Husband: “Why are you wearing mascara?”
“Because I’m GOING ON A DATE! With a very cute younger man.”
Between grade 2, hockey, and homework, it had been a while since my big-kid and I had done a one-on-one activity. Thinking it was time to get cultured, I browsed the internet for some museums, thought about Pointe-à-Callière (where I’d never been), hemmed and hawed some more, and then finally just let him pick.
“Art or archaeology? And there’s something about pirates.”
So we found a coupon in the Entertainment Savings Book (given to us for Christmas and proving to be really handy!), bundled up, said “See ya!” to the other boys at home, and went off in search of parking. And searched……and grumbled….and then finally found a meter a couple of blocks from the museum.
I warned my 7-year old that I had NO IDEA what to expect from this museum, I’d never been, knew nothing about it except that there was a movie at the beginning and then some “old stuff™”.
“Meh, let’s try it.”
Entering at the Éperon Building, we paid $22 for me (eeek), and thankfully the coupon got us a second ticket of equal or lesser value for free, so that saved us (me) $8. You can check out all the rates HERE, and note that there are SPECIAL OFFERS if you have an Opus card, If you’re a grandparent and visiting with grandkids (FREE for all of you on Sundays!!), and they also have a promotion during January and February called Weekends Below Zero. It’s worth checking out the links if you want to try and plan your visit while saving a few dollars.
The helpful employee let us know about the free coat check (there are some lockable lockers available for $1), pointed us to the washrooms, told us about the water fountain directly behind the coat check, and then let us know that the next showing of the movie would start in 10 minutes. You can find some important Visitor Information HERE.
We had just enough time to stuff our mittens in our sleeves, go for a pee (“Are you SURE you don’t need to go? How about you just try?”), and then we went to where the man had previously pointed and stood there wondering what next.
Convinced we were in the wrong spot as there was nothing there, we looked at each other, and then like we were on a Star Trek set, the wall opened up in front of us. Cool.
I’d at first thought that we’d skip the movie. Don’t do that. It was really, really interesting history of Montreal from when Mount Royal was born until the present with a 270° surround screen, light show, and narration available in eight languages through the headsets. Lasting 18 minutes it was the perfect introduction to what we would see in the rest of the museum. You can get a glimpse of the movie Yours Truly, Montréal on THIS PAGE.
Exiting through the doors at the back of the theatre, we headed downstairs to the basement and started exploring the Archaeological Remains. The floor here is very uneven so watch your step, and don’t touch the walls! The museum is much more kid-friendly than I’d thought it would be and there are skulls to touch and learn about, Native American artifacts to try out, buttons and interactive displays to watch. My guy was a big nervous about some of the darker corners as he said they were kind of “spooky”, but he was also very interested.
We looked at old coins used hundreds of years ago, saw pottery and jewelry, descended down and across the remains of the old sewer, and explored the archaeological crypt beneath Place Royale. While we had a map with us, it made zero sense to me, but thankfully there are guides are various spots throughout the different buildings. We stood “on top of the city!!!” and then went up the steps to peer down into the remains of early Montreal. While most of the museum is stroller and wheelchair accessible, this elevated section is not.
After following the signs for the Pirates or Privateers? exhibition, we passed through the Saputo Lunch Room where you’ll find lunch tables, washrooms and a water fountain (note that there is NO food available for sale here), and headed up the stairs. I think it was me who squealed upon seeing the immense ship when we entered the room. With ropes to tie, boards on which to balance, buttons to touch, things to smell, and all sorts of other interactive tools and items to discover, we both wandered around the privateer ship looking and touching. Strollers are NOT permitted on the ship, though of course someone had parked their giant stroller SUV on the deck…
We stayed here for quite a while because honestly it was awesome, and so totally unexpected. If you’ve got a boat/pirate lover, they’re going to be in heaven.
THEN, we went back downstairs, found the archaeo-adventure site where we got down on the ground and sifted through sand to find archaeological remains; checked out the archaeologist’s tent and finally explored the laboratory. Upstairs we found the bright Museum Shop where were bought a couple of artistic souvenirs and maple candies to give us some energy!
Having no idea how to get back to the entrance (which we could see across the street), we followed the super friendly guide’s directions, went back down, and retraced our steps.
But, there was one last thing to see! Taking the elevator in the main Éperon Building, we went up to the third floor in the tower part where there’s an outdoor lookout. Despite part of it being closed due to winter, we had a spectacular view of the Old Port and Old Montreal.
Walking down to the second floor we saw the sit-down L’Arrivage Restaurant. Seeing as we just wanted an afternoon snack, we decided to say goodbye to the museum and after collecting our coats, we wandered around the Old Port and had a hot chocolate and cookie near the Science Centre (You can read that review HERE!).
A leisurely stroll along Rue Saint-Paul, seeing buildings which had been in the multimedia show we’d just seen, and we were back at the car. Exhausted and yes, more cultured!
It took about 3 hours to visit the museum, and we could have stayed longer. And while my 7-year old really, really enjoyed himself, was interested in the archaeology, and the Pirates or Privateers? exhibit was super fun, I wouldn’t bring children much younger than six or seven as I don’t think the actual archaeological aspects of the museum will hold their attention, AND it’s a rather quiet, subdued place.