Festivals meet nature in Parc Jean-Drapeau

Parc Jean-Drapeau
Île Sainte-Hélène et île Notre-Dame - Parc Jean-Drapeau
Robyn Fadden

Robyn Fadden

One of Montréal's biggest and most picturesque parks is the place to be throughout the year if you love live music, sports and the natural world. Parc Jean-Drapeau’s incredible capacity to host summer and winter festivals and other major events makes it an internationally recognized destination, while its rejuvenated green spaces, riverfront and permanent attractions offer a year-round getaway just across the river from Old Montréal.

Expo 67: The place to be

Past and present

Happy 150th! No stranger to being a must-see destination, Parc Jean-Drapeau was home to a British fort before becoming a Montréal's first major public park in February 1874. The park then doubled in size for international event Expo 67, stretching to over 268 hectares on two islands: designers added land to each end of Saint Helen’s Island’s and built Notre Dame Island from rock excavated while building the city's underground metro system. At the same time, the city renamed Parc Jean-Drapeau after a late mayor and made the park accessible to all by extending the metro under the St. Lawrence River. Today, vestiges of Expo 67 remain throughout the park alongside new attractions such as Espace 67, a contemporary gathering site just steps from Parc Jean-Drapeau metro station and strongly inspired by the welcoming global spirit of Expo 67. 

video poster

To celebrate the park's 150th anniversary, the Société du parc Jean-Drapeau (SPJD) has announced several major developments for the transformation of the space, including the long-awaited rehabilitation of the ceremonial heart of Expo 67, Place des Nations.

Parc Jean-Drapeau - Biosphère, Environment Museum

Year-round sights

With panoramic views of the river and Old Montréal from a renewed central concourse, Parc Jean Drapeau boasts over 25 kilometres of walking and biking trails, sunny Jean-Doré Beach, the Aquatic Complex (including a kids play area), kayaking and canoeing tours, and race track Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve for recreation. Several works of public art, including Alexander Calder's iconic and massive sculpture Three Discs (Man), and gorgeous flower gardens showcase Montréal's artistic side, while the Biosphère – Montréal Space for Life environment museum (housed within a Buckminster Fuller-designed geodesic dome) enchants and educates all ages, and the Casino de Montréal and La Ronde amusement park live to entertain us!

In winter, take advantage of Parc Jean-Drapeau’s many winter activities, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, fatbiking and a refrigerated ice skating path – you can even learn how to ice climb! – bring your own equipment or easily rent it on site. All year, an event village provides space for year-round activities, agora area lawns welcome picnickers, and there's more to satisfy your hunger at a new food court and restaurant (check opening times on the park’s website). The park's riverside walkway recently received a revamp yet maintains its natural quietude next to the fast-moving St. Lawrence River.

Osheaga, Music and Arts Festival

Seasonal festivities

Standing out among the park's renovations is a new amphitheatre area for major festivals and events, providing more space and ease-of-use to summer festival crowds and winter activities. The biggest music festival of its kind in Canada, Osheaga brings the sounds of indie-rock, hip hop and electronic music to the park in late July and early August, bookended by electronic dance music fest îleSoniq Montréal and country music festival Lasso Montréal. All summer long, dance outdoors at electronic music event Piknic Électronik, happening every Sunday afternoon among the trees. And, for something different and educationally entertaining, there’s even an outdoor science celebration, Eureka! Festival.

To celebrate the park's 150 years, the park will be host to special, large-scale events throughout the year for visitors to appreciate the site's splendour, starting with The Eclipse of the Century on April 8th, in collaboration with the Planetarium at Espace pour la vie

L'International des Feux Loto-Québec - Feux d'artifice

The skies light up around the park for several summer nights of fireworks competition L'International des Feux Loto Québec. In June, engines rev and crowds cheer for the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve on Notre Dame Island: the new Espace Paddock offers a prestige-level way to watch the Grand Prix, with two grand terraces and grandstands, as well as a multi-function hall for year-round events. Watch for more outdoor concerts and other events throughout the year.

A destination for all ages, Parc Jean-Drapeau balances contemporary new design touches with the nature and entertainment it's always been known for. Be sure to keep an eye out for the updated events program celebrating the park's 150 years here!

Robyn Fadden

Robyn Fadden

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.

See articles by Robyn