Val-Jalbert Ghost Town: Family Exploration
My love for abandoned buildings and ghost towns always brings me to the most beautiful places to explore. There is just something about the history, the feeling of adventure and exploration, and the photo ops (see the photo gallery below for what I`m talking about!)
Val-Jalbert had been on my urbex radar for years. Located about 249km/155 miles north of Quebec City, I had seen it online on a few urbex databases for being a really cool place to explore.
To my delight, in 2010, they turned it into a historical park. They preserved some buildings, refurbished others, and added a 4D movie experience in the mill, a cable car up the mountain side. To complete the atmosphere, they have actors in period garb walking around and acting just like the real civilians that did back in the 1920s. One of my favorite parts, of course, was the railroad still visible in the camp grounds - at one point with a giant tree growing right in the middle of it!
While some houses are not structurally sound, there are others that have been preserved for tourists to wander through with some antique and vintage relics still on site to see.
We traveled there when our little ones were 6 and 22 months. The trails were well maintained with some boardwalk so it was so easy to get around by foot and with a wagon that we were able to rent at the main entrance. There is also a trolley car that travels from one end of the park to the other - from the main entrance to the mill at the back of the town.
Since this ghost town is pretty much in the sticks in the middle of nowhere, there are various quaint locations to stay the night on site.
Being campers, we made it a family affair and camped out in Val-Jalpert's park with Grandma and Grandpa in their trailer. Tent sites are also available here, as well as mini cottages to rent if you don't have camping gear.
Looking to immerse yourself into this experience even more?
The Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art
Remember when I was called out to spend some more one-on-one time by my daughter? It didn't take me long to figure out what we were going to do together: our personalities are quite similar and we are enthralled with learning and experiencing weird and beyond-the-norm things.
I'm not sure of the exact moment that I fell in love with the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, (MAC) but I know that it was around the time I was in college and taking art history classes. Most of the art we were studying were paintings and sculptures... don't hate on me, but I was sometimes bored in those classes. It became more interesting as the history class started to catch up with the present.
What I can always anticipate about going to the MAC, is that often the art work being shown there invites the viewers to become a part of the pieces. I knew that installation art and interactive art would interest my 7 year old specifically, but really I know many children that would be in awe of it.
Right now, until the August 9th 2018, the Mac is hosting a collection by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. He is a Mexican-Canadian artist that incorporates technology in his participatory installations. He has exhibits around the world! The two of us found a lot of his work showcased in this particular exhibit had to do with us in correlation to technology as our being there made the artwork come alive.
While you may be looking at my post after this exhibit has moved on, the MAC always has amazing touring exhibits stopping by. Be sure to check out the MAC website to find out about current and upcoming exhibits.
Our MAC Tips:
We are a fourth generation railroading family. When I met my husband, I quickly became interested in the railroad industry, trains and it's history. Because I'm a nerd. In case you haven't figured that out yet...
I remember sitting and listening to stories his grandfather would tell about working on the rails, and was so proud when my husband followed in the family career tradition. Anything to do with trains, I am on it!
So when I came across this pin on Pinterest just last month, I wondered how the heck we hadn't heard about this before!
I quickly set up camping reservations in Charleston Lake and planned a road trip for the following week!
Brockville, Ontario is home to the first train tunnel ever built in Canada and has been boarded up and lying under the city for decades.
I keep telling everyone who asks about it: I want to meet the genius who had the idea to open it up for the public to enjoy. Part exhibit, part trail, part light and sound experience, this is the coolest train excursions we have ever done!
The railway tunnel itself was left untouched, and the floor was redone to connect it to the Brock Trail, a paved walking and cycling trail through the city of Brockville. At the main entrance there is a railway track pattern imprinted into it. It would have been so cool if it was like that all the way through, but I kind of like how it was only at the beginning and faded away and matched the rest of the Brock Trail's paved path, alluding to the changing times. However, do be careful, the tunnel was designed and built to allow runoff water to slip through so it doesn't collapse, so the floor is a bit slippery in places.
Along the edges of the paved trail are lines of LED lights that not only illuminate the tunnel's walls, but will change colours along with different songs playing in the tunnel. Notably, it was all Canadian artists: we were jamming to Great Big Sea and the Tragically Hip while we walked. One awesome effect was the sound of the train whistle and red light that came through the tunnel - almost like a ghost train. Each time time this happened, the kids and I would just freeze and stare down the tunnel and follow the "train" with our eyes and ears.
When the lights stayed white, all the mineral deposits and little rock crevices where railroad workers made their mark over a hundred years ago were illuminated for us to see. Check out this photo of our daughter catching drips of filtered water from the tunnel's ceiling:
This was the week of our vacation during the heat wave - so this activity was some much needed relief from the heat. The tunnel runs almost 60 feet under the city of Brockville so it was nice to cool off.
Along the way are street signs that tell you where you are in the city above. The tunnel even passes under city hall! You can also find signs with old photographs and information about how the tunnel was made and history of the train industry.
I want to give a shout out to Lindsay at LindsayEmma.com for sharing about her adventures - her blog post and photographs made me plan this little road trip from Montreal to Brockville. If you happen to be on my blog looking for cool things to do around Ontario, do check out Lindsay's blog as well!
If you want to visit the railway tunnel, check out the official site. It's about 2 hours from Montreal and an hour from Ottawa. Entry is free, but you can make a donation at the entrance.
Melissa is a mom, wife, and early childhood educator who blogs about her journey looking for new experiences for family time.