Playing in Montreal
Let the kids practice French in this historic Quebec city, located at the meeting point of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers. It’s easy to get around the 68-square-mile metropolis, with its vibrant arts, music, and food scenes, thanks to its grid-like layout. The weather can be quite cold from January to March, so go in the spring or early fall, if possible.
Once just a pet project of insect collector Georges Brossard, the Insectarium officially opened in 1990 within the Montreal Botanical Garden. More than 150,000 arthropods—of which insects are a sub-group—are on display at the museum. These include live displays such as the leafcutter anthills, a stick insect vivarium, and a diving beetle aquarium. The park location allows the honeybees and bumblebees from the Insectarium's hives to harvest nectar. In September, entomologists tag and release Monarch butterflies for their southern migration.
A bring-your-own-wine restaurant, L’Atelier combines market produce with comfort food by chefs Patrick Garneau and Benjamin Fortier. The Mile End restaurant is rustic with unfinished wood tables, logs sliced and stacked to resemble a woodpile, and photo portraits of local farmers. The know-your-neighbor photographs introduce those who have grown, raised, and produced the ingredients for L'Atelier's seasonal cuisine. An upscale version of poutine—a traditional Quebec dish—layers fries with five-year-old cheddar, shredded rabbit, and barbecue sauce. Other dishes on the game-heavy menu may include roast guinea fowl with wild mushroom polenta and local Stanstead rabbit cassoulet.
Opened in 1928, this kosher-style Jewish deli marinates its meat for 10 full days before hot-smoking it. The preservative-free beef brisket (similar to pastrami) is ordered by the fat content: either fat, medium-fat, medium, or lean. All tables are communal; counter seats overlook the busy meat-slicing area. The classic order is a smoked-meat sandwich with a side of fries and half-sour pickles. Daily lunch lines form along Montreal’s “Main Street,” Saint-Laurent Boulevard, so in 2008 the restaurant expanded with a take-out counter next door. By noon, there's still an hour-or-more wait.
The family-friendly hotel has a convenient downtown location, and kids will enjoy the indoor pool and activities center stocked with toys and games.
Explore the four biospheres here; the Atlantic puffin exhibit is a favorite.
Admission: Adults: $16 adults; Seniors: $12; Kids 5–7: $8; Kids 2–4: $2.50.