Parc Jean Drapeau is to Montreal what Central Park is to New York, but better. Utilizing the 28 million ton backfill of the Metro subway, Ile Ste- Helene was expanded and Ile Notre Dame was developed in the St. Lawrence River as the grounds for Expo 67. Four buildings from the event still stand and are now part of the Parc’s scenery. Today, this engineering marvel is a world class collection of relaxing recreation and events year round.
The shiniing silver Biosphere was designed by the father of geodesic domes, Buckminster Fuller and is perhaps the most famous feature of the Park. Originally built as the United States exhibit for the Montreal Expo, it now houses four distinct ecosystems including the Laurentian, Tropical, Arctic and Antarctic. It is an educational delight for both children and adults year round.
Located on the north end of Ile Ste-Helene, La Ronde is the largest amusement park in the Eastern side of Canada. The Goliath, one of the highest and fastest roller coasters in North America is not for the faint of heart. The Minirail Fort Edmonton gives a more sedate tour of the park. Your ticket gives you access to most of the events and rides, but for an additional charge, you might try challenging the Rock Wall, or the Sling Shot to send you head over heels.
Le Festin du Gouverneur located in the Old Fort along with the Stewart Museum will take you back in time for dinner and musical entertainment with the first governor of Montreal, Jacques Viger. Audiences can sing along with traditional French Canadian folk songs and Irish ballads. The food is warm, filling and as tasty as the costumed entertainers are witty.
Water and ice sports are never far away in Montreal at the recently refurbished Aquatic complex and beach. The Olympic basin hosts the Montreal Rowing Club and the public is invited to come and canoe, kayak, windsurf, row and even try the exciting new team sport of dragon boating. In the winter, the basin is transformed into a skating rink. Check the website for open skate times.
On the Ile Notre Dame, explore the tree lined paths of the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve by foot, in-line skate or bicycle in the summer and cross country skis in the winter. Along the paths are fragrant gardens and unique sculptures such as the gleaming white granite pillars of La Ville Imaginaire (The Imaginary City) by noted Portuguese artist Charters de Almeida. Many visitors bring a romantic picnic to one of the outdoor concerts or festivals given throughout the summer.
Casino de Montreal beckons gamblers to its elegantly designed location on Ile Notre Dame 24 hours a day. Slot players can try their luck at any of the nearly 3000 machines. Table players will find the standard Blackjack and Baccarat as well as Pai Gow Poker and more. Note that both the gambling and drinking age in Quebec is 18.
The Parc is easily accessed by the Metro yellow line to Jean Drapeau station on Ile St. Helen. Bicycles, skis and sleds are allowed on the Metro except during rush hour. From there, it’s an easy walk to La Ronde to the north or to Ile Notre Dame over the Pont du Cosmos. By car, take the Pont Jacques Cartier to the island and parking is available at various sites. Metro Buses run regularly throughout the day and evening. For more information on upcoming events or weather closures, see the official website below.
Parc Jean Drapeau: www.parcjeandrapeau.com