Things to do in Montréal – April 26 to May 2, 2019

May arrives in Montréal with the colourful reinvention of Cirque du Soleil's Alegria under the big top, the music-making interactive 21 Balançoires (21 Swings) and more outdoor art, butterflies at the Botanical Garden, the beginning of festival season, the fab fashion of Thierry Mugler: Couturissime and even more inspiring art, theatre, dance, film and live music.

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Spring sights and sounds

Spring is literally in the air as butterflies flit by at the fascinating and beautiful Butterflies Go Free event at the Montréal Botanical Garden greenhouse, only until April 28! In downtown Montréal, hop on a musical swing at 21 Balançoires (21 Swings) along the Promenade des Artistes, part of the city's annual Montréal Digital Spring events and a highlight of this spring's free things to do. Nearby, the spiral staircase of art installation Our DNA embodies the architectural and cultural heritage of Montréal's unique neighbourhoods. After dark every Thursday to Sunday, look up to the facade of the President-Kennedy Pavilion to see projection art UQAM: 50 ans d'audace, evoking the university's many facets since its creation in 1969. And animated projection art Synergie lights up the space outside Saint-Laurent metro station every Thursday to Sunday evening. In Old Montréal, visit Notre-Dame Basilica (one of Montréal's most famous icons) and see Moment Factory's immersive multimedia show AURA, while on Friday and Saturday nights you can search out the projections of Cité Mémoire on building facades.

Take in the view of Montréal's changing seasons from the Mount Royal Park lookout, one of the most Instagrammable views in Montréal and walk the landscaped Promenade Fleuve-Montagne from Mount Royal Park to the St. Lawrence River. And see the entire city from La Grande Roue de Montréal observation wheel, the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park and the Observatoire Place Ville Marie. If spring showers send you indoors, keep your mind active with escape game adventures, go ice skating at Atrium Le 1000 or relax at Montréal's best spas. In sports, catch Major League Soccer team the Montréal Impact against the Chicago Fire on April 28 at Stade Saputo, watch world-class Olympic-level divers compete in the FINA Diving World Series April 26 to 28 at the Olympic Park Sports Centre, or cheer on 16 roller derby teams as they do battle in the Beast of the East tournament from April 26 to 28 at Arena St-Louis in Mile End. Whether you're in Montréal for a spring break, by plane or train, solo or with family, plot your days and nights with My Official Montréal City Guide, a travel app that lets you experience the city like a Montrealer. And save on your next visit with the MTL Sweet Deal.

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Food and drink

Enjoy a hearty Québécois meal and maple syrup taffy on snow at cabanes à sucre (sugar shacks), including at the Labonté de la Pomme Maple Apple Shack in Oka until April 28. As the weather warms up, Montréal's best terrasses welcome guests for brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks in the open air. If you're looking for Québécois classics, follow our guides to the best poutine, bagels and smoked meat, plus Montréal's top chocolatières, excellent Montréal meals worth writing home about and more musts for foodies – including some only-in-Montréal dining experiences and food festivals. Grab a few spring home décor ideas from these design-trending restaurants and bars. Dine well at these top Montréal restaurants for the gourmet traveller, cheerful bring-your-own-wine eateries (including some in Little Italy), charming romantic dining options, lovely laid-back casual restaurants and our new restaurant picks. And make the most of solo dining in Montréal – these restaurants know how to treat you right! Do lunch like a Montrealer at these 10 great lunch spots and any time of day grab a pick-me-up at Montréal's indie coffee shops and most “Instagrammable” cafés. Later on, cheer on your favourite team at these Montréal sports bars, see what's hot at the city's new bars, relax with a perfect cocktail, or have a drink away from it all in a hidden bar, speakeasy or perfect date spot. For something light, seek out these health-conscious restaurants and great sushi restaurants and peruse our ultimate guide to vegan eating in Montréal. Or indulge your sweet tooth at Montréal's best bakeries and pastry shops. Explore more of Montréal and its culinary delights on Montréal's best food tours. Let the good times roll along with great food at the Casino de Montréal's restaurants. If you're traveling with kids, check out our ideas for great places to eat with kids in Montréal. And for the adventurous, there's a street food party: Salada Market hosts local gourmet food trucks and gets a dance floor going on the evenings of April 26 and 27.

On stage

Cirque du Soleil's iconic production Alegria returns to Montréal with reinvigorated design, incredible costumes and world-class performers, from April 18 to June 30 under the big top in the Old Port of Montréal. Two major festivals begin this week: Festival Accès Asie, a showcase of pan-Asian arts and culture from May 1 to 30, starting with dance creations Éclosion and Arūpa, and Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival, featuring readings and discussions with authors from May 2 to 5. Danse Danse presents Alonzo King LINES Ballet's The Propelled Heart, an inventive dance production that highlights the power of song with award-winning vocalist Lisa Fischer, at Place des Arts from April 30 to May 4. Seasoned urban/street dancers combine forces in Les Soirées 100Lux, featuring contemporary choreography, video projections, live music, emcees, deejays and more, from April 25 to 28 at Édifice Wilder. Montréal's winter-spring theatre season features Centaur Theatre's Blind Date, an improvised, absolutely hilarious and poignant play by Rebecca Northan, in which a cast member goes on a “date” with a different audience member each night, from April 9 to 28. Riveting new play Indecent dramatizes the events surrounding Sholem Asch's controversial 1906 play God of Vengeance, an explosive moment in theatrical and world history, at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts from April 28 to May 19. Acclaimed Broadway musical Kinky Boots – with songs by Cyndi Lauper – brings its joy to Theatre St-Denis on April 26 and 27. And for kids and their families, Geordie Theatre's major mainstage music-infused production Reaching for Starlight entertains and inspires, taking us on a young girl’s journey of breaking barriers, at D.B. Clarke Theatre from April 26 to 28. The MAI Montréal, arts interculturels' Black Art Empowerment series this week features choreographer Jumatatu M. Poe's Terrestrial, an examination of humans as earth, on April 26. An adaptation of Shakespeare’s sonnets, Nous serons éternels (according to Shakespeare's sonnets) deconstructs Elizabethan aesthetics while paying homage to timeless themes of lust, love and the eternal, at Théâtre La Chapelle on April 26 with English surtitles. And on May 1, Jacob Wren of PME Art turns the typical artist talk inside out in performance A User’s Guide to Authenticity Is a Feeling at Théâtre La Chapelle.

On screen

Sure to be unlike anything you've experienced before in a VR setting, the Phi Centre presents visceral virtual reality theatre The Horrifically Real Virtuality, a comedic homage to filmmaker Ed Wood, starring Bela Lugosi – only until April 28! Meanwhile, at the Phi Centre's VR Cinema, famous paintings come to life in a collaboration with the Geneva International Film Festival. At the nearby Phi Centre until April 28, watch collaborative video work Speculating Futures, based on present environmental and geopolitical climates and visions of the future. Immerse yourself in artist Dana Gingras's multimedia experience Free fall, a visceral reminder of the pull of gravity on our bodies, in the Satosphere dome at the Society for Arts and Technology until April 27, followed from April 30 to May 3 by immersive audiovisual “transcoding” performance Enigma, exploring the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence – and on Saturday afternoons, join a family screening of multimedia show Lamparium. Roam the cosmos in science-meets-multimedia shows Planet Nine, Secrets of Gravity, Continuum and Aurōrae as well as new films POLARIS and Passport to the Universe at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. The Montréal Science Centre features IMAX films Oceans 3D, Pandas 3D, Volcanoes 3D and new feature Superpower Dogs 3D – along with hands-on science activities such as the Clic! zone (made specifically for kids ages 4 through 7) and a 3.8-billion-year-old moon rock! Among Montréal's great indie cinemas, Mile End's Cinéma Moderne screens art-house, Québécois and cult films every day, Cinémathèque québécoise shows films by more auteurs, while Cinéma du Musée and Cinéma du Parc also screen Canadian and international features and documentaries throughout the week.

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Art for all

Don't miss Montréal's annual Papier art fair, showcasing contemporary art works on paper from dozens of Canadian galleries, alongside talks and workshops, at the Grand Quai of the Old Port of Montréal from April 25 to 28. Explore how the art of pop icon Yoko Ono has affected years of contemporary art practices, art reception and activism through art in new exhibition Yoko Ono: LIBERTÉ CONQUÉRANTE/GROWING FREEDOM, at the Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain in Old Montréal. Enter the high-fashion art world of Thierry Mugler: Couturissime, featuring innovative ready-to-wear, haute couture and more wild creations by the French designer at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – while there, also see Montreal Couture, showcasing inventive Québec designers, and spend the evening of May 1 celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Wiggle Festival, featuring runway looks and avant-garde performances. Toronto-based Cree artist Kent Monkman critically illuminates the history of Indigenous people in Canada in must-see exhibition Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience at the McCord Museum, also launching exhibition SDING K'AWXANGS – Haida: Supernatural stories. At Place des Arts Salle d'exposition, Au rythme des mots features works by photographer Jose Enrique Montes Hernandez and installations and graffiti by emerging artists. Parisian Laundry presents Rose Marcus and Charles Harlan's Leavee, new works inspired by coastal urban living. See recent sculptural works by David Armstrong Six at Darling Foundry. In Speculations, Black, Indigenous and other artists reflect and speculate on their position in the universe, the world and society at Artexte. See works by seven Indigenous women artists in exhibition Oubliées ou disparues : Akonessen, Zitya, Tina, Marie et les autres at Ashukan Cultural Space. SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art presents Loosely Assembled Cycle 2: Score for a Dialogue Between People with a performance and an installation by Danielle Aubert, Bianca Ibarlucea, and Kikko Paradela. Head to Mile-Ex for the edgy Never Apart spring exhibitions, with art by Age Union artists, Damian Siqueiros and Terra Sapiens Collective, and more. Le Montréaler presents An homage to the New Yorker at the Maison de la culture Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. And there's more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing in the city.

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History near and far

See the city through the eyes of locals and visitors in photography exhibition Montreal, History and Heritage at the Centre d'histoire de Montréal until May 12. History museum Château Ramezay features touching and beautiful World War I exhibition WAR Flowers alongside rooms full of local history. The Musée de Lachine presents history and archeology from the times of fur trade and New France alongside contemporary art. Among the city's several family-friendly museums, archaeology and history complex Pointe-à-Callière brings Montréal's past to life in high-tech multimedia exhibitions such as the brand new Generations MTL (opening April 30), and illuminates an international cabinet of curiosities in new exhibition Into the Wonder Room. Watch kids' eyes light up when they see the dinosaur skeletons, fossils and more at the Redpath Museum. Wax museum Grévin MONTRÉAL features Québécois and international celebrities past and present. Nature and climate come into full view at the geodesic Biosphère, Environment Museum in Parc Jean-Drapeau. The Canadian Railway Museum Exporail hosts the Circus Train exhibition along with circus acts until April 28. At the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Scripts for a new world: Film storyboards by Alessandro Poli explores elements of film that helped Poli form his language for architecture, while Second Life takes us away from it all in real, imagined and virtual spaces outside of ordinary time and space. Learn more about Jewish culture in Montréal at the Museum of Jewish Montreal, featuring Russian-Jewish artist Yuula Benivolski’s photography installation L'océan entre nous // The Ocean Between Us until May 5. The city's Irish roots also run deep – discover Irish Montréal through landmarks and more. See Barbie's high-fashion transformations through the decades at the free Barbie Expo downtown. Read all about jazz in Montréal, from the Roaring Twenties to today, featuring local history and jazz clubs still hopping to this day. And pick up some historic and present-day facts about Montréal that even some locals might not know.

Live music

On Friday night, pop-rock star Gino Vannelli plays the first night of two shows at Place des Arts, English singer-songwriter Tom Odell and opener Lucie Silvas come to Corona Theatre, French singer-songwriter ZAZ mixes jazz, soul and acoustic music at the Bell Centre, Austin pop-rock duo Missio and Blackillac play Théâtre Fairmount, Québec hip hop innovators Dead Obies roll into MTELUS, soulful Swedish singer Léon captivates at Petit Campus, Sasami (former keyboardist for Cherry Glazerr) performs solo at Quai des Brumes, Delicate Steve rocks out at l'Escogriffe Bar Spectacle, and the Sound of Soul night at Balcon Cabaret Music-Hall features high-energy live music by Magdala and band EKLKTK. In classical music concerts on Friday, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal presents Long live La Môme: The Symphonic Piaf at Maison symphonique with Québec singers Florence K, Betty Bonifassi, Marie-Thérèse Fortin, Sylvie Moreau, Pierre Flynn and Martha Wainwright, while Garrick Ohlsson Plays Brahms at Bourgie Concert Hall. On Saturday, Alice In Chains rocks MTELUS, electro-pop band TR/ST performs music from its Destroyer project at Corona Theatre, singer-songwriter Bea Miller keeps things real pop at Le Ministère, folk-rock artist Valley Maker plays La Vitrola, or dance late into the night with EDM producers Dr.Ozi, Ronin and more at Théâtre Fairmount and electro DJ Jeffrey Sutorius (formerly of Dash Berlin) at New City Gas.

Sunday, April 28 brings Portuguese fado music star Mariza to Maison symphonique with opening act Bïa, and pop-rock-electro band And the Kids to Casa del Popolo. On Monday, fans of Morrissey flock to MTELUS, and Finnish melodic death metal band Kalmah performs at L’Astral. Kent Nagano conducts the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal in Gustav Holst’s The Planets, on April 30 at Maison symphonique. Also on Tuesday, alt-rock star Jesse (lead singer of the Neighbourhood) and Goody Grace play Théâtre Fairmount, R&B singer-songwriter Shy Girls slides into Le Ministère, and indie-rockers Hippo Campus and Samia groove at L’Astral. Wednesday features world-renowned pianist Jean-Philippe Collard at Maison symphonique, while McKinley Dixon brings his jazz-styled hip hop to Casa del Popolo. On Thursday, electronic musician and DJ The Hacker performs live on analog hardware at Newspeak with opener DJ Cherry Cola. For even more music throughout the week, check out our picks on how to get your nightlife on in Montréal, where to hear live music in Montréal, 10 great places to see indie bands, Montréal's best jazz and blues clubs and our guide to electronic music in Montréal. And if you want to bring the music home with you, go record shopping at Montréal's excellent vinyl stores.

Robyn Fadden

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.

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