Just when you thought Montreal couldn’t get any cooler, there sits Parc Jean-Drapeau in the middle of the St Lawrence River. This public leisure and pleasure ground comprises two islands that are home to hiking and biking trails, museums, gardens, an amusement park, a casino, an outdoor art gallery, outdoor swimming pools and even a beach.
One feature in this remarkable parkland that you couldn’t miss even if you tried is the Biosphère, a gigantic, futuristic-looking geodesic dome designed by American architect Buckminster Fuller. In 1967, the sphere housed the United States pavilion during the Expo ’67 World’s Fair; today, it’s a dedicated environmental museum that’s open to the public. On the park grounds, nature lovers can stretch their legs on 25 kilometres of hiking trails and, in summer, make a splash at the beach or in one of the three heated outdoor pools. And history buffs can get in on the action at the 19th-century British military depot that houses the Stewart Museum. Here, learn about the powerful impact of European civilisation on both New France and North America.
For some family-friendly fun, La Ronde amusement park (open during the North American summer months) does not disappoint. More than 40 rides and attractions will get hearts of all ages pumping. For something a little more tranquil, check out the gorgeous Floralies Gardens and walk amid its thousands of flower species, shrubs, trees and lagoons. They’re the lasting legacy of a horticultural fair that took place here in 1980.
Parc Jean-Drapeau is east of downtown Montreal; you can quickly and easily access it by train from the mainland (it has its own subway station – Jean-Drapeau). For something a bit more off the beaten (train) track, why not travel by river boat? Board river shuttles (in summer only) from Jacques-Cartier Pier at Montreal’s Old Port. The park is open to the public every day from 6am to midnight.