Laval, Quebec, encompasses historic Ile Jesus, which is separated from Montreal by the Rivière des Prairies. To a tourist, Laval might seem synonymous with Montreal, like Manhattan to New York City. In many ways, Laval is a microcosm of its more well-known neighbour to the east, but this stylish and pastoral ex-urb of more than 400,000 residents has an appeal all its own.
In the late 1800s, the quaint Laval village of Sainte-Rose, along the Mille-Îles River, was a popular Canadian vacation destination for residents of Montreal. Historic monuments and picturesque old-fashioned homes and churches help Saint-Rose and other villages like Saint-Vincent-de-Paul and Sainte-Dorothée recall the charm of a simpler time on the island.
Laval is known as the Flower and Garden Capital of Quebec. Tourists exploring the 245-square kilometer island are more than likely to discover purveyors of flowers and herbs as well as fruits and berries—you can even pick your own. Farm stands offer local produce and artisanal products like cheeses and honey. Be sure to visit the vineyard at Château Taillefer Lafon in Sainte-Dorothée to taste the wines. The winery produces both red and white varieties as well as ice wine and ice cider, considered regional specialties.
Popular Laval tourist attractions include the Cosmodome, Canada’s only astronautics museum. Visitors age seven and older can guide their own virtual space missions through the magic of the museum’s interactive technology. Cosmodome is located in the city center on Autoroute des Laurentides. Musée Armand-Frappier, on the east side, is dedicated to science as it relates to human, animal and environmental health. The museum is named for the man who developed a vaccine for tuberculosis. The Centre d’interpretation de l’eau, on the western shore of the island, features a permanent interactive exhibit devoted to the study and preservation of water.
Water is an integral part of Laval’s geography. Rivers and streams crisscross the island, and these shallow waterways are perfect for paddle boating. Many streams are part of le Route bleue des voyageurs (St. Lawrence water trail). Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles in Sainte-Rose is a wildlife preserve and a popular destination for Laval tourists who enjoy canoeing and kayaking. The rabaska, a large birchbark canoe, provides another unique way to glide through Laval’s waterways. When the rivers freeze and snow falls, skating and cross-country skiing are popular attractions in Laval’s many parks and preserves.
Summertime is festival time, and among Laval’s major attractions is the Mondial Loto-Québec de Laval, a music festival held in June. At Fêtes Gourmandes Internationales de Laval in July, festival goers savor samples of local and international gourmet bites and delights. Also in July, an annual art celebration takes place in Sainte-Rose, where painters and sculptors set up workshops along the Rivière des Mille Îles. In August, about 150 fine artists and craftspeople join local food and wine producers on Boulevard Ste-Rose East in Laval for a regional celebration of art and food against a backdrop of live entertainment.