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Frequent visitor looking for new ideas for sightseeing

Massachusetts
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Frequent visitor looking for new ideas for sightseeing

Our son is a student at McGill, and we have traveled to Montreal many times to bring him there or home, or just visit. We only stay one night typically, and try to see something new (in a few hours) each trip. We have seen the Olympic stadium, biodome, Notre Dame, St. Joseph's Oratory. My husband isn't really a museum person so we haven't done that, but I think there might be a few he would like. We have been up to Petit Italie, and Mile End. As he will graduate some day, we would hate to find out we missed out on something after all these trips! We have been lucky to have caught the Jazz Festival and Festival of Lights, and loved both.

Thanks!

Montreal, Canada
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1. Re: Frequent visitor looking for new ideas for sightseeing

I am a bicycle fan and I find Montreal very keen for the two wheeled people. In fact if you don't plan to go on top of Mount Royal the city is fairly flat except for that hill between Ontario and Sherbrooke for a while and then becomes Beaver Hall HIll downtown. And you can take your bike on the métro outside of rush hours! It is a shame that bike racks on buses are still just a tryout on a few lines.

So even if you are not in top shape if you haven't any serious health conditions then you can certainly rent bikes and there are many places to go like on the Lachine Canal and then Lachine the old village and other western towns per se. Totally gentrified Plateau has not so many attractions in the touristic sense but it has typical Montreal triplexes rows on the side streets and many stores and restaurants on Mont-Royal. Outremont is a tony district with beautiful parks, upscale shopping and a very genteel feel. Westmount is a bit the same but decidedly Anglo-Saxon. Of course for both of these parts if you want to see the mansions on the mountain slopes I would suggest a car unless you are already avid bikers! There is also the bike trail along the Cité du Havre, bridge to Sainte-Hélène and Notre-Dame islands and then ride alongside the Saint-Lawrence Seaway to the first lock.

And so on and on.

Now you have been here for both summer and winter festivals but the whole cultural circuit can be found listed in The Mirror free cultural newspaper. I don't know if for the Mtl Highlights you were here for the white night but this is a very special with so many cultural institutions with special animations are open for the whole night. Two other somewhat similar events happen during the year: Journées de la Culture for a week-end + Friday in September and the International Museum Day on a Sunday in May. For all 3 there are special free bus routes to hop from one point to the other.

Now just a few hints for 10 places you might want to discover;

1-Maison Saint-Gabriel, one of the oldest building on the island and the former farmhouse of a nun order, beautiful right smack in the middle of a working class neighbourhood.

2-The former Sault au Récollet area, the first part of the island developped on the north side. Beautiful French rococco/neo-classical Visitation Church, interpretation center/museum, park on the small Visitation island, etc.

3-Cité des Arts du Cirque. In the north end over a former cement quarry and then dump you have the headquarters of Cirque du Soleil, of the National Circus School and La Tohu, the only permanent circus theatre in North America. Unless you are a very very VIP you can visite CduS only one day per year during Journées de la Culture but the Circus school is open a bit more and La Tohu organize many events, has it's own circus memorabilia collection and also organize tours about the recycling of the area with methane collectors, reuse of durable materials, etc. Usually you can go solo only a few week-ends per year but if you call you might be able to join one of the grop tours in English during the rest of the year. You could also stay for a show at night, including the graduates shows in June.

4-Another performing art school: National School Theatre of Canada has a beautiful heritage building on Saint-Laurent near Chinatown, this, the Monument National was concieved as a multi purpose building from late XIX Century so it is a bit curious to see that the beautiful renovated theatre is on the third floor. The building also has a smaller experimental theatre and the workshops of the school as this is not just an acting school but has curriculums in all stage crafts. The students of the last year are presenting shows in the main theatre a few times per year. The school offering programs in both official languages you have something like 3 or 4 in French and same in English, your way to discover tomorrow's star for an admission fee of $5! When theatres are not needed by the School they are rented to producers, for example during the Jazz Fest.

5-Ciné-Robothèque. An oddity as it was obsolete even before it went fully operational. The National Film Board of Canada is a Canadian cultural gem that has earned more awards than any other producer/studio in the world This contraption was concieved to give access to the whole film catalogue of the NFB in private screening stations. The whole thing done by a robotic arm manipulating huge disks. Now the whole thing could probably be digitalized in a very small computer but the place is still operational and you can get a 30 minutes tryout free then a very small hourly fee. You can discover a lot of things but you should certainly look at some of the wackiest animation films by demi-god Norman McLaren or get a copy with subtitles of Mon Oncle Antoine, always voted the best Canadian feature film.

6-The former city of Maisonneuve in the east end , just south of the Olympic Park has beautiful civic buildings and the whole area is getting slowly gentrified. It it is a bit of walking as the interesting buildings ar scattered but if is best done on bike or even by car. There is a French guide that Tristou can provide for you, just use google translation and you will get an idea and you must start your tout at Chateau Dufresne, just across the street from the Olympic Stadium this is an oddity patterned after the Little Trianon in Versailles and was the shared house (yes it's a duplex!) of the Dufresne brothers that really run the show in that former factory town, one being mayor and factory owner and the other the city engineer and later architect! So visit their house and you will get more infos about the wole shebang plus you will visit many period rooms. Then head south for the other buildings but, alas just a few are open for visiting but that include a beautiful market. Nothing comparable to Jean-Talon for choice but much grander in concept.

7-Another bike ride that I already mentionned but will go into more details is the Parc Jean-Drapeau on the islands and the attractions around that goes from an old military fort to a casino in former Expo 67 pavillons. Also the Biosphere, which was the US pavillon, the huge Calder sculpture some nice gardens and an artificial beach! And you can even ride your bike on the Gilles Villeneuve auto race track. You can do part of this circuit by car but car driving on the racetrack happens only a few times per year unless your name is Schummacher!.

8-Mc Donald Farm and Morgan Arboretum are part of Mc Gill University located in the western part of the island of Mtl. This is the campus for agriculture, forestry, etc. The Arboretum is a managed forest that you can access for a small fee and ideal for bird watching, cross country ski in winter, etc. In spring there is also an old fashioned sugar shack where sap is collected and boiled the old fashioned way.

9-Cooking course at Académie Culinaire. This is a cooking school for the public at large and not for professionals, it offers both hands on and lecture courses, some are part of a long serie but others are just one afternoon or one night course on a focused matter. It seems that in summer it also offers courses specifically for tourists but hotel concierges might be a better source for joining one or having one catered for your needs but staying with your son in an appartment might make it more difficult.

10-Alas a big may be: tea in the Ritz garden in summer! I say may be as the hotel has been closed for many years, being converted in a condo hotel. The last opening date seems to be this late spring but it is not sure if the garden with the duck pond, etc will make a come back. Aaaaaaah that was so civilized on a hot summer! Instead of option is to have tea at the Birks Café, located on the mezzanine of this famous jeweller. The approach to tea is a mix of traditional and modern and the setting sumptuous but, alas, indoor!

Note that I haven't mentioned the Museum of Fine Arts or the Pointe-à-Caillières Museum as both are very well known places but you should certainly plan a visit to both even if your husband is not the museum type. He might like the real archeological digs, former river bed, first fort remnants, etc. of PàC and the MMFA is free (small donation if you whish)for the permanent collection and and it is quite extensive so that might be a good deal too.

Have fun discovering Montéal!

Massachusetts
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2. Re: Frequent visitor looking for new ideas for sightseeing

Thank you so much for the detailed response! We will be sure to take in some of these in our visits for 2012. We have thought about the bicycles (we have bikes, but the Bixbie (sp) bikes would be easier than bringing our own, so it is helpful to have some routes to take.

Montreal, Canada
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3. Re: Frequent visitor looking for new ideas for sightseeing

The Bixi system is planned for short hops by Mtl citizens, as a summer extention of the métro and bus system. After one hour it can become quite expensive. You are better off renting real bikes and you can go to Ça Roule in Old Montreal. They will provide you with maps and personalized directions and also provide helmets and locks, which you don't get with Bixis.

Old Montreal
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4. Re: Frequent visitor looking for new ideas for sightseeing

Canadian centre for architecture

Redpath museum at McGill

Train museum in laprairie

Iles de boucherville park and golf

Cafe cleopatre

Biking on estacade and then on to longueuil

Italian foo shops in st Leonard, the real little Italy

The hydro power plant near ile de la visitation park

Visit radio-Canada building

Tour residential neighborhood in westmount with some of the finest Victorian architecture in north America

Montreal, Canada
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5. Re: Frequent visitor looking for new ideas for sightseeing

If you are visiting between January 6 and March 31, 2012, take a trip to the Snow Village at Parc Jean-Drapeau, Canada's first! This is apparently very popular in Finland, where it originated. Featured at the Snow Village will be ice replicas of Montreal's famous buildings, an ice hotel, an ice restaurant, and even a full-sized ice chapel.

Montreal, Canada
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6. Re: Frequent visitor looking for new ideas for sightseeing

Have you been out of the city? If you drive there why not stop on route in the Townships? The area around Sutton and Dunham is great for hiking, vineyards etc and is an easy 90 minutes drive in to the city.

In Montreal I love going to the Jean Talon market regardless of the time of year. The stalls are always colourful and there are plenty of places to eat so visit around lunchtime - it is very near a metro stop.

7. Re: Frequent visitor looking for new ideas for sightseeing

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