Winter doesn’t always arrive on our timetable; it comes unexpectedly, sets up shop and doesn’t leave for (sob) months. This year don’t take winter laying down! Embrace it in Montreal, a winter-city that doesn’t stop when the snow flies. Montrealers don’t hibernate; they take to the (ploughed) streets and party until the snow melts! Montreal may explode with festivals during the warmer months, but winter doesn’t stop the action! Here are four festivals plus four wintry ways to embrace the season in Montreal.
Igloofest (Weekends, end of January and early February):
Igloofest is Montreal’s annual outdoor winter playground and dance party. Attendees don snowsuits and full winter gear and head to the Old Port to enjoy electronic music en masse. Ok, this one may be adults-only but how fun does that sound?
Fête des Neiges (Week-ends, end of January and early February):
Held at Parc Jean-Drapeau over four winter weekends, Fête des Neiges is a popular family-oriented winter extravaganza guaranteed to turn you into a winter sports enthusiast! Check out dog sledding, snow tubing, skating and ice carving, fueled by popular Montreal food trucks onsite serving up your old and new favourite winter comfort foods.
Montreal en Lumiere (End of February and beginning of March):
This annual festival is one of the largest winter festivals in the world with fantastic cuisine, music, theatre and art in downtown’s Quartier des Spectacles. Food is always a focus of Montreal en Lumiere with elite chefs from around the world converging in the city for the festival’s gourmet program. A free outdoor site offers activities for all ages, including a Ferris wheel, zip line, curling, free shows and food kiosks for gourmet pit stops.
Illuminart (End of February and beginning of March):
Back for a second year, Illuminart is part of the Montreal en Lumiere experience and runs over the same dates. Illuminart is a circuit fusing art, lighting, and technology in the heart of the Quartier des spectacles. This unique event revitalises and refreshes the winter experiences available in public spaces with the creative concepts by local and international light designers. Montreal has elevated light art to a new level (with such displays as Aura at Notre-Dame Basilica and the dynamic lighting of the Jacques-Cartier Bridge), so this is a can’t miss experience.
In between all that festival fun, you can take on winter with skating in Old Port, skiing on Mount-Royal mountain and everything in between!
Ice skate next to the Saint-Lawrence River on the Old Port of Montréal’s Natrel Skating Rink (December through March) with theme nights, music and a festive atmosphere, or for something quieter, glide among the trees and wildlife of Mount-Royal Park’s Beaver Lake and Parc La Fontaine.
Strap on some boards and hit the cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on the trails of Parc Maisonneuve and Park Jean Drapeau. Or practice bellowing your best “hurry hard!” with old-fashioned curling at the Stewart Museum.
Want to see it all but not feel the chill? In the heart of Old Port stands the highest observation wheel in Canada, rising 60 metres into the sky. Sitting between the city and the St. Lawrence River on Île Bonsecours the La Grande Roue de Montréal (also know as the less lyrical Montreal Observation Wheel) spins all year-round, rain, snow or shine! Nestle into the heated (yes, heated!) gondola and take in 360 degrees of the city below.
And even the most enthusiastic winter lover may occasionally concede that it gets a bit too wintry. This is the time to wander down to Montréal’s Underground City, the world’s largest underground pedestrian complex. 33 kilometres of tunnels connect the boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, hotels, attractions and metro stations.