A guide to winter activities in Montréal
This article was updated on November 15, 2019.
When winter hits, Montréal doesn't stop throwing big street festivals and open-air events. From action sports and ice skating to outdoor electronic dance parties, the city keeps playing all winter long.
December holiday activities
If you're in Montréal in December, enjoy all kinds of winter holiday activities. Spot Christmas trees and Santa's elves among the many festive treats at Old Montréal's Merry Montréal at Place Jacques-Cartier, Christmas in the park at Place Émilie-Gamelin downtown and in Parc des Compagnons and Parc Lahaie, the Santa's Kingdom at Complexe Desjardins and at the city's many Christmas markets, such as Le Village de Noël de Montréal near Atwater Market.
Winter sports action
For families with high-energy kids, Fête des neiges de Montréal at Parc Jean-Drapeau is a true winter wonder. Every weekend from January 18 to February 9, Fête des neiges is packed with all kinds of activities (some for a fee, but most of them for free!), including ice slides, bouncy castles, snow tubing, live musical and theatrical performances, a Ferris wheel, dog sledding and more, with warm up stations and plenty to eat too. Try out snowtubing, snow scooters, winter archery and an obstacle course at Voiles en Voiles adventure park in the Old Port of Montréal, or go snowboarding, snowtubing, sliding and more at Pente à neige in Parc Ignace-Bourget near Angrignon metro.
Always a good time in the snow, the BARBEGAZI festival turns the Olympic Park into an open-air action sports arena for a wintery weekend on March 7 and 8, 2020: test your skills on a snowy obstacle course, try out snowskating and fatbiking, and watch freestyle snowmobile demonstrations, wood cutting and Christmas-tree throwing. Along with all the action sports comes a variety of great food trucks and a high-energy soundtrack by local DJs.
One of the many free things to do this winter, annual outdoor art event Luminothérapie brightens Place des Festivals until January 28 with interactive artwork POP! by Montréal creative studio Gentilhomme: dance and sing with five fantastical, brightly-hued creatures. While there, look up to see cosmic architectural video projection Les Lointaines, on UQAM's building facade.
From February 20 to March 1 comes winter festival MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE, an arts, culture and food event that spans restaurants, indoor stages and a sprawling outdoor site with food, drink, live music, a Ferris wheel, ice slides, kids activity area and luminous artworks throughout the Quartier des spectacles. Walk (or drive) to the summit of Mount Royal Park to see an iconic city view and discover the park while sledding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Take a break from the weather to see Montréal from above in all its wintery glory, including from the top of the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park, on the tallest observation wheel in the country, La Grande Roue de Montréal, and from 46 floors above downtown at the Observatoire Place Ville Marie. Or relax with a sea-level view of the St. Lawrence River at Bota Bota, spa-sur-l'eau, an indoor-outdoor boat-turned-spa, right on the river.
Skate, ski, snowshoe – and eat!
Ice skate to music next to the St. Lawrence River on the Old Port of Montréal ice skating rink, on the softly lit tree-lined pond in Parc La Fontaine and near the peak of Mount Royal Park at Beaver Lake, where you can also go cross-country skiing or on an expert-led snowshoeing tour along the park's trails. Bring your own skates or rent skates and other winter sports equipment on site. Or comfortably hit the ice indoors at fully-equipped Atrium Le 1000, next to a food court, malls and more downtown amenities. And see how the pros skate at a Montréal Canadiens game and at Cirque du Soleil’s colourful new show Axel, where world-class ice skating meets acrobatics, live music and moments of levity, at the Bell Centre from December 19 to 29.
If you've brought your own equipment, go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on the meandering trails of Parc Maisonneuve and Parc Jean-Drapeau. Take a day trip out of town to go downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at Centre de villégiature Tremblant and other mountains in the Laurentians, the Eastern Townships, the Montérégie or on a Bonjour Nature tour in the Lanaudière region. Whether you’re in the city or the countryside be sure to partake in a real Québécois tradition: the sugar shack (or cabane à sucre), where from late February to early April you can eat sausages, pancakes, tourtière and so much more until you’re full, and even go for a horse-drawn sled ride through the snowy maple woods.
Cold-weather party zone
Spend New Year's Eve in Montréal with music, fireworks, food and more outdoors at the Merry Montréal New Year's Eve Party in the historic Old Port of Montréal. That's also where the spectacular Fire on Ice fireworks light up the sky every Saturday until January 4. Zip up your parka and dance outdoors at electronic music festival Igloofest, happening every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night from January 16 to February 8 on the Old Port's Jacques-Cartier pier – hear party tunes from international and local producers, DJs, hip hop artists and more in an electro winter wonderland. And bop back in time at the Casino de Montréal's Pop Casino event, with Poptastic ‘80s and ‘90s music nights, tribute shows to the world's biggest pop stars, themed food and drinks and more.
Warm up in style with gourmet prix-fixe meals during Old Montréal's Happening Gourmand restaurant event, from January 16 to February 9. Or try a new poutine created for Poutine Week, from February 1 to 7. Join the jubilant crowds in a citywide celebration of art, culture, urban life and just plain fun for Nuit blanche à Montréal, closing out the MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE festival on February 29.
Robyn Fadden, blogger
Robyn Fadden is a Montréal-based writer and editor who searches out city secrets, new bands, life-changing art and things to do with her perpetually active kid. Robyn has covered major events for HOUR, MUTEK, ARTINFO, CKUT 90.3FM and more.