Rain is natural; being bored isn’t, especially in Montreal!

Rain is natural; being bored isn’t, especially in Montreal!

“It’s raining on my parade.” You’ve surely heard the expression. And while it’s true that a rainy day can put a crimp in your plans, that won’t happen in Montreal.

Of course it rains in Montreal, but those grey days are usually few in number. According to Environment Canada, June and August receive an average of five days of appreciable rainfall—5 mm or more—per month. And even when the taps are turned on from above, the day doesn’t have to be a total washout. Montreal’s got everything to make you forget the lousy weather, especially if you’re planning an outing with the family.

You could, of course, make a beeline for any one of the scores of multiplex movie theatres across the island. And there are even more museums—roughly 50—to visit. Alternatively, you could head over to the Atrium Le 1000, rent a pair of skates and glide around under an immense glass dome.

If shopping is more your thing, you’ll want to go check out Montreal’s underground city, or RÉSO, as it is officially known. With its 32 km network of tunnels, used by close to 185 million people each year, it’s the biggest subterranean complex in the world. The proportion of Montreal’s commercial businesses, including many shops and restaurants, concentrated there is estimated to be 12%.

The Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan, the Biodôme and the Insectarium are other destinations that are sure to delight the whole family.

So much for traditional outings. However, if you feel like discovering a different side of the city, we’ve got some suggestions for original, off-the-beaten-track activities.

Cacao 70: Chocolate heaven

What kid can resist chocolate? It’s a no-brainer. Seriously, step into Cacao 70 with any child and just watch their eyes light up. You’ll know you’ve come to the right place!

This is chocolate heaven. From its beginnings as a chocolate drinking bar, the Montreal-based company Cacao 70 grew over the years to become a major producer of chocolate and related products, and a restaurant chain offering chocolate-inspired drinks, light meals and brunches.

The factory is located in Pointe-Saint-Charles, at 1751 Richardson Street, at the corner of Shearer and Patrick. That’s where head chocolatier Gaiia Kim creates and tests new recipes. It’s worth a trip just to see the huge copper vats, watch the chocolate being poured and marvel at the artisans at work. And all that even before you’ve had a chance to ogle at the menu that gives chocolate some serious star power: chocolate waffles, crepes, fondues, cakes, drinks... bliss!

Besides their factory, Cacao 70 has six locations in Montreal and another 10 across Canada

The factory is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

www.cacao70.com

Randolph, the board game Mecca

You’ve never seen so many games in your life! Randolph was founded in 2012 by four avid board gamers, including actor Normand D’Amour. It started out as the Randolph Pub, where friends could play a game while enjoying a drink or a meal. Game masters come around and help you decide on a game, which is a good thing, because you might be a little overwhelmed by the number of choices available! The Randolph gaming pubs—there are two now—are, obviously, 18+ establishments.

A few years later, in 2015, they broadened their activities and opened a shop, the Boutique Randolph Villeray. This location welcomes the whole family, including tiny tots who are sure to gape with wonder at this many games. Here, too, board game gurus will assist you in finding something to suit your taste.

Store: 347 De Castelnau Street East

Gaming pubs: 2041 Saint-Denis Street and 6505 Des Écores Street

www.randolph.ca

The biggest Barbie museum in the world

When she created the Barbie doll in 1959, Ruth Handler could not have predicted the popularity the latest member of the family would enjoy. Ruth married Elliot Handler (with whom, she would cofound Mattel in 1945). Barbie, the doll, was named after their daughter, Barbara.

In 1997, the number of Barbies sold reached one billion. While sales have declined in recent years, the company still churns out 80 million dolls every year. Given Barbie’s devoted following, it seemed fitting to dedicate a museum to her. Montreal can now boast that it is home to the largest permanent Barbie museum in the world.

The Barbie Expo showcases over 1,000 elegantly dressed dolls. Some of the haute couture on display is the work of elite designers the likes of Vera Wang, Versace, Christian Dior and Oscar de la Renta. Miss Barbie, who measures 29.2 cm (11 1/2 in.), is seen in a variety of roles and settings: on the catwalk, in the heart of New York city or as a character from the movies Hunger Games, Pirates of the Caribbean and Grease, to name just a few. Several of the glamorous dolls are inspired by stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Cher. Expo Barbie is open seven days a week. Admission is free.

1455 Peel Street (Les Cours Mont-Royal)

www.expobarbie.ca

The Montréal Science Centre: Fun for young and old alike

No bewildering mathematical equations, test tubes or microscopes here; just a raft of cool, hands-on experiments that allow visitors to explore science through play. Whatever your age, you’ll have a blast at the Montréal Science Centre.

The Science Centre has five permanent exhibitions that let you unravel the mystery of certain scientific concepts through a variety of activities.

“Fabrik,” for example, consists of a series of creative challenges in which children must envision technological solutions, then build what they have imagined, with or without help from the activity leader, using the materials provided.

Even more intriguing is “The Windmills of the Imagination,” a mini hydroelectric generating station that works backwards, as it produces water from electrical energy. How’s that possible? That’s for you to discover!

For the 7-and-under crowd, there’s “Clic! The Zone for Curious Young Minds.” Surrounded by shapes and colours, children take part in building a house or a roller coaster, which offers them a fun initiation into the world of science.

You can also take in a 3D movie at the Science Centre’s IMAX-TELUS Theatre. There are generally screenings of two or three family films in rotation every day. Until mid-June, the line-up includes Tiny Giants 3D, which reveals how the tiniest creatures living in North America’s wild woodlands, such as chipmunks, manage to survive. Also on the program is Amazon 3D, with spectacular images that take you on a journey of discovery through the breathtaking Amazon rainforest.

These are not the only experiences to be had at the Science Centre. A visit there, with or without a child in tow, is a must.

2 De la Commune Street West (Old Port)

www.montrealsciencecentre.com

The day flies by at the Ministry of Cricket and Other Homeless Sports!

The Ministry of Cricket and Other Homeless Sports—yep, its real name—offers a combination of activities rarely found together in one place. Got a wild one who needs to let off some steam or activate a few brain cells? Bring them here!

Fancy a Hunger Games role-playing activity? The Ministry will set you up from head to toe, bow and arrow included. After a 10-minute “training” session, you’re ready to go on the attack. The activity is without risk, as the tips of the arrows are wrapped in foam and all the equipment is very safe. When you feel your enemy bearing down on you, you can hide behind any number of obstacles strewn around the battleground. They also offer a version for younger children (starting from 8 years).

For a more cerebral, but equally thrilling, activity, test your sleuthing abilities in the Ministry’s Sherlock Holmes escape room. Journey back in time to Victorian London when you enter a room decorated with antiques to resemble Sherlock Holmes’ famous 221B Baker Street flat. To leave the room, you must solve the crime using the clues provided. If you get stuck, the actors can offer you a few hints.

Besides these options, there’s also ball hockey, soccer, dodgeball, Ping-Pong and Nerf Battle (a version of paintball) to help you work up a sweat! Baseball fans can knock ‘em out of the park in the batting cage. And last but not least, you can, naturally, take part in an introduction to cricket session!

If you need to chill out in between all that fun, take a break at the café-bar on the mezzanine, which looks over some of the activity areas.

1301 Mazurette Street

www.ministryofcrickt.ca

Tan Tan Kat: Get creative and make your own soap

Not only is making your own soap creative, it’s practical, too! Tan Tan Kat organizes creative soap-making workshops that let you unleash your inner artist and create colourful soaps in a variety of playful shapes: popsicles, bagels, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, robots and many more.

The artists’ centre lets you choose from over 100 moulds and almost as many colours. Note that all the ingredients used to make the soaps, including the organic essential oils they use for fragrance, are vegan and free of preservatives and harmful chemicals.

An activity leader guides young creators through the various stages of production. On occasion, the budding artisans’ creativity might be stimulated by someone tinkling the ivories of the studio’s piano! Reservations are required.

3784 Mentana Street

www.tantankat.com