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Family friendly art studios in Montreal – Future Jackson Pollock?

Top Art Studios Montreal

It looks like it’s going to be another rainy weekend in Montreal. Yet another.

To make the most of the lousy weather, I’ve compiled a list of fun indoor art activities. Why not cultivate your child’s inner artist by visiting one of the following child-friendly art studios in Montreal:

4 Cats Art Studios

This is a chain (franchise) of studios around Montreal (and North America) and I’ve heard great things about their kid programs. They have tax deductible classes for children aged 2-10+. Adult participation is welcomed (sometimes mandatory depending on the age) and they have cool after-school programs, too. My son is still too young for our family to test this out but I welcome comments from other families!

Locations: 5026 Parc Plateau/Outremont, Montreal, QC H2V 4E8, (514) 508-3889

And 2748 Blvd. St-Charles, Kirkland, QC H9H 3B6, (514) 505-3727

Website: http://www.4cats.com/

 Café Ceramic

Another cool little franchise in Montreal is the Café Ceramic. I’m sure you’ve heard of the concept: paint a pre-formed pottery piece while you enjoy some coffee/food. I always liked the concept and I plan on introducing my son as soon as the paint is more inviting on the ceramic than on his face! I’ve been to some of these ceramic cafes in different parts of North America and I’ve really enjoyed the time spent relaxing while painting and chatting with friends. If your kids are old enough to understand the concept, I highly recommend these chains!

Locations: 4338, St-Denis, Montréal (Qc) H2J 2K8, 514 848-1119

565, Boulevard Saint-Martin Ouest (Qc) H7M 1Y8, 450 669-9399

3240, boul. Taschereau (Qc) J4V 2H3, 450 443-8582

Website: http://www.leccs.com/

Any other recommendations for great child/family-friendly art studios in Montreal area? Let me know!

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Maiko Sushi – Des Sources Blvd & Bernard Street (Montreal, Qc)

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Sushi is not for everyone. I think it’s a preference that falls into the love it (my family) or hate it category. Maiko Sushi (Des Sources Blvd) in the West Island has been (arguably) named the Best in the West. Nothing quite qualifies until it’s been tested by a toddler-run family.

We gave them a good chance: we went early (we were the first to arrive) and we brought the Ipad for emergency back-up. As soon as we sat down, we ordered my son’s meal; he’s a lightweight and a miso soup (and yogurt)  is enough for his bird-belly. They quickly brought it out and he entertained himself attempting to eat the soup with those plastic double-ended spoons they have at Japanese and Chinese restaurants.

The menu is varied and offers a nice selection of different sushi and cooked meals. Of course, they also offer a la carte sushi and they have a really neat “chef’s creation” menu of unusual sushi/sashimi combos ($18 each).

We each ordered the $33 sushi/sashimi combo (strange move on our part because we normally order different meals to share). It comes with a miso soup, a salad, shrimp & veggie tempura, a mixed plate of sushi/sashimi (I’m going to guesstimate 12 pieces), dessert and green tea. Honestly, it’s a really good price and whereas I normally feel like I could go for McDonalds after having spent $50+ on sushi, I left Maiko Sushi very, very full. In fact, I couldn’t eat my dessert (my bird-belly son who never has room for actual food but always manages to polish off the dessert ate mine).

The miso soup was very tasty; I always hate miso soup that is cheap on the shiitake mushrooms and seaweed but super heavy on the tofu and overly watery broth. Their soup had plenty of tasty mushrooms, seaweed and tofu–excellent broth, too. I loved their salad! It’s a very simple mix of greens tossed with a ginger/sesame dressing and topped with tiny pieces of fried noodles but it was very, very tasty. Their tempura was delicately fried and the batter didn’t overwhelm the taste of the shrimp/veggies (often a problem with tempura, I find). So far, so good.

The first three “appetizers” really set me up for a taste-explosion of sushi and sashimi but I was somewhat disappointed. It’s not that it wasn’t good (it was fresh and it tasted fine) but I was underwhelmed by the selection and the large amount of boring maki rolls. Really, how much avocado in a rice-roll do you want in a chef’s selection? I know it’s cheap but come on. Also, the slices of sashimi were really lacking. Worst of all was the high amount of the “filler” sushi: tamago nigiri (fried egg on a rice roll), smelly mackerel and tons of the tasteless white fish. Like I said, it’s not that the sushi wasn’t fresh or that it didn’t taste good, I just felt that such a creative restaurant could have impressed me with a much better selection of rolls, nigiri and different raw fish.

To be fair, this was my third time trying this $33 combo at Maiko Sushi and it was the first time that I felt the selection was cheaper than normal. I really, really hope this is not a trend they are starting but rather the result of a less-than-creative chef’s decision.

Overall, the staff was super-attentive and one of the waitresses even offered to walk around the restaurant with my son when he was fussing and we were trying to finish our meals (super bonus points). The restaurant was still mostly empty so she had the time to entertain my son but she didn’t have to so the effort is certainly noted. In general, no one seemed to mind my son’s new-found love of screaming on top of his lungs (he recently discovered that screaming like this annoys the heck out of mommy and daddy so he’s happily testing our limits). But you know what? We never turned on the last-resort Ipad so kudos to the waitstaff!

The dessert was a small but sufficient portion of banana bread with ice cream. I can’t comment on that dessert but in the past, I have had their brownie/ice cream dessert and it was very tasty. Their green tea is also very good.

Unfortunately, parents of children who despise sushi will often avoid those restaurants. I think sushi restaurants realize this and they offer a variety of cooked meals specifically for that reason. Parents who love sushi: don’t deprive yourself of sushi-goodness just because your kids hate raw fish!

I will return to Maiko Sushi because I’ve had a number of very positive experiences and I feel like I might have had an “off” night. The idea of a restaurant’s “off” night always makes me sad because what if that night had been my first night? I wouldn’t have returned because I wouldn’t have known that that was an exception rather than the norm. First impressions really do count, don’t they?

Family-friendly? Yes (They don’t offer a kid menu so they lose points there but they fully gain it back with their general kid-friendly staff and layout)

Food? Ehhh, mostly yes

Service? Yes

Website: http://maikosushi.ca/

Address(es): 3339 des Sources Boulevard, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, H9B 1Z8

387 Bernard Street West, Montreal, H2V 1T6

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Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience (Montreal’s Corona Theatre) April 27-28, 2013

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Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience (Montreal’s Corona Theatre) April 27-28, 2013

Calling all Harry Potter fans! Currently on tour through North America, Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience will be at the Corona Theatre this weekend only: Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm and Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm. Managing to squeeze the Harry Potter series (7 books) into an unbelievable 70 minutes, the duo (Gay and Delme) has been receiving great reviews and most of their showings are sold out. If you have any Harry Potter fans in the house, this presentation is great for kids 6+.

Official site: http://www.pottedpotter.com/

Location: Corona Theatre, 2490 Notre-Dame ouest, Montreal, Le Sud-Ouest, H3J 1N5

Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm and Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm

For tickets: http://www.theatrecoronavirginmobile.com/

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Butterflies Go Free – Last Weekend (April 27-28, 2013)

This is the last weekend to see the beautiful butterflies of Montreal’s Botanical Gardens. See here for my previous post about this great exhibit–highly recommended!

The Botanical Gardens is located at 4101 Sherbrooke Street East, Montréal (H1X 2B2) and the complex is part of the Insectarium and the Biodome.

Rates are as follows: Adults $15; Seniors (65+) $14; Students (18+ with ID) $11.25; Kids (5 to 17) $7.50 and Family (2adults/2-3 kids) $42. Kids under 5 are free.

Blue Morph at Montreal Botanical Gardens

Blue Morph at Montreal Botanical Gardens

Link to the Montreal Botanical Gardens official site:

http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/botanical-garden

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Head à Tête – April 12-21 Centaur Theatre in Montreal

Directed by Alain Goulem, this futuristic play is suitable for audiences aged 4 and up. It has been showing since April 12 but it’s ending this weekend with April 21st being its final day. The production has received great reviews and I’ve heard that it really appeals to all age groups. The subject of language (French and English) is an apt one and the play’s simple but important message (mutual communication and understanding) is subtly suggestive.

Location: Centaur Theatre ~ 453 St Francois-Xavier

Website: http://geordie.ca/head-a-tete/

Montreal Gazette review: http://www.montrealgazette.com/entertainment/theatre/Theatre+review+Head+T%C3%AAte+fresh+ever/8241191/story.html

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Montreal’s Gem, Mineral & Fossil Show – April 19, 20, 21 (2013)

Montreal's Gem, Mineral & Fossil Show - April 19, 20, 21 (2013)

Many children go through a rock collection stage. For me, it came after the dinosaur obsession; maybe one led to the other. If you have a fan of rocks (and gems), minerals or fossils in your family, I highly recommend this annual show in Montreal (this will be their 28th season). Not only are the exhibitions pure eye-candy but the hobbyists clearly love their work and will eagerly explain and guide you through their collections. Most pieces are available for purchase as is the gorgeous jewelry and stunning artwork.
April 19, 20, 21 (2013)
Location: Centre Pierre-Charbonneau. 300 rue Viau (metro Viau). Montreal, Quebec H1V 3J3
**Parking is $12. I would try to find parking around the center rather than in its designated parking lot**

Website: http://www.salonminerauxmtl.com/index.html

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ZigZagZoo (Vaudreuil-Dorion, Qc) — Welcome to the Jungle

ZigZagZoo jungle gym

ZigZagZoo jungle gym

ZigZagZoo, in Vaudreuil, Qc (20 minutes west of Montreal) is an amazing combination of jungle-gym, slides, ride-on games, indoor mini soccer field and even a kid-sized climbing wall. The feedback from friends had always been positive so we decided to finally experience it this weekend.

Aimed at kids 12 years and younger, I would say the ideal age is about 5-8 years old but my toddler son (17 months) was squealing with excitement and thoroughly enjoyed himself. Whatever your child’s age, I can promise this: he/she will be exhausted! Oh, and if you get on your hands and knees and crawl through the gym with your kid, I think the whole family will be afternoon napping.

Needless to say, I was impressed. My husband lamented that nothing like this existed when we were growing up! It’s an overwhelming structure at first (especially for a younger child) but it’s hard not to join in on the excitement. The entire gym is echoing with the sounds of laughter and happiness; there is movement at every corner of the room and yet, through the chaos of excited kids, everyone is polite and patiently awaits their turn.

For parents of younger children, get ready to crawl through an entire maze of padded suspended bridges and winding plastic tubes. I loved that I could interact with my child by being inside the structure with him and sharing his excitement as we discovered new paths and found “secret” compartments (secret only because there was a few moments without other kids in the area). ZigZagZoo also has a section devoted to toddlers ages 3 and under. For those with older kids, you have the luxury of a few minutes of free time as your child explores the gym with friends or with friendly strangers. My husband and I took turns (trust me, it’s hard to crawl!) guiding our son through the jungle gym and all parents–even those who watched casually from a distance–seemed to supervise their children’s behavior.

Enjoying one of the many games at ZigZagZoo

Enjoying one of the many games at ZigZagZoo

The gym is equipped with quite a few parent-friendly additions. They have a decently priced snack bar that serves pretty good food (at least they are trying to be healthy while still appealing to kids), new moms have the privacy of a nursing room, the bathrooms are very diaper-change friendly and for those who choose to brown-bag their lunch, they have a picnic area. The whole area is carpeted so boots/shoes must be removed and they have lockers to keep purses safe. It’s also a peanut-free facility for those with allergy concerns–a nice touch.

Lastly, but importantly, the place was very clean! Everything was in excellent condition–I never feared that my life was at risk because of poorly installed or rusty equipment–and the carpet was spotless. The jungle gym looked very sturdy and the mats/pads weren’t stained and fraying.

They offer birthday packages and my husband and I are already contemplating purchasing the year-long membership for $135 (for one child and one adult)–especially for the winter months when outdoor activities are restricted. They cater to large groups (a whole classroom, for example), so make sure to check their calendar if you plan a weekday trip. Don’t you just wish your grade school had organized a trip to a place like this?!

Overall? I highly recommend ZigZagZoo!

Location: Place St-Charles, 980 St-Charles Ave, local 120, (Exit 35 Nord on Highway 40), Vaudreuil-Dorion, J7V 8P5

For hours and rates: http://www.zigzagzoo.ca/en/hours_rates.shtml