and tot Christmas Rattle project (December 27, 1pm-3:30pm).
The museum has extended its weekend activities throughout the week for the holiday season. Check their website for many craft options and movies for different age groups. Workshops are being held on December 23, 26-31 and January 2-7 so you can even visit twice and try a different activity.
For some kids, riding the bus or metro is an activity in itself. Head out to one of the events listed above and take advantage of free public transit fare for kids (when accompanied by an adult). The special promo runs until January 8.
fun for $25 or less
Not any ordinary indoor pool, this Lasalle water complex features a lap pool, splash pad, slides and even a hot tub. Entry prices are very reasonable – $4/adult and $2-$3/child depending on age. Check the online schedule for public swimming times and holiday closures.
You may have come for a Billy bookcase or a cinnamon roll but you’ll likely end up spending the day at Ikea as a family. The store is completely family friendly with nursing rooms, changing tables and even free diapers in a variety of sizes. Bigger kids can stay at the supervised Småland while their parents shop, or watch a movie in the main lobby. Sign up for Ikea Family ahead of time and your kids can get an extra 30 minutes to play. While Ikea is technically free you’ll probably end up spending a few dollars on breakfast or lunch (meatballs!) which can be done for under $20. Special holiday activities at the Cavendish location include Christmas ornament decoration (December 23, 11:30am-3:30pm) and face painting (December 26, 1:30am-3:30pm).
Cozying up with a cup of hot chocolate is one thing, going straight to the source to drink it is another. Cacao 70’s Montreal-based factory is open to the public with a cute café inside. If you’re lucky you’ll see the recipes being made. Either way you can enjoy a warm cocoa, with many fun (black sesame?!) flavours to choose from.
An outing to the movies can add up but not at Montreal’s very own Dollar Cinema. If you don’t mind your feet sticking to the floor and a long lineup for concessions and tickets, a family of four can see a film with snacks for less than $10. During the holiday season the following kid-friendly films will be showing: Lego Ninjago, Emoji Movie, Nut Job 2 and My Little Pony. On Christmas Day, kids can watch a movie free of charge!
Get them cooking in someone else’s kitchen (so you don’t have to clean up the mess!) The Lasalle location of Provigo is offering several classes for kids aged 2-6 and 6-11. Check the website for other stores in the city. On the calendar: Edible Christmas Decorations (December 23), Winter Comfort Food and Winter Treats (January 4). Prices range from $9-$15 and parents are free to accompany the younger set.
There are many places to see butterflies in and around Montreal but none are as affordable as La Ferme Guyon. Located on the South Shore, this farm has over 500 beautiful butterflies to enchant you and your kids. If you want to break the bank and splurge past the $25 budget while you’re there, visit the petting farm where the animals roam at your feet, not behind fences.