Music festivals are fun for all ages, and the famous Montreal Jazz Fest is a great centerpiece for a top value family getaway to Canada.

Montreal Jazz Fest crowds enjoying free concerts in the city.
Montreal Jazz Fest crowds enjoying free concerts in the city. Photo courtesy Canadian Tourism Commission.

Ten thousand kids a day can’t be wrong! That’s the estimated number the International Festival de Jazz de Montreal attracts daily from the 2.5 million visitors who attend each year. Kids are brought to this family-friendly event to learn, listen, and have fun at more than 150 events over the period June 28 to July 7, 2018. Artists this year range from pop star Seal to jazz great Herbie Hancock to bluesman Boz Scaggs.

There are also special kids’ areas built for each edition. Within an 11,000-square-foot musical play area, there’s a giant piano, a trumpet slide, a guitar ladder, a clarinet tunnel, a drum blackboard and a xylophone. Then there are the talented face-painters and mask-makers who magically transform eager faces. Clowns, jugglers and acrobats stroll through the crowds, while parents and kids ply the numerous arts-and-crafts tables. The twice-daily concerts are informative, inventive and just plain fun!

Worry-Free Adventure

But that’s not all. Parents and children alike will relish the sounds of top-class jazz, blues, gospel, Cajun and world music.

The festival is well-organized and safe. In fact, all of Montreal- very cosmopolitan and very French- is safe and family friendly. There’s plenty of storage for strollers, so taking little ones along is a breeze. Changing tables and children’s toilets are conveniently located, so that’s not an issue. And there are tents for arts and crafts and face-painting.

Families are a common sight at the ticketed indoor concerts as well. For this year’s complete lineup, which changes up till the last minute, check the official Montreal Jazz Fest website. And remember, many of the concerts are even free!

A Continental Experience & Accoutrements

When it’s time for a break, check out the other treasures of Montreal. There are classic midway rides at La Ronde, a lovely amusement park with lots of new family areas. Carnaval en Folie is designed to evoke the colors and sounds of the fairs and carnivals of yesterday. Three new rides are the “Toubillon” carousel, the “Petite Roue” Ferris wheel, and “Tour du Fou,” a high-flying merry-go-round. A 10-minute walk or shuttle ride takes you to a small sandy beach and another artificial lake on Ile St. Helene. Parks are wonderfully sculptured and offer a chance to picnic, bike or take leisurely walks.

Penguins at the Montreal Biodome
Penguins at the Montreal Biodome; courtesy Biodome de Montreal, photo: Sean O’Neill

Montreal has North America’s only Insectarium at Space for Life, a museum complex, with thousands of insects, some of which are astonishingly beautiful, especially in the butterfly house. Fun and educational — worth a half day — go and take the free shuttle bus that links it to The Biodome.  This museum presents a Tropical Forest, Laurentian Forest, St. Lawrence Ecosystem and Polar World under one roof — a discovery for kids and grown-ups alike. Sights, sounds and interpreters bring these colorful ecosystems to life, so we can’t wait to return after the major renovation ends in mid 2019.

A Museum Pass provides entry to nearly 30 sites for one price, but you’ll have to choose one of their three bundles. We love the Museum of Fine Arts, with its interactive children’s displays. Also, be sure your pass includes Pointe-a-Calliere, an archeological museum featuring a tour through an actual dig and a lively multimedia show.

Cross the Jacques Cartier Bridge to Ile St. Helene and use your pass at the Biosphere, a natural-resources museum housed in a geodesic dome. The Biosphere’s child-oriented activities and resources, including a supervised crafts room, are topnotch.

Montreal Trip Planning Details

The Jazz Festival mirrors the excitement, the diversity and the phenomenol spirit of Montreal. Travel north for the quickest and cheapest route to a European experience (with the Canadian dollar near to the U.S. dollar, it’s not the bargain it once was, but it sure beats the Euro!)

Montreal skyline seen from Parc Jean Drapeau.
Montreal skyline seen from Parc Jean Drapeau. Photo courtesy Tourisme Montreal.

Introduce your children to another culture and another language. Walk the cobblestone lanes of Vieux Montreal, sip an espresso in the city’s popular cafes, catch the mimes and street performers, or just enjoy the sounds of the French language. Montreal is, after all, the second largest French-speaking city after Paris. It’s also a gastronomic wonder, a place where smoked meats and bagels — as well as baguettes — are a specialty.

For more information and recommendations for places to stay during the busy festival season, check the Montreal Tourism site.

One Reply to “Montreal International Jazz Festival, Quebec”

  • anonymous

    Our teen son has been to the New Orleans Jazz Festival twice and he just loves it. There is something magical about listening to music out of doors that keeps kids involved. If we put on some of the music he loved at NoLa at home, he would scoff at it! But there, sitting on the lawn, his musical horizons were much broader. This festival sounds just great.

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