Location: Montreal, Quebec
*Please note: This review is for the Biodome exclusively and does not include the other attractions at the Espace Pour La Vie/Space For Life (Botanical Gardens, Insectarium, Planetarium)
Highlights: Tropical Rainforest habitat, Penguin feeding
Children Friendly (8): Since it is an indoor zoo it is smaller in size and easy for children to walk through it. In having walk through habitats it’s also great for children to feel immersed in the zoo as well. A great children’s area on the lower level is full of touch tables and interactive stations where they are able to be more hands on. Some areas would be hard for children to view the animals due to their height – I noticed this especially in the tropical rainforest.
Animal Diversity (6): The Biodome did have a larger diversity than I was expecting which was great. They do cover the different categories well – mammals, birds, reptiles, etc. Being a repurposed indoor facility obviously they are limited on space and therefore do not have the larger species typical in outdoor zoos. Basically they have decent variety but if you’re looking for an abundance of species or the really exotic specimens this isn’t the place for you.
Animal Viewing (7): In general the viewing was good but I wouldn’t say exceptional. Patience is definitely a virtue at the Biodome, I can almost guarantee you won’t see every animal they have listed. Due to the structure of their exhibits as being more habitat based than individual species, there are PLENTY of hiding spots for the animals to tuck away into. Yes they may have an abundance of birds, amphibians, and insects throughout but it would be quite a challenge finding them. However, for the exhibits that house only one species or are more limited the viewing was great – views from multiple angles and heights was great.
Animals Happiness (9): What was difficult for us as the viewer is exceptional in terms of happiness of the species. Being habitat based the animals definitely seemed in their element and content. Great thought was put into where the animals come from in the wild and their exhibits reflected that well. Plenty of birds were observed flying throughout and were provided with suitable perching and nesting locations. I only deducted a point because I felt as suitable as the habitats were, some exhibits/species could benefit from some more enrichment.
Photography (8): Photography for the most part was great. Many of the exhibits have no fencing or mesh to shoot through which was very appreciated. Those that did had wires running only one way making it quite easy to shoot through. The majority of the glass also didn’t have too much glare and was fairly clean. I took points off due to the proximity to the subject – without a longer lens many amateur photographers would be disappointed with their photos once they’re home. This wasn’t an issue in all areas but some species would pose quite a challenge.
Layout/Map (5): Similar to other indoor zoos, no map was given during entry or posted throughout. The layout itself is for the most part a one way trip through the exhibits, the flow of which was pleasing. There was some confusion however at the end of each ‘habitat’ when there was an option of following the path on the ground or going through other doors that clearly led to another feature. After finishing the loop we backtracked to one of those areas to learn that the other doors lead to a centre area with displays which allow guests to skip or backtrack to habitats. Although it can be very helpful to make more of your own route, definitely more signage was needed so as guests don’t either miss out on a section of habitat or those great displays.
Hours (10): Open year round every day with consistent opening hours is a huge plus. Hours are slightly extended during the summer as well.
Price (10): The price for the Biodome is very reasonable and they have many pricing categories. Discounts are provided to seniors, youth, students, families AND children under 5 are free. Also Access Montreal cardholders and Quebec residents get a further discount. The membership program is also very reasonably priced, depending on your initial category saving money after three visits. The membership (done through SABM or Society of Friends of the Montreal Biodome) also has great benefits with the Space for Life’s other attractions.
Food (7): They do have more than one restaurant which is a plus with prices being reasonable. The food we had was good and fresh and they do have a decent selection. Considering the number of visitors they receive per year they do not have that large of eating areas – which could mean a crowded lunch.
Website (10): Excellent website! Provides all information I needed – restaurants, prices, directions, events, etc. Their species search tool was exceptionally well done, if you’re someone only interested in knowing what amphibians they house for example it’s a very handy tool. Also, when going through your photos but don’t know what you caught on your camera you could search by the habitat and then species. Everything was well laid out and is done in French or English. It also does a great job for tourists for the Space for Life in general, giving suggestions for best order to go through or which to skip if you only have a certain amount of time.
Gift Shop (10): The Biodome gift shop was fantastic. It did very well sticking to the animals that you saw at their attraction as well as some souvenirs for their other Space For Life attractions. One thing I especially liked was that they provided not only the typical zoo gift shop items but also higher quality gift ideas and home décor. As well they had a great selection of books and puzzles for adults and children.
Quiet Areas (8): Fairly wide pathways did allow for less crowding throughout and the centre display area could definitely be utilized by guests as a breather area. I did deduct some points as I feel more benches could be added throughout for seniors or others needing to sit down occasionally.
Safety/Cleanliness (8): The Biodome was very clean including pathways and bathrooms. In terms of indoors I had no issues with cleanliness or safety – everything was well taken care of. Outside however the pathways were awful, I would say a solid 2 inches of ice covering everything (all of Montreal in general was!). Getting from the parking lots to the entrance is quite the feat, let alone if you’re with children or seniors!
Extras (5): They do have some camps and programming for kids and school groups. They also have a large room downstairs dedicated to hands on stations and educational learning. A fossil room as well as an egg display were also an added bonus. Overall, there weren’t that many extras to mention, the biodome is more of a ‘what you see is what you get’.
Overall (7.9): Overall I was impressed with the Montreal Biodome. The exhibits were beautifully done and if you want to feel immersed in the habitat of each animal this is definitely the place for you. Those wanting to check off seeing a lot of animals would surely be disappointed. It’s a great trip if you have the afternoon off – to make it more worth your while I suggest combining it with admissions to other attractions within the Space For Life.