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Scotia Bank Marathon – Volunteer/Donate for Charity!

Scotia Bank Marathon - Volunteer/Donate for Charity!

Any avid runners? Here’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors while cheering on runners for a great cause! Volunteers are always needed and it’s a great way to get your kids involved. Hopefully the weather cooperates (it’s supposed to be mild). Sponsored by Scotia Bank, the marathon will be held on April 28th, 2013 starting at 8:30am at Jean-Drapeau Park. Last year, they raised $565,048.11! Let’s hope they can beat that amount this year.
Official website: http://www.canadarunningseries.com/monthalf_en/index.htm

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Morgan Arboretum – Earth Day Weekend April 21, 2013

Morgan Arboretum - Earth Day Weekend April 21, 2013

In celebration of Earth Day (April 22, 2013) and in collaboration with Montreal Families, Morgan Arboretum is offering free guided tours through their 245 hectare wildlife reserve on April 21, 2013 from 9am to 4pm.
Make sure to mention the following link: http://www.montrealfamilies.ca/Montreal-Families/April-2013/Fun-ways-to-protect-the-planet/
Morgan Arboretum website: http://www.morganarboretum.org/fma/
Address: 150 ch. des Pins, Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Qc

 

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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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Cabane à Sucre Constantin — Sugaring Off in Quebec

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La Cabane à sucre Constantin

I’m going to let you in on a not-so-well-kept secret. The best part of spring–maybe even more than its sign of winter’s end–is the maple syrup! Every year I look forward to the production of “liquid gold” at the local sugar shack or cabane à sucre. My family is a little maple syrup crazy–we pour (ahem, drizzle) it on the traditional pancakes and waffles but we also use it as an alternative to sugar in almost everything possible. Have you ever tried maple syrup-sweetened coffee? Mmmm. Luckily Quebec is the largest producer in the world!

This post should have appeared weeks ago but unfortunately we’ve had shoddy weekend weather.  Quebec has countless sugar shacks around Montreal that participate in the annual sugaring off festivities; we decided to visit Cabane à Sucre Constantin this year. I encourage you to visit soon as they are closing April 28th, 2013. The season usually runs from February to April.

Located only 25 minutes from Montreal, Cabane à Sucre Constantin is in the lively town of St-Eustache. We arrived for the set breakfast at 10am and we were quickly seated and served. The reception/dining hall can accommodate a few hundred people so unless you are 30+ people, reservations are not necessary. It’s a very casual environment and you are seated at long tables beside other families in an open and boisterous room. The decor is dated but it adds to the appeal–it’s a farmhouse that serves traditional sugaring off cuisine!

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Breakfast at La Cabane à sucre Constantin

The food is brought to you but it’s considered all-you-can-eat. You won’t need more than one serving of each course as the food is extremely filling. They start you off with a delicious pea soup–warm and bursting with flavor–and you are then served the main course of eggs, potatoes, ham and beans. I wasn’t a huge fan of the eggs or potatoes (both were tasteless) but the ham and beans were very good. The dessert was a sugar-rush of maple syrup deliciousness!  I think my favorite was the “pouding chômeur” (roughly translated to a pudding for the unemployed or poor man’s pudding); it’s a bread-pudding (which acts like a sponge) completely drenched in maple syrup. They also offer pancakes, soft ice cream and sugar pie. I swear the whole group of people left the dining area high on a sugar buzz.

Included in your meal price, you also have access to a small doll museum, a puppet theater and one “tire sur la neige” maple taffy on a stick. We were too full for the maple taffy so we decided to wander around the grounds. For only $2 per person, you can visit a small but completely packed “zoo” full of exotic–or not–farm animals. My son was in heaven.

All the animals looked really healthy and all of them were clean. My only complaint would be that they stuffed so many animals into such a small area. The animals included parrots, reptiles, many types of birds and rodents and your typical barnyard animals like goats, pigs, sheep, ponies and even llamas. The owners allowed a few of the baby goats to roam freely through the area and my son was overjoyed when he fed them from his hand. Many of the animals seemed to be new mothers so we were lucky to see many babies.

Part of the price of admission included a one-man puppet show. It was very interactive and most of the play was song-based which encouraged audience participation. My son couldn’t keep his eyes off the show. At about 20 minutes, it was the perfect length for short attention spans.

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Puppet show at La Cabane à sucre Constantin

The doll museum was neat. My husband is generally creeped out by dolls–especially old dolls with cracked faces and eyeballs rolling back in their heads–but it was still interesting to see dolls from 3-4 generations ago. Dolls, like all cultural artifacts, reflect the time in which they were made so it was fascinating to see how the dolls evolved through a century filled with war, depression, racism and progress (among so many other factors!).

At the end of our stay, we enjoyed the famous “tire” of maple taffy on snow and the inflated kid’s amusement area. They also offer horse-drawn carriage rides for $3/person, mini 4×4 rides for kids ($4) and a free visit of the grounds by foot.

Overall, I highly recommend Cabane à Sucre Constantin! Even if some of the food was a little bland, there was plenty of great-tasting alternatives. The atmosphere was very family friendly and the staff went out of their way to ensure a fun and safe visit for all.

Location: 1054 Arthur-Sauve Blvd. (Route 148), St-Eustache, Qc, J7R 4K3

Website: http://constantin.ca/

Prices vary according to season and day/time. Check their website for prices: http://constantin.ca/cabane-a-sucre/tarifs-heures-douverture

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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

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Ikea Montreal & Boucherville — Shop till you drop? Drop off the kids & shop!

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Family-friendly Ikea (they even have family parking!)

I’m usually a huge promoter of outdoor activities but lately the weather has been so lousy  in Montreal. Whereas with the first signs of spring we are out hiking and hoping for our first camping trip, I sit here today watching snow falling in the middle of April. It’s not the mid-winter light and fluffy snow; it’s worse than rain–the heavy, penetrating snow that dampens your clothing and leaves you thoroughly cold and soggy.

Unless the weather brightens, we’ll be sticking to indoor entertainment this weekend. Ikea has indoor entertainment for children and their parents! Like my previous post on Chapters, Ikea offers free entertainment for kids while parents can dream about their Ikea house. (Fight Club has forever ruined that for me!)

Ikea is like Costco in that I’ve never successfully left the store without purchasing something. Judging by their billion-dollar profits, I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one who can’t leave without a purchase. So I don’t feel bad when my toddler spends an hour or more in the kids’ section playing “house” or running around all the toys that are open and on-display.

For the older children, there is the famous ballroom. The aptly named “Smaland” is just bursting with young and fun energy. Come on–admit it!–you still wish you could belly-flop into the pool of plastic balls. Unfortunately, my son doesn’t meet the requirements yet; he’s still not tall enough (37″-48″) and he isn’t yet potty-trained. Children are only allowed in with their socks.

Ikea's Smaland Ballroom

Ikea’s Smaland Ballroom

The food isn’t the greatest nor is it the healthiest but it’s hard to beat their prices and my son adores their fries. They have vegetarian options for those who would prefer to stay away from their meatballs (though I’m not sure if their “meat”balls have ever even seen meat…) and they do have healthier options like chicken salads and a smoked salmon plate.

Ultimately, Ikea really caters to kids: their bathrooms are fully equipped (I’m pretty sure they offer diapers), there is never a lack of highchairs, they offer free (decent) bibs and all kid meals come on plastic plates (luckily because my son enjoys the occasional plate-flinging session). Ikea has family parking spots (though good luck finding an empty one), stroller-friendly elevators, wide aisles and kids running around everywhere!

The Montreal (Cavendish) Ikea is currently undergoing renovations but when it’s complete it promises to be the largest in North America. While they still have the play area for younger kids, the ballroom isn’t available. The good news is they are improving and enlarging the Smaland play area! The parking size is also supposed to increase dramatically–good news since that lot is a total mess on weekends. Until their renos are finished (Summer 2013), I would recommend heading over to the Ikea in Boucherville.

Ikea website: http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/

Locations:

Montreal Store: 9191 Cavendish Blvd., Montreal, Qc, (H4T 1M8)

Boucherville Store: 586 De Touraine, Boucherville, Qc, (J4B 5E4)

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Harlem Globetrotters – Montreal (April 12, 2013)

Harlem Globetrotters - Montreal (April 12, 2013)

I had the opportunity to see the Harlem Globetrotters many years ago as a youth and I remember the show being spectacular. If my toddler son was old enough to enjoy this show combining basketball and theatrics, we would be going tomorrow night. If they are as good as they were years ago, I highly recommend it to families with kids ages 6+. Also, their theme song is so catchy!
When: Friday, April 12, 2013 at 6:30
Where: Bell Centre (1909 Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montréal, Montreal, QC H4B 5G0)
Tickets range from $27-139
http://www.evenko.ca/html/tickets/harlem2013/index_en.html
Check out YouTube for some of their amazing tricks!