Things to do in Montréal - October 19 to 25

Robyn Fadden

Montréal embraces fall weather and everything that comes with it this week, including pre-Halloween festivities Halloween MTL and the Great Pumpkin Ball, walks through Gardens of Light, meatless comfort food and more at the Montréal Vegan Festival, the art of Alexander Calder and Julian Rosefeldt, wild moves at The Montréal Burlesque Festival and all kinds of classical, rock and electronic live music.

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Autumn activities

Take a colourful stroll through the Montréal Botanical Garden's Gardens of Light, elaborate lanterns and lighting displays in the Chinese, Japanese and First Nations gardens. Also at the Botanical Garden, The Great Pumpkin Ball and Little Monsters Courtyard delight with hundreds of decorated pumpkins, story time with witches and other characters and crafty activities for kids. And next door at the Montréal Insectarium, peer into a hidden arachnid world with Spiders Unmasked. Speaking of scary stuff, Halloween in Montréal starts early with the new Festival Halloween MTL from October 25 to 26 downtown, as well The Rocky Horror Show theatrical production at MainLine Theatre from October 17 to 20, interactive horror-filled 18+ performance Malefycia, amusement park La Ronde's Fright Fest up to October 28, and a Halloween Fantômes special tour with Traditional Montréal Ghosts Walks - Guidatour from October 25 to 31. Among the many free things to do this fall in Montréal, see the colourful urban art of Surfaces, l'expo d'art urbain on the Promenade des Artistes, and at night see why Montréal is a city of lights: look up to see the incredible digital artistry of MAPP_MTL, featuring high-tech projections on buildings in the Quartier des spectacles outside Saint-Laurent metro station from October 18 to 20, with a festive closing party on Saturday night. Inside Notre-Dame Basilica in Old Montréal, discover the high-tech wonders of Moment Factory multimedia creation AURA. And on building facades throughout Old Montréal, spot Montréal en Histoires - Cité Memoire history-focused projections. Whether you're in Montréal for a long weekend or a week, discover the beauty of the city and nearby countryside with these fall harvest activities in and around Montréal and great day trips.

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City sights

As the leaves change colour and fall, a visit to Mount Royal is a must – stop by Café suspendu du mont Royal every weekend throughout October for refreshing beverages, live music and free activities. Go from Mount Royal Park's greenery through city streets to the St. Lawrence River on the beautiful Promenade Fleuve-Montagne, featuring monuments, art installations and more along the way. Bird's-eye views of the city 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 or experience an Olympian's journey in the Canadian Olympic Experience at Canadian Olympic Committee headquarters downtown. Stroll through Montréal's Chinatown to see historic sights and have a great meal. Or sit back and relax at some of Montréal's best spas – Bota Bota boasts a fab view of the St. Lawrence River. Learn more about the city's history and culture on a walking tour of 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. In pro sports sights: the Montréal Canadiens take on the Calgary Flames on October 23 at the Bell Centre. Montréal's Olympian-packed CWHL team Les Canadiennes plays the Markham Thunder on October 20 and 21. Find all this and more on My Official Montréal City Guide, a travel app that lets you experience the city like a Montrealer. Whether you're coming to Montréal solo or with family, arrive in the heart of the action by train on VIA Rail Canada.

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Food and drink

Make your reservations now for MTLàTABLE, Montréal's restaurant week, featuring prix-fixe affordably-priced meals at 150 great restaurants from November 1 to 11. In the meantime, indulge in these Montréal meals worth writing home about and top Montréal restaurants for the gourmet traveller. Wine lovers won't want to miss leading wine collector Michel-Jack Chasseuil at Vintage Stories, an illuminating conversation series paired with wine tastings at the Phi Centre, from October 22 to 25. Also of great note this week, the 5th Montréal Vegan Festival is bigger than ever at Palais des congrès from October 20 to 21, including talks, demos, all kinds of plant-based products and plenty of food to eat, plus a party in the Old Port on October 19. For even more vegan-eating ideas, peruse our ultimate guide to vegan eating in Montréal. See autumn's changing colours while surrounded by nature as you eat at Montréal's restaurants in parks. Keep traveling off the beaten culinary path with these new restaurants in Montréal. There's no need to change into fancy duds at these new casual restaurants and cheerful bring-your-own-wine eateries. Go out for a great brunch, try restaurants open from brunch to well past dinner or grab something quick at Montréal lunch counters. Any time of day grab a pick-me-up at Montréal's indie coffee shops. And later on, relax with a perfect cocktail or have a drink away from it all in a hidden bar. 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 lighter, seek out these health-conscious restaurants and great sushi restaurants. On the other hand, indulge your sweet tooth with our guide to Montréal's best bakeries and pastry shops. Explore more of Montréal and its culinary delights on Montréal's best food tours. And if you're traveling with kids, check out our ideas for great places to eat with kids in Montréal.

On stage

Comedy legends Steve Martin and Martin Short pair up in a story-telling show about show business, An Evening You Will Forget For The Rest Of Your Life!, at Place des Arts's Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier on October 21. The Montréal Burlesque Festival shakes and shimmies with serious style and international talent from October 19 to 20 at Club Soda. Montréal's English theatre fall season features the Montréal premiere of Choir Boy by Tarell Alvin McCraney, the Oscar-winning writer of Moonlight, launching Centaur Theatre Company's 50th season from October 9 to 28, while the Segal Centre for Performing Arts presents Tony-winning musical Once, the story of an Irish musician and a Czech immigrant who bond through song, running up to October 28. Persephone Productions presents Abigail/1702: A Twice-Told Tale, an imagined sequel to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible ten years after the Salem Witch Trials, at Studio Jean-Valcourt du Conservatoire up to October 28. And Infinithéâtre and McGill's Department of English present Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Transforming the Voices of Montréal, a contemporary performance from October 22 to 27 at Moyse Hall. In Montréal contemporary dance this season, see a Danse Danse presentation of the evocative L'un L'autre by dancer-choreographers Sylvain Lafortune and Esther Rousseau-Morin at Cinquième Salle from October 16 to 20. Phénomena merges performance art, theatre and multimedia art creations – see a 2BOYS.TV performance for only twelve audience members and a full day of performances, puppetry, magic and more at the Rialto Theatre on October 20. Gabriel Plante revisits Corneille’s Le Cid to tell a story of present-day overlords and structures of control, at Théâtre La Chapelle on October 19. Multidisciplinary artist Émilie Monnet's Okinum is an immersive ode to the power of dreams and intuition, at Centre du Théâtre d’Aujourd'hui up to October 20. Experience Iroquoian and pow-wow dances in a free workshop and performance with Barbara Diabo at Place des Arts on October 20 at 1 p.m. And the Casino de Montréal’s It’s Country nights entertain and delight with stage shows, country-inspired cocktails and food, a mechanical bull and more up to October 20.

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On screen

Experience the universe's timeless vibrations in new virtual reality exhibition Echo: The Sound of Space at tech and culture hub Phi Centre, featuring VR films that let us travel the world and beyond. The 6th edition of the Au Contraire Film Festival screens shorts and feature films that break down the stigma around mental health, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from October 16 to 19. See strange and usual short films at the 16th edition of Festival Spasm, specializing in French-language genre and unclassifiable films, from October 18 to 27 at Club Soda and Théâtre Plaza. In the SAT's Satosphere dome downtown, see 360-degree immersive film Noesis all week and family-friendly 360-degree film Creatures on the afternoon of October 20. 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 Oceans 3D and Pandas 3D (plus hands-on science activities and a 3.8-billion-year-old moon rock at the museum). And Mile End's new cinema, Cinéma Moderne, features art-house and cult films from around the world every day, plus daytime family programming on weekends.

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Art for all

Among this season's must-see museum exhibitions, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts presents Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor, the first Canadian retrospective of the American modern art giant, with over 150 works on display. The MMFA also features Resplendent Illuminations: Books of Hours from the 13th to the 16th Century in Quebec Collections, video installation Liminals: A Para-fiction of Transcendence by Jeremy Shaw and a powerful Inuit art collection. Don't miss the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal's new exhibitions either: 13-screen immersive video work Manifesto by German artist Julian Rosefeldt, with actress Cate Blanchett taking on various roles (the artist also gives a talk on October 20); a retrospective of influential multidisciplinary Québec artist Françoise Sullivan; historical artist manifesto exhibition Scores; and Dana Michel's Jams Do Jams dance performances. Jasmina Cibic's new exhibition, Everything That You Desire and Nothing That You Fear, immerses us in issues of cultural production and political aims, anchored in the planning stages of Expo 67 and created specifically for DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art's two spaces in Old Montréal – the artist discusses the show at the CCA on October 23.

On the mosaic of screens in the walkway between theatres in Place des Arts, see Wunderkammer by Allison Moore and Migration by Dominique T Skoltz. Galerie de l'UQAM and Cinémathèque québécoise explore themes of revolution in cross-disciplinary exhibition and film program Uprisings. Among All These Tundras features contemporary art by Indigenous artists from around the circumpolar world at Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery downtown, including an October 23 presentation of Maria Helander’s video Eatnanvuloš lottit and a performance by Taqralik Patridge. Head to Mile Ex to see Never Apart's new fall exhibitions. Galerie D'Este, in the Plateau, presents Marigold Santos's in this drought, flood my hollow heart. Artist-run digital art centre Eastern Bloc celebrates its 10th anniversary with the multi-artist AMPLIFICATION exhibition, up to October 26. There's more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing in the city. Peruse and buy art in book form at the new Volume 1 MTL Art Book Fair, at the SAT on October 20 and 21. And fashion is art at The Big Fashion Sale by Quebec Designers (also known as the Braderie), featuring over 130 fashion designers from Québec, from October 18 to 21 at Bonsecours Market in Old Montréal.

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History near and far

Major exhibition Queens of Egypt transports us back in time 3,500 years to discover women's royal lifestyles through rare ancient objects at Pointe-à-Callière, one of the city's many kid-friendly museums. Haute couture fashion wows at the McCord Museum's Balenciaga – Master of Couture exhibition, while Shalom Montreal – Stories and Contributions of the Jewish Community and photography exhibition Montréal Storefronts on McGill College Avenue provides insight into Montréal's past. See the City of Light circa the 18th century in the Stewart Museum's Paris on Display: 18th-Century Boutiques exhibition. Based on research spanning three Québec universities, the Écomusée du fier monde's InterReconnaissance – Une mémoire citoyenne se raconte gathers voices and traces from 50 years of mobilizing for the rights of minority groups in Québec. The Musée de Lachine presents history and archeology from the times of fur trade and New France alongside contemporary art. At the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Scripts for a new world: Film storyboards by Alessandro Poli explores elements of film that helped Poli form new language for architecture. And take more recent history home with you with our ultimate guide to vintage shopping in Montréal.

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Classical music

The Canadian International Organ Competition (CIOC) Festival celebrates the beauty and history of organ music in its opening Gala Concert at Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal on October 19, with three incredible international competition winners. On October 20, the choir of The Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul and organist Jonathan Oldengarm perform a free concert of Maurice Duruflé’s solemn Requiem (extracts) and Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem.

On October 21 Jean-Willy Kunz performs two organ masses as part of Couperin Days at Bourgie Concert Hall. Sunday afternoon features the Celebrating Women Organists series at Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal in Côte-des-Neiges. Among the fall season's classical concerts, Christoph Eschenbach conducts the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal in a concert of Tchaikovsky and Marc-André Dalbavie’s La source d’un regard at Maison symphonique on October 20. The I Musici de Montréal chamber orchestra launches its 35th season with its Portraits of Women concert at Maison symphonique on October 21. And journey through Richard Strauss's An Alpine Symphony conducted by Juraj Valčuha and featuring pianist André Laplante on October 24 and 25 at Maison symphonique.

More live music

On Friday night, see indie-folk duo The Milk Carton Kids and Vera Sola at Corona Theatre, NY songwriter Gus Dapperton at Le Ministère, and a Never Apart off-site night with electronic artists Karen Gwyer, anabasine and Musique Nouvelle at Ausgang Plaza. Dance to electro at the Bear Grillz Too Loud Takeover weekend featuring Dubloadz, Sikdope, Michael Sparks, Blunts and Blondes and Ronin at New City Gas on Friday and Saturday night. Also on Saturday, check out  the Immerse(d): Music x Health x Technology event at the Phi Centre (featuring panel conversations, live audio-visual performances, listening sessions and media installations), the on-point Rumours of Fleetwood Mac tribute show at Corona Theatre, indie-rock synth-pop band Hey Ocean! at Ritz P.D.B., producer Medasin at Newspeak and Constellation Records artist Fly Pan Am at Dazibao. From October 15 to 20, the 15th edition of the AKOUSMA festival highlights the experimental digital sounds of emerging and internationally known composers, at the Society for Arts and Technology and Usine C. Sunday brings famed Italian singer Andrea Bocelli to the Bell Centre, British folk rock band Passenger to Corona Theatre, French producer Petit Biscuit and Manila Killa to MTELUS, retro Australian psych-rock dream-pop band The Church to Café Campus, dazzling singer-songwriter Mitski to Club Soda and British singer-songwriter Roo Panes to Le Ministère. On Wednesday night, catch a solo show by Destroyer at La Sala Rossa, and singer-songwriter Alice Merton at Théâtre Fairmount. And on Thursday, it's rapper Ghostemane and Wavy Jone$ at Corona Theatre and the meditative-meets-dance electronic sounds of Satori & The Band From Space 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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