<p>We have decided make Montreal our family vacation destination this year. We are looking at taking Amtrak from Washington DC to Montreal and back. We will be traveling in August. If you have been to Montreal before, we'd like to hear your experiences. Here are some questions:</p>
<p>1) what are the must-see tourist sites? I'm sure people have different ideas. D1 (age 17) and D2 (age 13) like Cirque de Soleil, fireworks, good food and cool museums. </p>
<p>2) if you have taken Amtrak to Montreal, how was the train experience? This will be the first time we have ridden a train for any type of famiy vacation so we have no idea what the experience would be like. </p>
<p>3) Is fluency in French necessary to get around Montreal? It's been ages since I studied high school French, and I am debating as to whether I need to brush up on my French before we go.</p>
<p>Many thanks in advance for ideas and suggestions!</p>
<p>Hi I live 2 hours away and can give you a few ideas.
Look into La Ronde. (theme park), biosphere, botanical gardens, St Joseph Oratory, old Montreal, St Catherine street for shopping. If you staying in Montreal for a while it would be well worth taking a day trip to Ottawa, Canada capital and one of its most beautiful cities. It is only 2 hrs away and accessible by train or bus. French is not required as everyone understands English.</p>
<p>Dear percussiondad, </p>
<p>Thanks for the quick response! We were thinking about visit Quebec City as well. Can you get by with speaking only English in Quebec City?</p>
<p>You don’t NEED to speak French in any of the major cities in Quebec, it helps but is not mandatory. If you go to Quebec City you need to see the Plains of Abraham. Unfortunately they had a fire a few years ago but still worth going to. Abraham Martin who owned the farm and gave it to the French army is my direct ancestor. Go to the old city and just walk around, beautiful scenery, atmosphere, artisans and of course history. The people are generally friendly and helpful, if you could learn basic thank you and such in French they appreciate it and will tend to be help even more just because you tried. In both cities as well as Ottawa expect to do a lot of walking. If you look up tourism Quebec you will be able to get some good holiday ideas. I hope you have a wonderful time and that we Canadians leave you with wanting more.</p>
<p>That’s cool, percussion dad!
This is a timely thread for me, as D and I think we would like to go to QC this summer. We have already been to the other cities mentioned and loved them all. I will watch the further responses.</p>
<p>Glad you enjoyed parts of Canada. One thing that is really neat to do from either city is whale watching. Both cities have whale watching tours. I have preferred the ones from Quebec City but possibly just because we were luckier that day. The other thing of course is the food, both cities have outstanding restaurants. I don’t know if I am supposed to put a link but if you search bonjourquebec.com it is a really good web site for things to do and festivals around the province. Here is a restaurant to look up, we really enjoyed it and it is an interactive type of meal (LE FESTIN DU GOUVERNEUR SHOW). Both Montreal and Quebec City are so full of history that you could spend hours looking into it.</p>
<p>Our family enjoyed the train to Montreal . Hope they have a special "viewing " car with lots of big glass windows . Bring some snacks as the line to buy is long ,and there is little to choose from .</p>
<p>H and I took a train to Montreal years ago. We really enjoyed it there. If you like churches there are several interesting and beautiful ones, including as I recall one like Notre Dame and another one like St. Peter’s. We also liked Old Montreal. I would dust off the French!</p>
<p>We love both Montreal and Quebec and as Montreal is a quick 3 hours from home we always drive. I have heard from others, though, that going through customs on the train can take hours.</p>
<p>One of our favorite things to do in Montreal, besides eating, is renting bikes in Old Port and riding along the canals. </p>
<p>We also love the Botanical gardens. Try to go to the top of Mont Royal, great view. </p>
<p>As for QC, the P0fA is a must and there is also a very pretty island (ile d’Orleans) not far from QC where there were farms and where we bought strawberries. </p>
<p>I was very disappointed in the shops in QC. Very, very touristy. The restaurants, OTOH, were fab.</p>
<p>We vacationed with our kids in both multiple times. Montreal is a very multi-cultural city, and even French may not be enough in some neighborhoods. Quebec is much more French, but your English will be fine. Both are great for walking around. In Montreal, you could not only visit Mont Royal, which gives the city its name, but walk up it. Unfortunately, you can no longer go to Olympic Stadium for a baseball game. In Quebec, there’s the boardwalk on the cliff, plus the fun of the funicular up and down from the Old to the Lower City. A couple of times, we stayed–less than a half hour from town-- at resort type hotels in a region of lakes and woods.</p>
<p>Then we discovered the Northumberland Strait in New Brunswick–Canada’s only officially bi-lingual province–where you can find very reasonable water front cottages. (Cottaging is this peculiarly Canading thing, and there are magazines and newspaper columns about it.) We found one place in Murray Corner where we had miles of beach to ourselves with a view of the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island. When we took a day trip to Green Gables House, I never saw so many Japanese tourists in one location, coming in by the bus load. Apparently Anne is a national obsession. Everyone reads the books. </p>
The true north, strong and free.</p>
<p>Whenever we’re not pleased with what’s happening here, we, only half joking, ask, is it time to emigrate?</p>
<p>We live close enough that we’re able to get up to Montreal just about every year. As others have said, dining is one of the top attractions and deservedly so. We enjoy walking around the Plateau area and taking chances on interesting looking bistros. Sometimes you win, sometimes its nothing special, but we’ve never lost. Atwater Market is also a great place to purchase a lunch to enjoy along the Lachine Canal.</p>
<p>Vieux Montreal, the Notre Dame Cathedral, St. Joseph’s Oratory, the Biodome, the Botanical Gardens, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Mont-Royal and McGill University are all places we’ve enjoyed visiting. A tour of the St. Lawrence waterfront aboard the bateaux mouches is also highly recommended. Take advantage of summer open air concerts and parades if you’re in town at the right time. </p>
<p>Part of the appeal of Montreal to my family is the chance it affords to dust off our high school French. It is appreciated, although if you run into a jam I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t switch into Englaish without a moment’s hesitation. Although I’ve taken Amtrak to Montreal several times, it has been at least 20 years since I last did so. I do remember a few very scenic stretches along Lake Champlain, as well as extensive waits at the border while customs checked everyone out (and this was before 9/11). Have fun. Montreal’s a great city.</p>
<p>I’m jealous! S graduated from McGil last year and we miss our trips up there.
I assure you that French is absolutely not needed at all in Montreal.
Your HS French will undoubtedly much much worse than even the most Francophiliac native’s English.
Agree with hudson valley on his’her recs. Check for music/movie/arts festivals. S is going for a visit sometime this summer for one of their famous music festivals.
Try some of the outdoor cafes on, I believe, St. Denis. If you’re interested, I’ll try to locate the name of one that was especially nice.
<p>Both Montreal and Quebec City are family favorites although we have never travelled by train to get there. My kids loved both the Old City as well as the Botanical Gardens and Biodome in Montreal. Last time we were there it was favorable to shop in Montreal and so they enjoyed that and the chance to use their high school French. Actually they really enjoyed the TV commercials in the hotel in French. For Quebec City, in addition to Old City and the funicular and the promenade boardwalk and the Plains of Abraham, there is a really nice national park east of the city with a suspension bridge over gorges/waterfalls that we all really enjoyed. Someone else will have to help on the name! Both cities have outstanding dining.</p>
<p>^^Montmorency Falls. Taller than Niagara!</p>
<p>My family of 5 did Montreal and Quebec City two summers ago in August. (Mom, Dad and 3 boys age 18,18 and 24.) We drove from the NY area and the border crossing wait wasn’t too bad. </p>
<p>You can absolutely get by without speaking French, although three of us speak it somewhat passably. I must tell you that we much preferred Quebec City to Montreal. We thought it was absolutely beautiful to walk around. The old cities of both places are really nice. </p>
<p>Yes, “Les Chutes Montmorency” as suggested by alwaysamom. ;)</p>
<p>“I do remember a few very scenic stretches along Lake Champlain, as well as extensive waits at the border while customs checked everyone out (and this was before 9/11).”</p>
<p>We looked into taking the train from Albany a few years ago and the schedule had it taking 7 -8 hours! I believe it is due to the wait at customs since 9/11. </p>
<p>Last time we were in Montreal we stayed at a charming B&B near St. Denis. It was the week of the Just For Laughs festival. One night there was a huge parade on St. Denis with some marvelous street acts performing. Lot of hooka bars on St. Denis.</p>
<p>Forgot to mention ice skating in August as something you can do right alongside Canadians. But be warned, it’s not like at an American rink where you see folks hanging on to the side rails to hold themselves up. Even the 80-somethings are doing tricks on the ice.</p>
<p>If you like tennis, the women are playing in Montreal for the Rogers Cup 4-13 August. Unfortunately the international fireworks competition ends 3rd August - it is quite spectacular. We did the train from Montreal to New York…was rather a long day and the airco in several carriages did not work so that made the journey seem even longer…but it is a comfortable and relatively inexpensive way of getting there.</p>
<p>We went to that tournament when we visited Montreal 10 years ago. We were disappointed that Serena Williams pulled out right before the tournament started, so the marquee evening match we hoped to see wasn’t very competitive. Fortunately, it had rained that afternoon, so those matches were still in progress when we entered the venue. On one of the auxiliary courts, there was a doubles match with Martina Navratilova and Jennifer Capriati vs. Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Danela Hantuchova. We were able to sit so close to the court that you could read the logos on their sneakers. Getting to see 3 former #1’s on the same court made the experience worthwhile.</p>
<p>Lachine Rapids jet boat tour from the waterfront in Old Montreal. You will get soaked, but our teens loved it.</p>