Things to do in Montréal - August 31 to September 6

Robyn Fadden

Montréal makes the most of early September's warm days with an array of sunny Labour Day activities, four music festivals – OSM Classical Spree, Mile Ex End Montréal, MEG and OUMF – plus the World Press Photo show, World Film Festival, seasonal food (check out Le Burger Week!) and more.

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Labour Day and festival fun

Relax over the long weekend in Montréal – we've got you covered with walks in the park, entertainment for all ages, outdoor festivals, food for all tastes and even more Labour Day weekend activities. Also this week, three major music festivals capture our attention with their distinctive styles. The OSM Classical Spree makes classical music accessible to all ages, August 31 to September 2, featuring Maestro Kent Nagano conducting the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal in 11 concerts in 48 hours along with more free and affordable concerts, films and talks at Place des Arts, including a series just for kids. Meanwhile, set right between some of the city's most artistic neighbourhoods, Mile Ex End Montréal features Broken Social Scene, Kid Koala, Rhye, Charlotte Day Wilson, The Barr Brothers and many more artists on September 1 and 2 under the Rosemont-Van Horne overpass. Electronic and urban music festival MEG Montréal unleashes its groove all weekend for its 20th anniversary, from three days of Piknic Électronik outdoor programming to Friday's hip hop and electro dance sets kicked off by Arnaud Rebotini at the SAT, Saturday's DJ set by Etienne de Crécy and Sunday electro night with The Avener and more. And back-to-school outdoor festival OUMF opens September 5 with a block party in the Quartier Latin, followed from September 6 to 8 by all kinds of live music, street art and more free entertainment on multiple stages.

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Activities for all ages

Discover Parc Jean-Drapeau's islands during the free Voyage des Îles activities, August 31 to September 3, featuring music, food, activities for kids, a boat trip and more. Play on the Old Port of Montréal's pirate ship ropes course Voiles en Voiles, the MTL Zipline, SOS Labyrinthe and high-tower experience Decalade.com. Meanwhile, on the water, take a leisurely boat ride on the St. Lawrence River with Bateau-Mouche, Croisières AML, Le Petit Navire or Navark; speed it up with WET SET MTL, Saute-Moutons and Rafting Montréal or surf the rapids with KSF and Oasis Surf. Cool down with our ultimate guide to Montréal's beaches and pools (or relax indoors at some of Montréal's best spas). Visit the Ecomuseum Zoo conservation area to see 115 animal species from the St. Lawrence Valley, including otters, wolves and hawks. Among the many free things to do in Montréal this summer, explore Montréal's ephemeral summertime spaces, including open-air markets Jardins Gamelin near the Village and the Aires Libres rainbow, Village au Pied-du-Courant near the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, the Old Port's Marché des Éclusiers, Station F-MR along the Lachine Canal, and Les Jardineries on the Esplanade Financière Sun Life at Olympic Park. On September 2, listen to music outdoors in the tranquil atmosphere of Parc Jarry as part of Les Siestes Musicales series at 1 p.m. Meanwhile in pro sports, our Major League Soccer team the Montréal Impact plays the New York Red Bulls on September 1 at Saputo Stadium. Find all this and more at your fingertips with My Official Montréal City Guide, a travel app that lets you experience the city like a Montrealer.

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City sights and lights

The beautiful Promenade Fleuve-Montagne walking path takes you from the St. Lawrence River all the way to Mount Royal Park, featuring monuments, art installations and more along the way. Don't miss the view from the top of Mount Royal, along with refreshing beverages, free activities and music at Café suspendu du mont Royal every weekend. Bird's-eye views of the city also await in the comfort of the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown, La Grande Roue de Montréal observation wheel in the Old Port or the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park – learn more about the city's Olympic history on a tour of the tower and Olympic Park while you're there! (Olympics sports fans can experience an Olympian's journey in the Canadian Olympic Experience at Canadian Olympic Committee headquarters.) Come down to earth at the Montréal Botanical Garden or take a tour of Habitat 67 to see the eye-catching avant-garde architecture up close. Stroll through Montréal's Chinatown to see historic sights and have a great meal. Bike like a Montrealer with bike-sharing system BIXI or check out these three bike rides perfect for visitors (featuring a helpful list of bike rental options). At night, discover why Montréal is a city of lights too: see high-tech wonder AURA at Notre-Dame Basilica, spot Montréal en Histoires - Cité Memoire projections, and watch the waves and water bubbles of Aesthetic Machinery's WET on the facade of UQAM's Pavillon President-Kennedy in Place des Festivals. Learn more about the city's history and culture on a walking tour of the Quartier des spectacles, from its Red Light era to recent transformations. Follow our guide to Montréal's most famous icons to see more of the city's major sights and architecture. Whether you're coming to Montréal for a festival or to see the sights, solo or with your family, arrive in the heart of the action by train on VIA Rail Canada.

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Food and drink

Need an excuse to sink your teeth into a great burger? Look no further than Montréal's Le Burger Week, September 1 to 7, featuring original and exclusive burgers crafted by participating restaurants just for the occasion! On August 31, Aire Commune's open-air Beers & Bikes event in Mile End brings together a selection of HELM's microbrews, several bike shops and tour providers, plus live music, a pop-up shop and art exhibition. The weather's still great for picnicking and outdoor dining in August: enjoy a meal surrounded by nature at Montréal's restaurants in parks, pick up your own picnic-ready food for the park, or dine in style on a hidden terrasse. Summer days also call for great sushi! Or stay cool with the best ice cream and frozen treats in Montréal, along with iced coffee at Montréal's indie coffee shops or that perfect summer cocktail – if you're with a group, why not make it a pitcher of cocktails or take your party to the beach? Explore Montréal and its culinary delights on foot or by bike with Montréal's best food tours. Fine-dining luxuries and local delicacies make these Montréal meals worth writing home about – we've also selected some top Montréal restaurants for the gourmet traveller and some designer restaurants for those who love to eat in style. Discover Montréal's many brunch options and the many restaurants open from brunch to well past dinner. Try these lunch counters in Montréal, new casual restaurants and cheerful bring-your-own-wine eateries. If you're looking for local food and Québécois classics, follow our guides to the best poutine, the best Montréal bagels and the best smoked meat, Montréal's top chocolatières and more musts for foodies visiting Montréal. For something light, check out these health-conscious restaurants and our ultimate guide to vegan eating in Montréal. Or why not sample some of the city's best baked goods at Montréal's new bakeries and pastry shops?

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Stage and screen

Catch new and award-winning features, shorts and documentaries from dozens of countries at the Montréal World Film Festival, August 23 to September 3, while arts and culture hub Phi Centre welcomes Sheffield Doc/Fest's Alternate Realities touring Virtual Reality exhibition until September 2. The SAT's Downtown screenings under the stars wraps up its season with Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz on September 4 under the stars at Parc de la Paix. A must for immersive film lovers: the incredible 360-degree films A Metabolist Utopia by Jérémie Bellot & Nan[O] and Versus by Nanotak in the SAT's Satosphere, while in the foyer (next to Foodlab restaurant) until September 1, see ghost instruments / la ville mécanique by artist TiND. Roam the cosmos in science-meets-multimedia creations EXO, The Blind Man with Starry Eyes, Continuum and Aurōrae at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. Go on a wild ride in IMAX at the Montréal Science Centre with Tiny Giants 3D, Oceans 3D and America's Musical Journey 3D – also see 400 original art objects and drawings in DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition and a 3.8-billion-year-old moon rock. A theatrical and audiovisual wonder featuring 70 thoroughbred horses, Cavalia Odysseo extends its run until September 30 under the big top near the Jacques-Cartier Bridge. And in contemporary dance, Festival Quartiers Danses opens on September 5 with free performances at noon outside Place des Arts and Complexe Desjardins and in Jardins Gamelin at 5 p.m. – the festival continues until September 15 with performances, workshops, talks and more.

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Art for all

Don't miss the eye-opening World Press Photo photography exhibition, featuring award-winning images from the most prestigious professional competition in the world, August 29 to September 30 at Marché Bonsecours in Old Montréal. SURFACES - l'expo d'art urbain features the brilliant urban artwork of 16 artists on the Promenade des Artistes outside Place des Arts. Artist Étienne Paquette's 28-foot-high Wind Instrument installation lets us create symphonic sounds outside Saint-Laurent metro station. Among the major Montréal museum exhibitions this summer, visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to see From Africa to the Americas: Face-to-Face Picasso, Past and Present and works by Canadian artists of African origin in Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art, ongoing until September 16, as well as solo exhibition Motion – Emotion by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel and, opening on September 4, the new exhibition Resplendent Illuminations: Books of Hours from the 13th to the 16th Century in Quebec Collections, featuring over 50 works from illuminated religious manuscripts of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Europe. Immerse yourself in architectural “anti-monuments” and other large-scale, participatory installations of artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer in exhibition Unstable Presence at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, ongoing until September 9, along with interactive tours and Sunday family workshops. At DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art, in Old Montréal, Bharti Kher: Points de départ, points qui lient explores hybridity, the female body and the nonphysical in the material world in works woven through with the artist's signature use of the bindi – join a guided tour with curator Cheryl Sim on September 1 at 2 p.m. In Mile Ex, stop by gallery Never Apart to see thought-provoking and diverse summer exhibitions. And there's even more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing.

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History near and far

Ancient history comes to life in blockbuster exhibition Queens of Egypt, transporting us way back in time to discover royal lifestyles through preserved ancient objects, at Pointe-à-Callière, also where multimedia exhibitions (and free outdoor Sainte-Ann's Market dig site exhibition) let you step into local history. See the fabulous haute couture retrospective of the legendary Spanish fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga in the McCord Museum's Balenciaga – Master of Couture exhibition, alongside Shalom Montreal – Stories and Contributions of the Jewish Community, outdoor photography of Montréal's retail past along McGill College Avenue and the outdoor Urban Forest. Discover the City of Light circa the 18th century in the Stewart Museum's Paris on Display: 18th-Century Boutiques exhibition. The Musée de Lachine presents history and archeology from the times of fur trade and New France alongside contemporary art. Exporail / The Canadian Railway Museum harkens back to a time of vintage railroads and streetcars, while the Montréal Aviation Museum recaps our local history flying the friendly skies. Lab Cult at the Canadian Centre for Architecture addresses interchanges between science and architecture while Utopie Radicali: Florence 1966–1976 explores the Italian radical movement's utopian architectural visions. If you're a baseball fan, peek into the world's biggest collection of Montréal Expos memorabilia. Or if you're a Barbie fan, see her many incarnations over the years at the impressive and free Barbie Expo downtown. And see celebrities and historical figures rendered in lifelike wax figures at Grévin MONTREAL, also featuring temporary exhibition Expo Vieux Jeux, a collection of more than 700 vintage board games.

Live music

Along with this week's music festivals comes more great music outside and in some of the city's coolest venues. Weekly outdoor electronic music party Piknic Électronik stretches over the entire long weekend at Parc Jean-Drapeau, with special programming by the MEG Montréal festival, beginning on September 1 with UK producer Quantic, Wasa Bibi, Sugarface Bell Flo and Tupi Collective, followed on Sunday afternoon by Misstress Barbara, Mike Larry, Qualité De Luxe and Poirier, plus Labour Day Monday with Belgian superstar Charlotte De Witte, Head Nodders, more producers and Petit Piknic for kids all weekend. It's also a full weekend of electronic dance music at factory-turned-club New City Gas: on Friday, it's Galantis and Steff Da Campo, followed Saturday by Yellow Claw and YOOKiE and Sunday night with Virtual Self + G Jones, all part of the Produktworld Festival. Also on Friday, enjoy a lovely night of blissful music with  Blithe Field, Saltland, Joni Void and Sarah Pagé at Église Saint-Édouard, and French reggae and hip hop artist Biga*Ranx entertains with openers Blackout Soundsystem of MTL Dub Session collective at Le Belmont. Excellent live bands play songs of the '60s on Friday night and Motown and disco on Saturday night at Balcon Cabaret Music-Hall. Saturday night also sees indie-pop rockers Foxing at Bar Le Ritz PDB. Sunday night's wild with electronic producers Vitalic and Das Mörtal live at L'Olympia. Monday night brings the meditative heavy sounds of Brooklyn doom-psych duo Insect Ark, Pandiscordian Necrogenesis and Echo Beach to Casa del Popolo. If you love the hip hop soul of Drake, get to the Bell Centre on September 4 or 5 – he'll be playing hits and showing off his dance moves for sure, with hip hop opener Migos. Also on September 4, it's metal heaviness with Monolord and The Death Wheelers at La Vitrola. On Thursday, September 6, electro-folk trio Dear Criminals opens Lullaby, their new immersive show of lullabies for adults, at La Chapelle, while electronic producer and singer Mija performs at Newspeak and Barcelona-based dancehall and electro producer and singer Bad Gyal and Chippy Nonstop shake up Le Belmont. For all kinds of live 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.

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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