Destination: Montreal Canada
What if your kids could look for monkeys in a tropical forest and see penguins in a polar setting, all in one day? They can if you take them to the Montreal Biodôme, a series of four environments that re-creates four ecosystems of the Americas. In between the tropic and polar worlds you'll find the seasonal Lauerentian forest, home to beavers, otters, and lynx as well as the Saint Lawerence shore-line which showcases underwater plant life and a vast bird population. The Biodôme is just a few minutes away from downtown Montreal, but you might as well be in another world as you take in the plant and animal life along the pathways to each dome. While kids are sure to love the monkeys and penguins, they'll also delight in jewel-toned hummingbirds hovering overhead.
The Biodôme is, in fact, home to 4,800 animals and 750 plant species. And while it is sure to delight the entire family, there are special, interactive activities for kids ages 6 to 12.
Besides being a fun place to learn about the natural world, the Biodôme studies at-risk species by breeding them in captivity.
In 2008, they joined forces with zoos, aquariums, and botanical gardens to breed amphibians in order to create a population for researchers working on survival solutions for threatened species.
Other programs bring the environmental message home such as the 17th International Contest featuring Toys Made of Reused Materials.
Adjacent to the Biodôme are the Insectarium and the Montreal Botanical Garden, both splendid spots to resume your exploration of nature. The Montreal Botanical Garden, 4101 Sherbrooke Est (tel. 514/872-1400; www2.ville.montreal.qc.ca/jardin/jardin), is one of the largest of its kind, with greenhouses each with a different theme, including orchids, begonias, and plants from the rainforest. You can wander through the Chinese garden, designed to mimic a garden from the Ming Dynasty or watch a tea ceremony performed in a the Japanese garden. Kids may especially enjoy The First Nations Garden, which highlights the importance the plant world played in Inuit and Native American life. Be sure to bring binoculars for viewing the birds attracted by the plants.
A short walk away brings you to the Montreal Insectarium, 4581 Sherbrooke Est, (www2.ville.montreal.qc.ca/insectarium/), which houses live and mounted insects of all kinds, including scorpions, tarantulas, hissing cockroaches, and praying mantises. Tour guides are available to shed light on what they refer to as these "strange and misunderstood" creatures, while the kids enjoy the ick factor. If you visit in summer, take a break from the creepy crawlies by visiting the butterfly house.
Information: 4777 Av. Pierre-de-Coubertin (www2.ville.montreal.qc.ca/biodome).
Nearest Airport: Montréal-Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau International, 23km (14 miles).
Accommodations: Delta Centre-Ville, 777 rue University (tel. 800/268-1133 or 514/879-1370; www.deltahotels.com). Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth, 900 bd. René-L&eacut