During our trip in the Quebec province, we didn’t visite any museum, but we had a particularly great time at the Space for Life (Espace pour la vie), with the Botanical Garden and the Tinto Rio Alcan Planetarium in Montréal.
The Botanical Garden of the Space for Life and Butterflies Go Free
The 75 hectares big Botanical Garden of the Montreal Space for life offers the possibility to discover many plants in greenhouses and gardens.
We went at the end of March and only explored the greenhouses and the main exhibition greenhouse where the Butterflies Go Free!
The Botanical Garden Greenhouses
Once you get your tickets, it’s time to get inside – where the greenhouses of the Montreal Botanic Garden are. They are appearing one after the other: going through a greenhouse gets you to the next, etc. The place is organized in themes regrouping geographical zones and/or plant families. It’s of course a beautiful layout that allows the visitor to be thrown into a particular atmosphere, and therefore offering a practically instant immersion. Once you travel through the greenhouses – spread over 4000m2 and showcasing 36000 plants – you forget everything about winter and the cold outside!
The tropical rainforest here, the cactus and agaves of the hacienda there, the chinese Garden of Weedlessness that brings back our trip to Tokyo (even though these plants are not from Japan but China)… Hard not to be snatched to the vegetal worlds presented to us, to not be taken by this green voyage.
Everyone – from the small children to the oldest visitors – all enjoy admiring and learning more about the beautiful flowers and plants, thanks to the clear and informative installations available all around the greenhouses.
Good to know: We visited the Botanical Garden during the weekend – which is not the best idea we’ve ever had – but it was still pleasant to stroll through the greenhouses. As there are a lot of plants scattered around, it makes it easier not to be on top of each others when there’s a lot of people.
Butterflies Go Free [February to April]
On the other hand, the queue for the main exhibition greenhouse where the Butterflies go Free was much less enjoyable. It was pretty long – but once again: we went during the weekend. Fortunately, the Botanical Garden staff regulates the flow of visitors to avoid being too many at the same time in this particular greenhouse. If you ask me, I’d rather do a bit more of queue than being suffocated in a too-crowded greenhouse, anyway! And it’s not like you had to wait in line in a random place: you’re still in the middle of all these beautiful plants!
Anyhow, once you’re in, it’s hard to remember the wait since you’re basking in what you see. Yes, butterflies do go free, and they are everywhere ! They flit around, land on leaves, flowers or even humans, gather fruit nectar,.. And they are of every sizes, colors and patterns !
I had gone to a similar event when I was a child, and even if I can only barely remember it, I can recall being filled with wonder. The astonishment was as intense decades later!
As the Space for Life has an educational vocation, different installations allow the visitors to learn to identify the different types of butterflies, but also to recreate an inviting environment to welcome them in their garden. As of the provenance of the butterflies, they come from ethical and sustainable farms.
The Butterflies Go Free event ends on April 29 2018, so you only have this weekend left before it’s too late! However, it’s a recurrent event, so you might catch it next year!
Montreal Botanical Garden: Prepare your visit
• Where? 4101 Sherbrooke Est Street
• When? To be up to date on the opening hours, refer to the website.
• How do I get there? We took the metro to Pie-IX stop.
• How much? Between 8$ and 20,50$* depending on age and whether you are a Quebec resident or not. Detailed prices online. You can also decide to buy the 2 sites package to access both the Botanical Garden and the Planetarium. Prices vary from 14$ to 35,50$.
*all prices are in Canadian Dollars
If there is one experience in Montreal that e v e r y b o d y (my brother, his room mate, locals,… and of course now us) recommended to visit, it’s the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium in Montreal.
It’s also true that it’s pretty hard to find someone who doesn’t enjoy thinking about space, exploring theories, dreaming, and scaring themselves a little about space.
Permanent exhibition at the Planetarium
If the Planetarium’s main attraction is its double feature (films/animations) about space that you watch one after the other, the Planetarium also offers the EXO permanent exhibition made with interactive and educational museography in mind. Screens, games, tablets – everything is made to make you want to discover the mysteries of the universe. Last but not least: the Planetarium hosts a vast collection of meteorites – the largest one in Québec!
Definitely come a bit before the beginning of your double feature – or plan on staying a bit after – so you have some time to explore the permanent exhibition and learn more about what’s on the other side of the atmosphere!
The double feature shows at the Planetarium [time slots in English too]
The main experience offered by the Planetarium is the double feature: two films/shows that you watch in two different rooms.
It was a truly magical moment for us. The first room allows the visitors to basically sprawl on beanbags (there are also comfortable armchairs for the ones who’d like to stay above ground) to watch the short movie Demain l’espace (Tomorrow, Space) on the history and the future of space exploration, on a huge rounded screen inducing total and instant immersion. The film was well-made, the soundtrack incredible – we were thrown into space.
The second part takes place in the Milky Way Theatre. A museum host first presents the starry sky – projected on the dome – stars, constellations, planets, galaxies (well, at least traces of our own), etc. We literally had our heads in the stars, and we wished it lasted even longer! After that, images from the Exo Show are broadcasted on the rounded screen, and the host tells the story live. It’s really captivating and interesting, we now both know much more about exoplanets and what is going on above our heads!
The program “Demain l’Espace” is now replaced by “Cosmic Collisions” (until April 14 2019) and another double feature is also available for children aged 4 to 8: The Blind Man with Starry Eyes/Aboard the SSE-4801. And, for it’s 5th anniversary, the Planetarium offers to rewatch its “visitors favorite”: Continuum / Aurōrae from May 1st 2018 to April 14 2019.
It’s pretty obvious that we have to go back!!
Montreal Planetarium: all you need to know
• Where is it? 4801 Pierre de Coubertin Avenue
• When? The good news is, even though Montréal is French-speaking, there are time slots to watch the shows in English! Yay! The schedule depends on the season and the program: check them on the website.
• How to get to Montreal Planetarium? We took the metro until Viau stop.
• How much does it cost? Prices are the same as for the Botanical Garden: between 8$ and 20,50$ depending on age and residency. Detailed prices are to be found online. Same goes for the 2 sites package for both the Botanical Garden and the Planetarium with a price range from 14$ to 35,50$.
Thanks to Space for Life for hosting us during our visit to the Botanical Garden and the Planetarium, allowing us to enjoy these two experiences and report them back to you with complete honesty!