Montreal or Ottawa?

May 14th, 2007, 06:58 PM
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Montreal or Ottawa?

My family (3 boys, ages 18, 15 and 11) will be going to Mont Tremblant this August and we are thinking of doing three or four nights in either Montreal or Ottawa. Any suggestions on which might be better for us? They are big on active things, including sports. They also like sightseeing. In short, they are doers. Being boys, they also like to eat! They love Toronto, but that is a too far out of the way for this trip (we are coming from the NYC area).
Europewithkids is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 06:55 AM
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Both are great cities to visit. Ottawa for 4 nights might be too much however.
Ottawa is very scenic, has several world class museums, and some fabulous biking paths along the river and the canal. The downtown is clean and safe, but not particularly memorable except for the Byword Market, which has lots of restaurants and shops.
Montreal is a much bigger city with mind boggling dining and shopping opportunities, and a real melting pot of different cultures. Montreal is also blessed with some wonderful biking trails throughout the city. It can't come close to Ottawa for museums, but it does have attractions like the Biodome, the amusement park, boat rides on the river, and lots of charm and activity in the Old City and the Plateau areas. There is usually some kind of festival going on every week in the summer.
I'd probably recommend Montreal for that long a stay. You might consider an overnight in Ottawa or Quebec City.
zootsi is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 07:19 AM
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I lived in Montreal for over 5 years before moving to Gatineau recently (opposite Ottawa).

This is a tough one. There's probably more to see and do in Montreal, but not as many sports as there would be here in Ottawa. Montreal has attractions like the Biodome, the Montreal Science Centre, IMAX, etc. that would interest them. There is an extensive city-wide cycling network, so you could look into renting bikes.

Ottawa also has an excellent cycling network that extends over to Gatineau. There's the Canadian War Museum which looks very, very interesting, and many other museums. Shopping is quite good in town (if that's an interest). There's also Gatineau Park, where you can go hiking, camping, to the beach. It's a 5-minute drive from downtown Ottawa and is a vast park that cuts through the city of Gatineau and stretches upward.

I think the best thing to do is look at the tourism websites of both cities and see what kind of attractions there are and decide from there.

Good luck
pavfec is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 07:53 AM
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Hi, maybe a few nights in both as the cities are only a 2 hour drive apart?
lucyp is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 06:38 PM
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I love Ottawa. However, since you'll be visiting Mont Tremblant, Montreal might be more "city" to counter that. Ottawa is not quite as metropolitan as Montreal.
toedtoes is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 09:44 PM
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Montreal and Ottawa are so very different. Montreal's a place you go to soak up the neighbourhood, to people watch, to take in the arts scene, the boutiques, the restaurant scene and the nightlife.

Ottawa, in my opinion, is not about that. Ottawa's a slower paced city, and much smaller than Montreal, that's for sure, and it does feel like a government town, and feels less cosmopolitan...

... and yet, Ottawa is by far the best museum city in Canada. I've spent weeks in both Ottawa and Montreal, so I'm very familiar with them. There are over a dozen museums and indoor attractions in Ottawa that I would definitely recommend spending a few days there. Your boys would probably enjoy tour of the House of Parliament (or not - it depends on the wow factor), the Museum of Civilization (really cool walk-through displays), the War Museum, and if you can, the Aviation Museum (gigantic airplane hangars full of real, preserved aircrafts from over the past century). There are of course other museums as well (Science Museum? I forget the name... nearby the southern end of Elgin Street). Basically enough to entertain the family with boys your age.

But if they're seeking big city sights, big city sounds, a buzz on the street, shopping centres, restaurants galore - Montreal would be better, definitely.
Carmanah is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 02:38 AM
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I think others have described the differences between the two cities pretty well. Unless your kids are particularly interested in museums and in seeing Parliament, I would recommend Montreal.
If you are going to Montreal August 4 to 12 and your family has any interest in tennis, you should consider getting tickets to the Rogers Cup men's tournament

The amusement park, La Ronde, would probably be another popular stop.
Vttraveler is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 04:36 AM
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Thanks for the very helpful replies. Two questions:

1. What would be the best things to do in Montreal? Ottawa seems pretty clear.

2. Would Quebec City be a better option, or would my boys be bored there?
Europewithkids is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 05:45 AM
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Quebec City might be less exciting for the boys: I tend to think of Quebec as a romantic "couples" destination, and 4 nights there is probably more than needed to see everything anyway (although I often recommend Quebec visitors consider a day-trip or overnight to the Saguenay a couple of hours up the St. Lawrence for whale-watching and scenery).

I really like Ottawa partly because it is a smaller city which makes it easy to get around on foot, and has a nice very visitor-friendly atmosphere (many "apartment"-style hotels). Lots of restaurants grouped close together in Byward Market area. Gatineau Park across the river in Quebec was mentioned as a good day trip: walking and bike trails, scenic overlooks, and a couple of quaint tourist towns (e.g. Wakefield). The Museum of Civilization as mentioned is very popular and has spectacular displays (e.g. huge authentic Totem Poles) and, I believe, has an Imax Theatre(?). I also like the National Gallery, a major Art museum. The Museum of Natural History is undergoing renovations, but some of the new displays are open and might interest the boys (dinosaur skeletons, etc.). Montreal shopping and nightlife would be bigger and more diverse than Ottawa, and there are a number of very excellent (and expensive) French restaurants.
May 16th, 2007, 06:23 AM
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Montreal shopping and nightlife would be bigger and more diverse than Ottawa, and there are a number of very excellent (and expensive) French restaurants.

Please don't give the impression that there are only French restaurants in Montreal! Montreal has over 4,000 restaurants of all cuisines for all budgets. In addition to French, there's Lebanese, Moroccan, Tunisian, Thai, Indian, Spanish, Mexican, Portuguese, Polish, Hungarian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, Belgian, Swiss, Peruvian, Salvadorian, and more.

If you explore a little and look at restaurants other than the usual popular touristy places, you can find some great places to eat in Montreal.
pavfec is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 06:58 AM
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Quebec City is a fun place, with an energetic vibe. I remember visiting in my early 20s (not too far off in age from your 18-year-old) and was totally besmitten with the ambience of QC. Young people were out playing hackeysack, friends were listening to a chansonnier playing guitar on the Plains of Abraham, some young folk were dancing in la Place Royale. People were biking and roller-blading on the Plains, it was so alive. Seeing all the young people communicating in French was even exciting to the young American that I was. At 18, as an adult, your eldest can legally be served a glass of wine with his meal in Quebec (19 for Ontario), which some youth might enjoy.

In contrast, when I visited Ottawa in my 20s, I remember thinking how dead the town seemed. Just my opinion, but I'd honestly be more concerned that the kids would be bored in Ottawa than in Quebec City. (Although both have outdoorsy activities that they might like.)

My 2 cents. DAN
Daniel_Williams is online now  
May 16th, 2007, 07:44 AM
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Hi - about Montreal restaurants, you're right of course pavfec that "French" restaurants represent only a portion of the variety available. I guess I should have been clearer - and of course I was coming from my own point of view. That Montreal is "unique" in offering a larger number and variety of great French restaurants than can be found in most other cities. Both Montreal and Toronto (and to a lesser extent Ottawa) also offer a very diverse range of multicultural and specialty dining.
May 16th, 2007, 08:02 AM
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OK here are some specific recommendations for Montreal:

The Biodome & Olympic Park Complex. The Biodome is a massive indoor habitat, much of it is a tropical rain forest, complete with birds,lemurs,etc. There is also the imposing, slanting tower at the park that you can ride up in.

Bicycling: You can rent bikes on Rue Rachael behind Parc La Fontaine, and bike on bike trails thru the park, down thru the heart of the city to the waterfront (where there's lots to see), then pickup the lachine Canal trail which goes for many miles along the canal. This trip will take a large part of the day. There are also nice biking and hiking trails in the parks on the north side of the island, plus a restored old mill.

The lookout at the top of Mt. Royal has a great view. You can walk or drive to it.

The La Ronde Amusement Park, which is on it's own island just outside the city.

Walking thru fun neighborhoods:
Montreal has a very interesting, small Chinatown between the Old City and the downtown. Strolling on St. Denis you will see lots of interesting cafes, used cd stores, clothing stores, etc. Strolling in the old city is great fun, and quite unique. Walk along Prince Arthur St. in the evening - it's hopping with outdoor restaurants and street entertainment.

Notre Dame Basillica: This is a huge church in the old city. The inside is unforgettable.

zootsi is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 12:38 PM
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Your kids might also like whitewater rafting - I am pretty sure this can be done from both Mtl and Ottawa (though have not done it myself)
snoopy12 is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 12:52 PM
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Yes, White-Water Rafting! Great idea Snoopy 12, I did it years ago on the Ottawa River upriver from the city of Ottawa, and just didn't think about it. If your boys like active things, they should love this. Here's one of the big operators:
May 17th, 2007, 03:12 AM
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There are rafting possibilities on the Lachine rapids near Montral

The port area has a lot of outdoor activities including biking and roller blading. The Science Museum is in that area. I think the exhibits would be too young for your kids except the 11 year old. The Pointe a Calliere archeological museum is very interesting

Other museums that might interest your kids are the insectarium and the Biosphere, a museum about water and especially the St. Lawrence, in the old biosphere from the Expo world's fair.

on Sunday afternoons there are electronic music concerts (piknic electronik) at the Place d'Homme near La Ronde and the Biosphere. You can drive, take the metro or take a bus from the port area

East of Montreal is the Richlieu River with Fort Chambly and fort Lennox and a bike path.

If it rains, you might want to try the CineRobotheque which lets you pick from a large collection of National Film Board Canada films and watch them in booths for 1 or 2 people.

There is a go kart center that is supposed to be the largest in North America. Also an indoor ice skating rink downtown, a laser quest center and many other entertainment center options.

Vttraveler is offline  
May 17th, 2007, 09:42 AM
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@ Europewithkids

If you prefer outdoor adventures, go with Ottawa/Gatineau. Here are some activities

Aerial Parks and cave visit:



Ottawa tourism website:

If you prefer big city stuff, go with Montreal.

Biodome and insectarium:

Amusement Park (with the highest double wooden roller coaster in the world "Le Monstre"):

Montreal's Old Port Quays (with a very funny labyrinth and Segway's rentals):

And everything else you can think of about a world-size city.

Tourism Montreal:

And the best of all: Both cities are within 2 hours drive if you can't decide!

Have fun!

(with the preview feature, the web addresses are repeated twice and only the second ones seem to work. Sorry for that...)
travelingmad is offline  
May 21st, 2007, 11:14 AM
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Thanks to all for the great insights. I have yet to decide, but I think I am leaning toward Montreal. The outdoors stuff (rafting, bicycling, water park, etc.) is part of what we will do in Tremblant, although bicycling around a city is a different experience. I think a true city experience may be a nice counter to our time in Tremblant and since we literally drive right though Montreal on our way to Tremblant anyway, Montreal just seems to make too much sense. Ottawa is a great place but if I can find the time with my boys' busy winter schedules, I would love to take them to Winterlude as opposed to a summer visit (two of my three kids are good skaters -- they play ice hockey -- and would fly down the Rideau canal!).
Europewithkids is offline  
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