Fantasy Friday

Alas, my quick weekend get-away to Montreal has been foiled this weekend. Foiled by my dog. The dog boarders cannot take him since his rabies shot has just expired. Oh no!

So instead, I will fantasize about Montreal.

Here is a list of top FREE things to do in this amazing city from

1. Jardin des Floralies – Île Notre-Dame

Filled with 5,000 or so rose bushes, over 100,000 annuals as well as perennials and my personal favorite, that weeping willow tree equipped with picnic table beside the canal, the Jardin des Floralies is 25 acres of horticultural history and one of two major Montreal gardens. Originally created by some of the world’s best landscape artists who participated in the 1980 International Floralies fair, the gardens became a permanent city fixture and are now maintained by Parc Jean-Drapeau. While especially breathtaking in August, there’s plenty to behold across seasons, from the Jardin des Floralies’ first buds in spring to the vibrant colors of surrounding trees come fall.

2. Outdoor Ballroom Dancing – Île Sainte-Hélène

Only in Montreal. Only in Montreal will you spot a crowd — from ravers to seniors — doing the cha cha in square formation on a man made island (actually, it was a man-expanded island, circa 1963-1967). Light drizzle or shine, from June through August, anyone can learn the basics of ballroom dancing in the outdoor comfort of our very own Parc Jean-Drapeau. Always free and offered three evenings a week, just follow the beat, dance prof and group of line dancers to your left as you exit Parc Jean-Drapeau Metro. You really can’t miss it and you really must try it. At least once.

3. For the Window Shopper in Some of Us – Montreal Underground City

I’ve been here my most of my life yet I only found out in my early twenties that the world’s largest underground city is — cough — in Montreal. My excuse is 15 years in Laval. What’s yours? Explore all 33 km of Montreal’s Underground City and the 1,600 to 2,000 boutiques along the way, from the edge of downtown at Westmount Square to the Bibliothèque National, near the Latin Quarter and the Gay Village. Do look out for one of my favorite stretches, that mysteriously huge yet rush hour barren hallway with skylight near Place Bonaventure. Tell me, is there some monumental purpose for it other than serving as a fantastic photo backdrop? Please email me if you know. Seriously.

4. Explore Summit Park – Westmount

The highest point of Westmount and one of Mount Royal‘s three peaks, Summit Park and its 57 acres of protected wildlife is an all-time favorite urban getaway of mine. Gorgeous year round and particularly revered in the spring — birdwatchers gather early mornings to spot woodpeckers, owls, and many other bird species attracted to the summit — you forget you’re even in a city. The designer houses encircling the urban forest — try to guess which one I dubbed “the Claw” — offer a sharp and surreal contrast to the designated bird and wild flower sanctuary, disappearing from view within seconds of entering the park. Remember to keep the noise level down and bring a plastic bag for litter as public garbage bins are scarce in the area.

5. A Free Dose of Natural History at Redpath Museum – Downtown

From dinosaur bones to fossils to Egyptian mummies in the flesh, the Redpath doesn’t charge a dime to the public and is one of the oldest free museums in Canada. Located at McGill University’s downtown campus and doubling as an academic unit for McGill graduate students in biology, anthropology, and earth sciences, The Redpath Museum showcases permanent exhibits in geology, zoology and paleontology. The Redpath also houses a collection of over 17,000 anthropological and archaeological artifacts covering Ancient Egypt, South America, Sri Lanka and more.

OH….and one more thing from my own Montreal experience….the PHO!!!!

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About ghostbear

Building on the legacy of the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition’s two-decade journey that helped save Canada’s Kermode bear, Ghost Bear Institute – like the campaign itself – seeks to inspire, educate and spark a new generation to foster a better balance between people and nature.

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