Looking for some kid-friendly and fun day trips from Northern Vermont? Hop across the border into Canada! Let me hook you up with some of my favorite places and spaces that are just a short drive away in Québec!
As a dad of two small kids, I am always looking for some fun weekend trips to keep the kids entertained. Québec has lots of fun activities and with the currency exchange rate (currently 1 USD= 1.35 CAD), these trips are affordable too! While crossing into another country can seem a little daunting (especially if you don’t speak French), I find that you can get by with English, hand gestures, and a smile about 90% of the time (the other 10% involves less friendly hand gestures).
These days, adults need a passport to cross the border but kids can still get by with just a birth certificate if they are traveling with both of their parents. If one parent is traveling with children, border police may request a letter of permission from the absent parent. I also find that crossing at some of the more rural border stations saves quite a bit of time. If you have the opportunity, or already live closer to a rural crossing, avoid the border station on I-89 at all costs. I have waited for more than an hour at the interstate crossing. Here is a site with some good info and maps.
Lastly, make sure to put a travel notification on file with your credit card company as purchases made in another country can get flagged as suspicious activity even though these trips are only about an hour and forty-five minutes from Burlington and even less from Saint Albans.
Without further adieu, here are my favorite spots!
Rainy Day? Head inside to an awesome indoor zoo! This place is situated inside the Olympic Park in the Mercier Neighborhood of Montréal. It has a really cool set-up where the visitor walks through various biospheres of the planet. Everything is controlled from the atmosphere to the terrain. Birds are free flying in the rain forest and penguins jump into the icy water of the Arctic. The seashore section even sounds and smells like the coast of Maine. This place is very interactive and has to be experienced. It is also open year-round, so it makes for a good wintertime trip as well, particularly when your eyes crave greenery.
Once the kids are done with the zoo, head outside and you will find yourself situated within the Olympic Park from the 1976 Summer Games. You can tour the large stadium or take an elevator ride to the top of the tower for a view of the city.
Another rainy day activity will take you to the town of Vaudreuil, Québec. Situated just west of the island of Montréal, the Woo-Hoo Family Fun Center has the largest play structure in North America! There are four floors of slides, ball pits, foam ball guns, and obstacles. Your kids will pop in and out all over the structure and will have an absolute blast. Fortunately, there is only one way in and out of the structure, so you can always tell when they come out (usually for a pizza or poutine refill). They also have a climbing wall, arcade, and giant trampoline.
After wearing the kids out at Woo-Hoo, hop in the car and cross the causeway to the town of St. Anne-de-Bellvue. This quaint town is situated on the Saint Lawrence Seaway and has a really fun boardwalk with restaurants, shops, and ice cream stands. It has a coastal town feel and could easily be on the shores of Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.
A little bit more off the beaten path, this ultimate frisbee team plays in the AUDL Professional League. The league is made up of twenty-eight teams that play coast to coast in both the USA and Canada. It is the equivalent to the MLB or NBA. Tickets are $40 CAD for a family of four to attend a game and the action is non-stop. The athletes are very friendly and the sportsmanship is top notch. After the match, the players come off the field and into the stands to interact with the kids and sign autographs. During the last match that I took my son to, they had dollar hot dogs and $4 local microbrews along with your other typical stadium food. If you love sports, check this out.
The Granby Zoo, found in the town of Granby, is an easy drive across the border. Found east of the metro area of Montréal, it is away from the traffic and the crowds. This zoo is HUGE and takes several visits to cover all of the exhibits. The animals are kept in large natural environments and are grouped by continents. The zookeepers make sure to feed the animals right next to the walking paths, often bringing the animals within a few feet of the walking paths. The best part of the Granby Zoo is that it is more than just a zoo! During the summer months, your zoo ticket also gets you admission into the water park! Dozens of slides and wave pools will thrill the older kids and the splash pads will keep the younger ones excited as well. Lastly, they have an area filled with amusement park rides and an indoor play structure, most of which are included with admission as well. If you plan on visiting more than once, you may consider purchasing a season’s pass.
Filled with antique railroad engines, passenger cars, and freight cars, the Exporail Museum is located in the town of Saint Constant, Québec. This town is south of the island of Montréal, so you can avoid the traffic here as well. A large museum, this place has exhibits both inside and out. Kids love transportation and you can get up close and personal with these huge trains that rumbled down the rails for decades before they were donated to the museum. Kids can make a real connection with the past as they can climb up and touch many of the trains. Children can also operate and run a super fun room-sized model railroad. Outside, you can go on a trolley ride as well as ride a mini-railway. This stop is fun for all ages!
I hope you enjoy my Canadian day trip ideas and I would love to hear of any other trips you have done with your family. My kids have been to all of these places many times and they always make for a special family experience. Have fun in Canada!
Guest Author: Tim Fabrizio
Tim is a father of two children aged 7 and 2. Working as a Chief Mate in the Merchant Marine, he enjoys his off time skiing, hiking, and working on his cars. Tim’s son is on the autism spectrum, and as a dad, he is very passionate about spreading autism awareness and acceptance.