Montréal Heats Up the Winter Months

Photos by Andre Gagne

Right about now you’ve probably heard enough about these cold snaps moving into the Great White North. Welcome to Canada! I mean, it's not called The Great Warm North! While many hibernate like a BC black bear come these frigid months (only with more cranked central heating and Netflix binge watches), Montréalers toss on their winter gear, layer up and embrace the season with an impressive line-up of winter festivals that rival their exciting summer events. The winter chill is just another reason to throw a party.

“Montréal is a great family destination all year round, and is also very well know for its nightlife and music scene,” says Tourism Montréal’s Martine Venne, adding that the city is so “vibrant and there’s always something to do.”

While Canada was celebrating a 150th birthday in 2017, Montreal was turning 375. The city’s age didn’t slow it down, however, as a slew of unique events, exhibits and attractions brought people from all over to toast the past while looking towards the future. Just because the clock ticked us into 2018 doesn’t mean the party is over, though, as more fun awaits those venturing into La Métropole du Québec.

Giving just enough time for people to recover from their New Year’s Eve bashes, Igloofest invites all to play outside for nine fun-filled nights. You know, just be ready to bundle. It may be described as the coldest music festival in the world but that’s quickly forgotten as you break into a sweat for a program that sees local and international artists firing up Quai Jacques Cartier over three weekends starting January 19. This year’s annual outdoor winter playground transforms the Old Port into a dance party with Kaytranada, Bonobo, NGHTMRE, Petit Biscuit, DJ Esco, Sasha and John Digweed being just a few highlights.

If the raver scene isn’t your groove, you can head down to Parc Jean-Drapeau for the always popular Fête des neiges (January 20 – February 11). This is one for the entire family, especially if your kids love frolicking in a winter wonderland right out of a Christmas card. While the expected skating and sledding will fill up your day, those looking to snowshoe their way into something new can try dog sledding. Feeling even bolder? You can take a leap off the Big Jump, a 50 foot high tower new to the event this year. Kids can meet Capitaine Criniere and his crew on the ice ship or delight in watching the polar circus. Can you find your way out of the Kathmandu Maze? Concerts will feature performances by La Voix’s Alexe Gaudreault and Soran Dussaigne, Jean-François Bastin,and kids’ idol Annie Brocoli.

When seeking a festival break, Venne says –perhaps with a little rumble in her stomach– you need look no further than the city’s food and microbrewery cultures to fuel you for your next event.

“One of my favorite thing to do is to dine with friends at a new restaurant, drink organic wine or a microbrewery beer and simply go out for dancing at the nearest bar,” she says.

“For a less expensive night, I love to eat at a Bring your own wine restaurant, as many Montréal restaurant offer exceptional food at a very reasonable price… especially when you bring your own wine!”

Break’s over!

Time to hit up Montréal en Lumiere (February 22 – March 4).  It was the perfect way to quash the Y2K fears and enter a new century back when the first edition of this festival brought 23 days of activities and excitement in 2000. Since then it has grown into one of the largest winter festivals in the world with over 1,300,000 revelers set to take in some part of a program that combines the arts, gastronomy and outdoor fun.

Montréalers like Venne know that the city is a gourmet destination but this festival adds some tasty exclamation points onto that statement by inviting some 500 renowned chefs and wine producers to tantalize you with tastes! The free outdoor offerings include more gourmet pit stops and food kiosks but also a chance to work up your appetite with zip lining, curling and other activities.

The highlight, especially for art lovers, is Nuit Blanche. 600 artists, 226 shows, 41 venues and stages and the 6 countries do more than enough to represent why this is the Montréal’s wildest night of the year! It’s the perfect way to discover places in the city you may not have thought to visit with 213 activities spread out over 135 sites. There’s a free shuttle bus and most of the exhibits and events are free.

If it all seems so much to take in, Venne suggestions getting your lay of the land from high up above in one of Montréal’s new attractions.

“Offering stunning views of Montreal, the brand-new Observation Deck Au Sommet Place Ville Marie is a great way to start off your Montreal trip. It immerses visitors in a multimedia experience with the #MTLGO exhibit and allows them to have a personalised itinerary!”

Another way to see this breathtaking city from a bird’s eye view is with a ride on the newly opened Montréal Observation Wheel. It gives you a panoramic view 600 meters high. Heated cabins will keep you nice and toasty!

There’s reason why this city has been given the nickname of The City of Festivals. Discover it all for yourself by chilling out in Montréal this winter!