Artwork by Lily Goldman
How often have parents found themselves in a quandary travelling with children? Mommy, I’m bored! There’s nothing to do in Montréal and why was I dragged here against my will? I would rather be home playing with my friends or hanging out with my boyfriend.
As a parent of three children I can well appreciate the feeling. Well folks, don’t fret. Montréal is a fun place for kids as well as adults.
The Lobster Kids’ Guide to Exploring Montréal is written by John Symon and published by Lobster Press. As indicated by the author of the soft bound book, it was written for families with children ages 1 to 12 but you don’t have to be a kid to use it, just a kid at heart. In fact, I would add that teenagers as well as adults would find many of the sights described in the book to be extremely interesting and entertaining.
The beginning of the book gives you a rating system where the author and his wife have rated the various sights according to the enjoyment level for children, the learning opportunities for children, the sight’s accessibility from downtown and finally the costs and value for money. You will also find icons used throughout the book indicating such queries as wheelchair/stroller accessibility, first aid, ice cream stand, picnic tables, parking, etc. The explanation of these icons is found within the first few pages of the book.
The organization of the book is very well planned as we notice from the table of contents. The 12 chapters divide the sites into local attractions, Old Montréal and the Old Port, museums, neighbourhood sites, places to play, places to learn, music and theatre, farms and zoos, green spaces, historical sites, getting to the locations, sights outside of the city proper.
From the very beginning of the book we are informed of the Insectarium that is a museum dedicated to insects. The author points out that there is a wealth of information on insect ecology and their behaviour. The live tarantulas and scorpions found in the museum are sure to satisfy the curiosity of many kids although I am not so sure if it would be appealing to many of the adult folk!
There is a description of many other museums such as the Marsil Museum that is dedicated to costume, textiles and fibres. There are even children’s workshops and costumes to try on. This should be a fun place to visit!
We are also informed of activities for rainy days such as indoor rock climbing where you have tarzan swings. Incidentally, the centre referred to is Horizon Roc, Canada’s largest indoor climbing centre.
A very practical feature of the book is each short chapter indicates the directions to the site, phone numbers, admission fees, and public transportation directions as well as driving directions. Furthermore, you have an indication as to what other interesting sights are nearby. There are also the author’s comments pertaining to such matters as wheelchair accessibility or how much time should be allotted to the visit.
Another book dealing with the same subject matter, but written in French, is
Montréal Pour Enfants published by
Les Guides Ulysse, authored by Danielle Bédard.
If you wish to brush up on your French or if you wish your children to practice French, this would be an excellent opportunity while at the same time learning about Montréal’s activities for children. This softbound pocket book is divided into neighbourhoods where the reader may find different places of interest for the kids. I found, however, some of the entries to be inappropriate such as Montréal’s Casino.
Personally there are better experiences for children then exposing them to a gambling casino. I also noticed that there was no mention of wheelchair or stroller accessibility. Perhaps the author did not realize how very important are these factors when contemplating a visit to any site. On the other hand there were ample directions, maps, and metro references, photos and illustrations.
Emphasis on neighbourhoods is useful when a traveller or even a local inhabitant wish to experience the multicultural makeup of Montréal. It would have been more beneficial to the reader, however, if the author mentioned how much time to be allotted to each sight within the neighbourhood and a more explicit explanation as to why the sight is attractive to kids.
In a general sense this guide could very well serve as an adult introduction to the many activities available in Montréal and from this point of view the book serves a useful purpose.