Winter is at our doorstep once more. We knew this was coming, that it was inevitable, that it happens every year—and yet, even though it’s a fact of life in this country, some of us still curse this seemingly never-ending season of cold, ice, and snow. What’s the use? This is not meant as a survival guide, but rather a reminder of the many ways to enjoy winter and make every month count until spring.
So this year, whether you are a local Montréaler, or simply visiting with EF, make it a resolution to try at least one of these suggestions—I guarantee that winter won’t seem so bad afterwards.
1) Holiday Magic!
Montréal’s many smaller side streets and boulevards are all lit up with beautiful Christmas lights this time of year. Look up as you walk by and enjoy the twinkling beauty that brings a multitude of festive colors to an otherwise grey season. And if that’s not enough light for you, every Saturday night in December, the Telus Fire on Ice fireworks display that lights up the sky in Old Montreal is sure to brighten up your weekend.
2) Subterranean Shoppin’
If you are shopping for holiday gifts or taking advantage of the great sales that follow, do so via Montreal’s “Underground City.” Along Ste-Catherine St., you’ll find the longest shopping strip in the world—combining seven distinct shopping centers all interconnected through underground tunnels (and accessible by subway too!). It’s a great way to shop ‘til you drop, just not from the freezing temperatures.
3) Fashionable Frost
Speaking of shopping, just because the cold Montréal winters require us to dress very warmly, doesn’t mean we can’t do it in style!. Stores are filled with accessories you will need to stay warm and look good this winter. A good down-filled winter coat is a great base to be paired with stylish, key items such as a colorful woolen toque, a fur borg hat with flaps, a pair of fur-trimmed mitts, an extra-long and thick scarf wrapped several times around your neck, or even some two-toned warm Sorel boots. Très chic!
On weekends from January 16th to February 8th 2015, Montréal will be hosting its 32nd Annual Fête des Neiges (Snowfest) at Parc Jean-Drapeau on the Île-Ste-Hélène. Join the young and not-so-young, friends and families, and winter thrill-seekers as you experience the many joys of winter outdoors through activities such as sliding, inner tubing, skating, snowshoeing, hockey, dogsledding, ice-fishing, ice-sculpting, and even live shows. Admission is free, but rentals for some activities come at a reasonable price.
Consider Igloofest like Snowfest’s little sister, or big brother, depending on your point of view. Also occurring between January 16th and February 8th, it’s geared towards an older crowd looking for a party.. Thousands of merrymakers descend on the Quai Jacques-Cartier in Old Montreal, where, dressed in their best—or tackiest—outfits, they dance the night away outdoors along to the beats and rhythms supplied by some of the world’s best DJs. Drinks and food are served on site as well, and it’s best to dress warmly as you’ll need a good 15 minutes to work up a sweat. Tickets are $20 online, $25 on-site, and $120 for a three-day weekend package.
6) Winter Village
Winter activities starting to sound fun? Good news: once again the Olympic Park is coming back from December 6th to March 8th with its Winter Village. All of December will be filled with holiday-related activities like sleigh rides, lighting up a giant Christmas tree and roasting chestnuts on open fires. Every weekend in January and February will feature special free events, shows and activities for the whole family (especially during the Nuit Blanche—see below for more on that!) Grab great food and beverages from the food trucks on site, and combine your visit to the Olympic Park with indoor attractions like the Biodôme or the Rio Tinto Planetarium to warm up when you need a break. Check out this year’s program at calendrier.parcolympique.qc.ca.
7) Skate like the Wind!
Nothing says winter in Canada like ice-skating. The Olympic Park mentioned above plays host to one of the city’s many outdoor skating rinks, but you’ll find many others throughout Montréal such as Beaver Lake on Mont-Royal, the Lafontaine Park, the Jarry Park, and of course the beautiful Bonsecours Basin skating rink in the Old Port with its different musical themes every day. All except the latter are free, and skate rentals can be made at most locations.
8) Montreal High Lights Festival
Montréal is known for its many festivals and for its nightlife—that certainly doesn’t change in the winter. The city’s High Lights Festival (Montréal en Lumière) will be celebrating its 15th edition in 2015. As every previous year, High Lights mostly revolves around the popular Festival’s Quarter and consists of 10 days (between February 19th to March 1st) of free outdoor shows, circus performances and entertainment, fireworks, as well as food and beverage stands. The highlight of the festival is during its culmination on Saturday February 28th, with the Nuit Blanche. There, you can expect to see free attractions and exhibits all night long.
Dave’s recommendation: Plan your itinerary, but be flexible—lineups are expected nearly everywhere since this event grows in popularity every year.
9) Foodie Winter Wonderland
It seems that Montréalers will find every possible way to stay happy in the winter—what better way than to fill your belly by dining in one of the city’s many excellent restaurants. Montréal boasts over 6,000 places to dine (the most per capita in North America) in a variety of styles, cuisines and price-ranges. Several foodie events take place during winter in different neighborhoods, such as Old Montréal’s “Le Happening Gourmand” over a three-week period in January, where many participating restaurants offer three-course meals at a much reduced price. Bon appetit!
10) Montréal is Cool
The French-speakers will say winter is “frette,” meaning reeeeaaaally cold, and we all know that. But Montreal is also just a cool city, period. Where else will you get this perfect blend of French and English language mixed with other cultures from all over the world, thus creating its own unique way of living in all of North America? There’s no place like this city, and winter is an integral part of it, so just experience it, and enjoy it!