Things to do in Montréal - March 15 to 21

It's the middle of March and Montréal's thinking springtime thoughts. You can go skating and sledding in the parks or join the crowds at the Montréal St. Patrick's Parade, wander among the butterflies at the Montréal Botanical Garden greenhouse, feast at a cabane à sucre, watch circus creation Serge Fiori, Seul Ensemble, visit a museum and see new theatre, dance, film and live music.

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Sights and sounds

Among this week's free things to do, the annual Montréal St. Patrick's Parade rolls along Sainte-Catherine Street downtown on March 17, featuring more than 4000 participants, 20 floats and 25 marching bands celebrating with the Irish community. This week marks the start of sugar shack season in the city and the surrounding countryside – indulge in hearty meals and maple syrup taffy on snow, including at Un Chef à l'érable in the Old Port and at the biggest urban lumberjack party around, Cabane Panache et Bois rond, a free event with live Québécois music, dancing, maple syrup and more from March 21 to 24 along Wellington Street in Verdun. On Thursday, starting at 5 p.m., join the free XP_MTL parties on Sainte-Catherine Street West downtown, where you can get a pro photo taken for Instagram, and at Atwater and McGill metros for DJ sets and dance battles. See spectacular bird's-eye views of Montréal in the climate-controlled comfort of La Grande Roue de Montréal observation wheel in the Old Port, the history-illuminating Montréal Tower at Olympic Park and the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown, complete with restaurant and daily activities. Also be sure to take in the city view from the iconic Mount Royal Park lookout, one of the most Instagrammable views in Montréal. Walk the landscaped Promenade Fleuve-Montagne, stretching from Mount Royal Park to the St. Lawrence River. In downtown's Place des Festivals, look up to see the colourful projection-art animation of 100% Chance of Snow. Wander through Old Montréal to Notre-Dame Basilica (one of Montréal's most famous icons) to see Moment Factory's high-tech multimedia wonder AURA, while on Friday and Saturday nights, look for the projections of Cité Mémoire on building facades throughout the area. Indoors, follow Art Souterrain's massive art circuit throughout the underground pedestrian network, from downtown malls through to Old Montréal, Chinatown and Place des Arts – the exhibition continues until March 24.

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Wintery activities

Among this week’s other family-focused winter activitiesgo ice skating on the tree-lined pond in Parc La Fontaine and at picturesque Beaver Lake in Mount Royal Park. Among the city's many other winter activities, take an expert-led snowshoeing tour along Mount Royal Park's trails on Friday and Saturday evenings. Any time of day get a thrill sliding down the park's tubing and tobogganing hills. Bring your own skates, sleds and other winter sports equipment or rent some on site. Explore Montréal's vast nature parks this winter with free and inexpensive activities, including kite boarding, ice fishing, cozy “hygge” chalet experiences, free weekend cross-country ski lessons and snowshoeing at Parc Frédéric-Back and more. And go snowboarding, snowtubing and sliding at Pente à neige in Parc Ignace-Bourget near Angrignon metro. Indoors, hit the ice at Atrium Le 1000 or explore nature and the wondrous Butterflies Go Free event on a walk through the tropical Montréal Botanical Garden greenhouse. Watch the Montréal Canadiens take on the Chicago Blackhawks on March 16 and the NY Islanders on March 21 at the Bell Centre. Or relax at Montréal's best spas. We've also got all kinds of ideas on how to stay warm this winter in Montréal, including how to pack for winter in Montréal. Whether you're in Montréal for spring break or a week, 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

Festival G. - Griffintown Gourmand et Gastronomique showcases excellent restaurants in the city's Griffintown neighbourhood, just southwest of downtown, from March 7 to 17 – enjoy specially priced table d’hôte dinners, happy hours and gourmet brunches at 17 restaurants. Warm up with hot food for cold days in Montréal, whether you've got a fondness for fondue or vindaloo (try these 14 great Indian restaurants). Get cozy and eat well at Montréal restaurants with fireplaces – and try these top Montréal restaurants for the gourmet traveller, cheerful bring-your-own-wine eateries (including some in Little Italy), lovely laid-back casual restaurants and our new restaurant picks. Savor the city's romantic dining for all tastes, from an unforgettable dinner to a weekend of wining and dining. Or make the most of solo dining in Montréal – these restaurants know how to treat you right! Any time of day grab a pick-me-up at Montréal's indie coffee shops. Later on, relax with a perfect winter cocktail, cheer on the Canadiens or your favourite team at these Montréal sports bars, see what's hot at the city's new bars, or have a drink away from it all and in style in a hidden bar, speakeasy or perfect date spot. If you're looking for Québécois classics, follow our guides to the best poutine, the best Montréal bagels, the best smoked meat, Montréal's top chocolatières, excellent Montréal meals worth writing home about and more musts for foodies visiting Montréal. Do lunch like a Montrealer at these 10 great lunch spots. 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. And if you're traveling with kids, check out our ideas for great places to eat with kids in Montréal and where to find the best hot chocolate in the city. And check out a new winter street food party: Salada Market hosts local gourmet food trucks and gets a dancefloor going on the evenings of March 15 and 16.

On stage

Marvel at contemporary circus feats as 20 acrobats and dancers from Cirque Éloize delight in poetic musical circus creation Serge Fiori, Seul Ensemble, at Théâtre St-Denis from March 6 to 31. One of the most anticipated shows in dance this season, BJM – Les Ballets Jazz De Montréal return to Place des Arts to perform Dance Me, contemporary dance set to the music of Leonard Cohen and evoking the cycles of existence, from March 14 to 23. Also in dance, two Indigenous artists from Mexico, of Nahua and Mixteco descent, perform Tlakentli, exploring identity in relation to migrations and the myth of our original elegance, at Place des Arts from March 14 to 16; steeped in the cultures and visions of Indigenous peoples, Red Sky Performance's Backbone conveys an electrical and physical connection to the land, from March 19 to 23 at Cinquième Salle; and Ismaël Mouaraki questions the evolution of mankind in Phenomena - Destins croisés, at Agora de la danse from March 13 to 16, while Wen Wei Wang's Dialogue explores themes of contact, communication and language, from March 20 to 23 at Agora de la danse. Montréal's winter-spring theatre season features several great plays this week: Black Theatre Workshop presents playwright Trey Anthony's How Black Mothers Say I Love You until March 16 at Centaur Theatre followed from March 19 to April 7 by Morris Panych's play The Shoplifters, a witty glimpse into petty crime and corporate greed. Scapegoat Carnivale’s perspective-shifting play YEV takes us into the world of a hermit living in a remote region of the Siberian Taiga, at MAI Montréal, arts interculturels from March 14 to 24.

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On screen

The International Festival of Films on Art welcomes art lovers of all stripes to see art-focused feature films and shorts from around the world, from March 19 to 31, as well as artist talks, parties and more. German composer Robot Koch joins forces with visual artist Mickael Le Goff to present audiovisual 360-degree creation Sphere, in the Satosphere dome at the Society for Arts and Technology from March 5 to 30. The Phi Centre presents new VR theatre experience The Horrifically Real Virtuality, a comedic homage to filmmaker Ed Wood, starring Bela Lugosi. The Phi Centre's VR Cinema immerses viewers in Accused no. 2: Walter Sisulu and Traveling While Black, 2 documentaries covering race, history, politics, social revolution and virtual reality. Roam the cosmos in science-meets-multimedia shows Planet Nine, Secrets of Gravity, Continuum and Aurōrae as well as new kid-friendly film POLARIS 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.

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Art for all

Innovative high fashion reveals itself as an art form in the new Thierry Mugler: Couturissime retrospective exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, featuring ready-to-wear, haute couture and more creations by the French fashion designer. While there, also see Montreal Couture, showcasing 10 inventive Québec fashion designers. Acclaimed Toronto-based Cree artist Kent Monkman critically illuminates the history of Indigenous people in Canada in solo exhibition Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience at the McCord Museum, presenting his paintings and installation works alongside historical art works and archival materials. Also at the McCord, see there’s a reason for our connection by multidisciplinary artist Hannah Claus and join the Montréal queer 2S happy-hour party on March 21, featuring performances, cocktails and more. As well, see Monkman's performance video Another Feather in Her Bonnet and installation Théâtre de Cristal at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Swedish photographer Johan Bävman's Papas / Swedish Dads portrays men on parental leave with their children, at the Place des Arts Salle d'exposition. Explore 5 decades of work by Austrian conceptual artist, performer and filmmaker Valie Export in a monographic exhibition at Vox. At Galerie de l’UQAM downtown, Salle des maquettes brings together works from the gallery's collection to trace the creative process. See recent sculptural works by David Armstrong Six in the former factory space Darling Foundry in Old Montréal. In Saint-Henri, Parisian Laundry presents French Entrance, the first solo exhibition in Canada of New York-based artist James English Leary along with Adrian Norvid's The Eyesore Store. At SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art downtown, Loosely Assembled examines the role of publishing in pedagogical, collective and radical spaces. See Canada's natural landscape through a researcher's critical lens in Inside/Outside: Images of the Land in Artexte's Collection at Artexte. Never Apart's winter 2019 exhibitions feature intriguing works by Jamaican-Canadian artist/photographer Michael Chambers and more artists. Écomusée du fier monde presents multidisciplinary exhibition D’un œil différent, from March 13 to 24, as part of Québec intellectual disability week. And there's more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing in the city.

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History near and far

Among the city's several kid-friendly museums, the McCord Museum gets playful in family-oriented toy exhibition Treasures in the Attic, while archaeology and history complex Pointe-à-Callière brings Montréal's past to life in multimedia exhibitions 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. At wax museum Grévin MONTRÉAL, see Québécois and international celebrities past and present, plus L’Expo BYE BYE, 50 ans de costumes and 5D show Racetime. The Canadian Railway Museum Exporail hosts the Circus Train exhibition along with circus acts from March 1 to April 28. See Montréal life through its locals' kitchens in Cuisinage at the Écomusée du fier monde. History museum Château Ramezay features World War I exhibition WAR Flowers alongside rooms full of local history. Learn more about Jewish culture in Montréal at the Museum of Jewish Montreal, currently featuring Russian-Jewish artist Yuula Benivolski’s photography installation L'océan entre nous // The Ocean Between Us. The Stewart Museum's Paris on Display: 18th-Century Boutiques highlights the City of Light circa the 18th century. 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 Architecture Itself and Other Postmodernist Myths proposes a counter-reading of postmodern procedures. The Musée de Lachine presents history and archeology from the times of fur trade and New France alongside contemporary art. In more recent history, Barbie and her many style transformations through the decades can be seen at the free Barbie Expo downtown. Read all about jazz in Montréal, from the Roaring Twenties to today, featuring not only local history but 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, catch a solo Matthew Good and opener Poesy at Corona Theatre and Alez Zhang Hungtai (aka Dirty Beaches) at La Vitrola. Saturday brings the Kronos Quartet to Maison symphonique, British singer-songwriter James Bay and opener Noah Kahan to Place des Arts, indie electro-pop band Men I Trust to Corona Theatre, L.A. metalcore band Light the Torch to L’Astral, and prolific NYC composer and electronic ambient musician Vito Ricci to the Phi Centre in performance with singer-songwriter Lise Vachon, while it's a late-night electronic dance party at New City Gas with co-headliners French house producer Cedric Gervais and British producer Sigala with opener Brooks. Festival de la Voix showcases the beauty of the human voice, from March 16 to 31, in the West Island, including Scandinavian folk music group Kongaro.

On Sunday, March 17, see London-based modern soul musical collective Jungle and opener Houses at MTELUS and Nashville psych-rock band All Them Witches at L’Astral. On Monday it's Vancouver pop-rock band Marianas Trench and Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine at MTELUS and Toronto indie-alt-rockers Dilly Dally and Nobro at Ritz P.D.B.

On March 19, rock out in a state of glam with KISS at the Bell Centre. On March 20, the Orchestre Métropolitain welcomes violinist and conductor Christoph Koncz (a member of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) for concert Storm and Passion at Maison symphonique, and Homeshake plays his blend of indie-rock and lo-fi R&B at Théâtre Fairmount. Singer-songwriter Scott Helman performs at L’Astral on Wednesday, March 20.

On Thursday, hear Bristol-based indie-rock trio Elder Island and opener Sterling Grove at Petit Campus, and captivating singer-songwriter Lennon Stella and opening band Valley at L’Astral. 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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