For memorable family experiences, Québec’s largest city is in a class of its own.

Europe will forever be a favorite destination for families. But when a trip to the Continent isn’t possible, Virtuoso travel advisor Ane Lowe of Austin, Texas, ranks Montréal as a top alternative, following her recent visit. The world’s fourth-largest French-speaking metropolis “is steeped in history,” she notes, and “offers the feel of a European city and culture, without the long-haul flight and overseas jet lag.” Better still, she adds, the Canadian exchange rate is much more favorable than Europe’s. Below, Lowe shares a few reasons why Montréal is a must for families. Your travel advisor can work with one of Virtuoso’s on-site tour connections to craft a customized journey tailored to your clan’s interests and tastes.

Enfant Friendly, Parent Approved

Lowe raves about La Grande Roue de Montréal, the new 197-foot-high observation wheel along the Saint Lawrence River: “The views are breathtaking, it’s open year-round, and the gondolas are air-conditioned or heated, depending on the season.” Picnics in Mount Royal Park are a favorite summertime activity; rotating food trucks are now located near the park’s George-Étienne Cartier monument. Discover the city’s vibrant street art during the Mural Festival in June (official dates still pending at press time) or catch a show at the annual International Jazz Festival (June 28 through July 7).

Circus Acts and Science Aces 

Montréal is home to Cirque du Soleil’s world headquarters and TOHU, a performance complex dedicated to circus arts. From July 5 through 15, troupes of jugglers, acrobats, and contortionists turn the city into a giant big top for the Montréal Complètement Cirque; free performances are available at numerous venues. Kids can build derby cars and watch hydroelectricity operate in reverse at the Montréal Science Centre. Lowe is a fan of the center’s “fascinating, child-friendly” interactive displays, such as the Human exhibition, which explores the complexity of the human body.

Best Bites

The Québec province gave the world poutine, a diet-killing dish of French fries and cheese curds slathered in gravy. To sample some of the finest – and other comfort foods such as pouding chômeur (a traditional cake with maple syrup sauce) – Lowe points clients toward Les Enfants Terribles, a restaurant on the 44th floor of Au Sommet Place Ville Marie observatory. For more-seasoned palates, she suggests the New Québécois cuisine (“think beef tartare, steak-frites, and fondue”) at L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel, located in a 300-year-old building in Vieux-Montréal, the city’s historic center.

Date Night 

For some adult time, grab the kids’ favorite treats from the market in the newly renovated Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, then leave the little ones with the hotel’s babysitter and head to Bota Bota (Old Port of Montréal, corner of McGill and de la Commune W.), a historic ferry turned upscale floating spa on the Saint Lawrence. Lowe also recommends Casino de Montréal on Île Notre-Dame, where parents can “play some games, watch a show, and have a Michelin-starred meal at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon.”

Top photo: Courtesy of Marc Bruxelle/Alamy.