Montreal is celebrated for its famed attractions, but just outside the city are some pretty peculiar and fascinating museums. From stargazing to submerged stories, you can uncover unexpected treasures that might surprise even the most seasoned Montrealers. If you're in the mood for something different, these nearby cultural gems are worth the detour:
Lost Villages Museum
Where: 16361 Fran Laflamme Dr, Long Sault, ON
When: Open until October 1; Tuesdays to Sundays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free admission but donations
Reason to go: An hour and a half from Montreal, this site offers visitors a unique glimpse into a lesser-known chapter of Canadian history. The museum showcases ten heritage buildings, moved and restored from The Lost Villages and surrounding townships. Each building, both inside and out, has been preserved to tell the story of the regions that were submerged on July 1, 1958. The major event was part of the government-approved plan to make way for the St. Lawrence Seaway and International Hydro Electric project. As a result, villages like Mille Roches, Moulinette, and more were submerged, displacing over 6,500 people in the process. Many of the former residents found new homes in Ingleside and Long Sault. Their stories, combined with the curiosity of new residents, led to the creation of The Lost Villages Historical Society in 1977. Today, the museum serves as a reminder of the towns and communities that once thrived and the sacrifices made in the name of progress. It's a must-visit site for history enthusiasts and those keen to understand the region's past.
Musée Gilles Villeneuve
Where: 960, bd Gilles Villeneuve, Berthierville, QC
When: Daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Reason to go: This museum is an essential pit stop for any motorsport enthusiast. It provides an in-depth look at the illustrious racing journey of the Villeneuve family, from Formula Ford to Formula 1. It also highlights the achievements of other notable Quebec racers like Patrick Carpentier, the Dumoulin brothers, Alexandre Tagliani, and Andrew Ranger. Exhibits span historical photos, original racing items like trophies, cars, driver's suits, helmets, and even scale models. Moreover, visitors can admire Gilles Villeneuve's first racing cars and his competition snowmobiles. There's also the impressive 4 X 4 he drove during his leisure days in Berthierville, away from the hectic world of the Grand Cirque de F1. Beyond Gilles' legacy, the museum proudly displays hundreds of artifacts linked to his exploits.
Musée du Chocolat
Where: 679, rue Shefford
When: Daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Reason to go: This compact treasure trove of cocoa insights, though small, provides a thorough look into chocolate's fascinating origins, its global journey, and the cultures that cherish it most. Beyond its exhibits, visitors are also treated to intriguing chocolate sculptures. But the experience doesn’t stop at viewing; you can indulge in local chocolate tastings and shop for treats. Plus, for those looking for a meal, an on-site restaurant serves dishes, some with a hint of chocolate. If you're in the area, it's an educational and delectable stop worth making.
Sherbrooke Museum of Nature and Science
Where: 225, rue Frontenac, Sherbrooke, QC
When: Wednesdays to Sundays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: $15/adults, $11/students
Reason to go: With a collection of more than 65,000 specimens, the museum offers a comprehensive overview of the region's mineral, botanical, and wildlife diversity. These specimens, collected since the 19th century, provide valuable insights into the evolution of our natural world. Additionally, the museum houses over 6,000 local archaeological artifacts that highlight the region's cultural history. Noteworthy items include products made from asbestos, once mined in Quebec, and an extensive collection of over 1,000 freeze-dried mushroom species.
Where: 1001, avenue J.-A.-Bombardier, Valcourt, QC
When: Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: $15/adults; $12/students
Reason to go: Packed with interactive displays, this museum lets you take centre stage in a Ski-Doo commercial or try your hand at piloting a C Series aircraft. If you've got a futuristic vision, design a vehicle and test it at the Idea Studio. The museum also offers a glimpse into J. Armand Bombardier's life and the company's evolution. The Fab Lab provides a hands-on experience with digital fabrication, and a guided tour of the archives adds depth to the visit. Just remember to book online to choose your visiting slot ahead of time.
Where: 500A, rue Notre-Dame, Montebello QC
When: Until October 9, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Reason to go: Midway between Montreal and Gatineau, this historic site is a prime destination for those interested in 19th-century Canadian history. The former residence of Louis-Joseph Papineau, an influential figure in Canadian politics, stands as an architectural marvel with its distinct four towers. The manor, situated on Cap Bonsecours, overlooks the Ottawa River, providing a backdrop that complements its historical significance. The gardens, drawing inspiration from English designs, add to the ambiance, and guests are welcome to bring a picnic to enjoy on the grounds
Where: 189, rte du Parc, Notre-Dame-des-Bois, QC
When: September 24, from Wednesday to Sunday by day, and Saturday by night; September 23 to October 8, Saturday and Sunday by day, and Saturday by night; October 14 to November 4, Saturday nights only
Cost: $20.25/day-time lab visit; $22.50/evening lab visit; $9.25/park access only
Reason to go: Situated at the base of Mont Mégantic, ASTROLab is an astronomy center that offers both daytime and nighttime experiences for visitors. During the day, the facility features the "Measuring the Universe" exhibition, providing insights into our understanding of space. There's also the "Emergence" film about cosmic evolution and a virtual reality segment titled "Virtual Cosmos" for those 8 and older. In the evenings, the Popular Observatory comes into play. On clear nights, it allows attendees to observe the stars through a telescope, complemented by observation platforms with inclined benches for an enhanced viewing experience. However, on cloudy nights, the focus shifts to ASTROLab's multimedia room, where French presentations filled with content, images, and interactivity provide an informative and engaging exploration of the universe.
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