Location: Montebello, Quebec
Highlights: Timber wolf exhibit, Elk, Porch Birdfeeders
Children Friendly (7): Being mostly a drive through park it is suitable for little ones not being able to walk far. With parking areas to walk around and play it also helps to prevent restlessness in the car. Children will love being able to hand feed a lot of the animals and approach some in the parked areas. With that being said, animals with their heads in the car or surrounding the vehicle could also be frightening for little ones. Certain areas it may be hard for children to see animals if they’re in the distance.
Animal Diversity (6): There were more animals present than I was anticipating. A variety of hoofstock as well as quite a few predator species were present, and it being on the large piece of land it is (forested with rivers and a lake) a large number of wild animals also call this place home. Basically if you’re wanting to go to a zoo to see what Canada has to offer in terms of wildlife – this is the zoo to go to.
Animal Viewing (8): The animals have no issues with approaching vehicles and therefore visitors get some great up close views of most of the species. I was also extremely impressed with the abundance of each species – if you saw one wolf, you saw twenty. I did deduct marks as depending on the season you may miss out on some of their bigger draws – such as the black bears. Also as the animals (besides the large predators) are allowed to roam wherever they please some areas may seem relatively empty or some species or individuals may be harder to see.
Animals Happiness (9): Parc Omega is on a huge piece of land and is largely open. The fact that the hoofstock are able to choose for themselves where they’d prefer to be day to day – prairie, forested areas, lake – is awesome for their health and happiness. In terms of the carnivores their exhibits are large and appropriately natural. Pack animals do indeed live in packs – good sized ones which allow them to exhibit natural pack behaviours. I only deducted points in the areas where people are able to walk around with the deer – yes they do have escape routes, but having children (and adults) running up or not approaching with respect can be stressful.
Photography (8): For the most part photography can be exceptional in most areas – close views and clear lines (windows are allowed to be partially open) throughout. The predator fencing, although wider which does help, can sometimes become a distraction since you are limited in how close to the fence you are able to get to counteract it. As I went in winter, some snowbanks proved a little difficult to shoot around as well. As there are plenty of specimens – if one is in a difficult position, I can pretty much guarantee you will find another in a better suited area. The only other reason I took off a point is that since the hoofstock are so used to being fed they constantly approach your car and windows. If you’re trying to take pictures of one of the predators say, it can get frustrating having a deer constantly having its nose in your window.
Layout/Map (9): I quite liked both their layout and their map. The layout I feel was largely determined by habitat and what was suitable for each animal – which I am totally ok with. I liked that they put their walk around area at the midway point of the drive through area. I did feel the other walk through areas were at an awkward spot and could potentially be bypassed. The map was well done – had plenty of information, was accurate to the layout, had pictures and a clear legend.
Hours (10): Open year round every day, with extended hours in the summers. No complaints about their hours.
Price (7): Their prices are decent, you can spend a good chunk of the day at the zoo so I feel that the prices are justified. There are reduced prices for seniors and children as well. I did deduct marks as they do not offer season/annual passes which I feel prevent some frequent visitors as multiple visits a year can become expensive.
Food (7): They do have a restaurant in the main lodge of the park. A decent variety of options with reasonable prices, the food we had was delicious. Not as many restaurants or as much variety as I am used to at other zoos which is where I deducted marks. If you’re prone to needing snacks throughout the day I suggest packing your own lunch as there’s no option half way through the drive through.
Website (10): The website is very well done – simple and effective. The headings and labels are clear and to the point. No information I feel is overlooked and their Frequently Asked Questions section covers pretty much anything you would need. I also thoroughly enjoy that they use an abundance of photos throughout to give you a good idea of what to expect.
Gift Shop (10): I quite enjoyed their gift shop at Parc Omega. It very much reflected the type of zoo they had – all stuffed animals were animals that you could see there and were of good quality. They also had a great variety of gifts and higher quality souvenirs – many Canada based. Clothing was also great quality with a large variety. Overall I was very impressed.
Quiet Areas (8): Since for the most of this zoo you drive around in your own vehicle, there are a number of places to pull over and take a moment. The large outdoor area half way through also provides plenty of space to get out of the car and take a moment. The zoo itself is quite large in size so in general even during the busy times the crowds shouldn’t be that bad; however, there could be congestions at some areas (entrance into drive through, bears, etc). Also in the out of car areas they could use some more benches.
Safety/Cleanliness (6): Cleanliness wise in general it was fairly clean. Being mainly outdoors with many trails obviously some areas could get muddy or dusty. Being allowed to open windows and interact with the animals obviously there can be a sanitary issue there – there are washrooms throughout with handwashing areas. I reduced the mark due to the safety issue with the animal interactions. The deer can get quite competitive and/or aggressive with approaching cars which, especially with antlers, can become a hazard to visitors. Also, the walking portions with free roaming deer can also become dangerous if visitors do not approach animals with caution and respect.
Extras (7): A big extra with this zoo is that they cater wonderfully to the seasons. Summer hours offer hiking trails and a farm with wagon rides, a sugar shack during sugaring season, and snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails in winter. The scenery throughout this zoo is exceptional – so even those just wanting a nice drive for an afternoon would enjoy. Also, a lodge has also been opened on site for guests to stay overnight which is a great opportunity.
Overall (8): This zoo was a fun time – you got to see plenty of animals with some absolutely gorgeous scenery. A visit in each season is definitely a must. If you are more apprehensive about the animals you can keep your windows closed, the animals can get pushy. If you’re wanting a more exotic zoo with lions and giraffes and all those major draws this isn’t the place for you. If you want to see some awesome Canadian species this is definitely the place to go. Also, if you’re driving between Ottawa and Montreal this is a great midway stop.