Things to do in Montréal – August 30 to September 5, 2019

Montréal celebrates Labour Day long weekend with music festivals MEG Montréal and Mile Ex End Montréal, along with the awe-inspiring World Press Photo exhibition and Through the Echos at the PY1 immersive space. Also explore markets, parks and street fairs, see art, film and theatre, and take a break from it all on a restaurant patio under the sun.

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Music festivals and outdoor fun

It may be the end of summer, but there's still time for more summer festivals in Montréal – and it's the Labour Day long weekend after all! Enjoy the all-ages good vibes of the Mile Ex End Montréal festival under the Rosemont-Van Horne overpass in the Mile End neighbourhood, featuring performances by Feist, Daniel Lanois, A Tribe Called Red, J Mascis, Chromeo, Alaclair Ensemble and more bands from August 30 to September 2.

Move your body at the 21st edition of the MEG Montréal Festival from August 29 to September 2: three days of high-energy electronic dance music at Piknic Électronik in Parc Jean-Drapeau with Misstress Barbara, Mood II Swing and more producers, plus evening and late-night shows at the Society for Arts and Technology every night, featuring rap duo Ärsenik, techno producer Airod, DJRum and more artists.

Among this week's summertime free things to do, stroll along pedestrian-only Sainte-Catherine Street in the Quartier des spectacles, where you can show off your chess skills on the giant chessboards and snap photos with the colourful dogs of Dans ma cour… ç’a du chien! Nearby, watch your voice turn to light in the electronic wavelengths of interactive art installation Spectrum in Place de la Paix, while nearby Wind Instrument (next to Saint-Laurent metro station) amplifies the ambient sounds of the city. And don't miss the Saint-Laurent Boulevard street fair BLVD, closing the main avenue from August 29 to September 1 for all kinds of activities, shopping, restaurant patio expansions and more.

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More activities for all ages

For more outdoor entertainment and refreshments, head to Montréal's seasonal outdoor spaces, including Jardins Gamelin outside Berri-UQAM metro station (walk east from there under the rainbow in the Gay Village), Village au Pied-du-Courant near the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, and the Old Port’s Marché des Éclusiers. The Esplanade of the Olympic Park features green space and café Les Jardineries – if you're there at lunch hour, look for Halte 76, hosting different food trucks every week, while Sundays feature a fiesta of music and dancing.

Explore the natural world of plants at the Montréal Botanical Garden, where you can also see sheep grazing in the fields until September 2. In the Old Port of Montréal, climb on high-ropes course Voiles en Voiles, ride the MTL Zipline, find your way through the SOS Labyrinthe, try peddle-boating and other activities. Nearby, the Montréal Science Centre presents exhibition Spiders: From Fear to Fascination, as well as IMAX films and hands-on science activities. Or hit Montréal's outdoor pools and beaches, from Parc Laurier to the Aquatic Complex at parc Jean-Drapeau, where on August 31 at 7 p.m., you can watch Jurassic Park while swimming at its Floating Cinema event.

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Food and drink

Taco Fest in the Old Port of Montréal boasts over 75 dishes, from tacos and enchiladas to corn and churros, plus hot sauce, salsa and more from the city’s top restaurants, from August 31 to September 2. Dozens of restaurants cook up new burger creations for Le Burger Week  – try as many as you can from September 1 to 7. And experience the amazing tastes, sights and sounds of the Asian Night Market 2019 in Montréal's Chinatown this weekend.

Dine, have a drink and socialize outdoors on Montréal terrasses – from green terrasses to the lively patios in the Gay Village. Discover what's in season, eat well and bring home locally made products at Jean-Talon Market and Atwater Market. Cool down with delicious locally made ice cream and frozen treats. Get a taste of Montréal at these five restaurants and five amazing chefs crafting unique dishes, from classic French menus to ground-breaking Asian cuisine. Or go for a dinner cruise with on the St. Lawrence River with Croisières AML or Bateau-Mouche!

Any time of day grab a pick-me-up at Montréal's indie coffee shops, local coffee roasters and most “Instagrammable” cafés. By night, relax with a cocktail at one of Montréal's award-winning bars, lift a pint at the city's Irish pubs, taste what's in season at the city's microbreweries (check out the Passeport en fût app deal), or have a drink away from it all in a hidden bar, speakeasy or perfect date spot.

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City sights

See the city from the Mount Royal Park lookout, also where you'll find Café suspendu and several other activities on the mountain. For picnics, natural sights and quiet moments, explore the city's many other parks and green spaces. For an incredible 360º view of the city, visit the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown, ride La Grande Roue de Montréal in the Old Port, and ascend to the observatory at the top of the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park – while there, have coffee, cocktails or a snack with a panoramic view at MTL Bistro and take an audio tour around Olympic Park (get the code for the free app at the Montréal Tower ticket booth.) 

Follow the landscaped Promenade Fleuve-Montagne from Mount Royal Park, through the Golden Square Mile and down through Old Montréal to the St. Lawrence River. Don't miss the 2019 World Press Photo exhibition at Marché Bonsecours in Old Montréal, featuring hundreds of photographs of the world and its people by international press photographers, running until September 29. At Notre-Dame Basilica see multimedia show AURA. At night search out the projections of Cité Mémoire on building facades. See iconic Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal and hear organist David Henning on September 1 and an evening outdoor concert by Ainsi soient-elles on September 4. Whether you're coming by plane or train, solo or with family, plot your days and nights with My Official Montréal City Guide. And save on your visit with the MTL Sweet Deal.  

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Sports and outdoor adventures

Cheer on Major League Soccer team the Montréal Impact as it plays DC United at Saputo Stadium on Saturday, August 31 – and join the Impact tailgate party from 2 p.m. until game time, where you’ll find free activities, food trucks and more. Skateboarders can check out Skate Jam and BBQ on Tuesday evenings in Place de la Paix or try the new Vans skatepark on the Esplanade of the Olympic Park. Enjoy outdoor yoga at the Clock Tower Beach at the Old Port of Montréal on Tuesday nights or in Parc Jean-Drapeau on the morning of September 1. And relax your mind and muscles at Montréal's best spas.

Go camping along the Lachine Canal at the oTENTik cabins. You can also camp in a cabin-like tent with Huttopia on nearby island Parc national des Îles-de-Boucherville. Go hiking, canoeing or fishing on an adventure with nature guides Bonjour Nature – their day trips take you outside Montréal to the Lanaudière region and beyond. Or head to Saint-Sauveur and Mont Tremblant in the Laurentian Mountains with Express du Nord's affordable trips. Take a day trip to orchard Verger Labonté to find your way through their massive galaxy-themed corn labyrinths.

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On screen and stage

Go on a multi-sensory trip through time and space in Through the Echoes at immersive entertainment space PY1 – look for the pyramid in the Old Port of Montréal. By night, dress up for themed PY1 Nights and dance among lasers, live performances and wild visuals. Nearby, step into the Phi Centre's virtual reality exhibition >HUM(AI)N – Being human in the age of technology, a 360° view of human nature and evolution in nine immersive VR works – the centre also highlights five famous paintings in VR Cinema: Short Films on Canvas. In the Society for Arts and Technology's 360° dome, see immersive work Remote Sense, an exploration of the “shamanic/artistic process of entoptic phenomena” by artists Jonny Knox and Darien Brito.

Innu artist Natasha Kanapé Fontaine adapts her powerful poetry for the stage in TSHISHIKUSHKUEU, d’après Bleuets et Abricots at Théâtre La Chapelle from August 26 to September 7. Audrey-Anne Bouchard's immersive multi-sensory Camille : Un rendez-vous au-delà du visuel circumvents our sense of sight to lead us through a landscape of emotions and memories in which the intimate becomes tangible, at MAI Montréal, arts interculturels from September 4 to 22. And several stages light up with world-class drag shows in Montréal.

Downtown screenings under the stars and the Krakow Film Music Festival present a film-concert of Scoring 4 Polish Directors: Wajda with live music by trio SMAC the Music, outdoors at Place de la Paix on September 3. Explore the universe at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, featuring science-meets-multimedia shows Planet Nine, Secrets of Gravity, Continuum and Aurōrae as well as Mice and the Moon for little kids. Among Montréal's great indie cinemas, see art-house, documentaries, Québécois, cult films and more at Mile End's Cinéma Moderne, the Cinémathèque québécoise, Cinéma du Musée at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and long-running Cinéma du Parc.

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Art for everyone

The high-fashion catwalk meets art in Thierry Mugler: Couturissime at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – also see Montreal Couture, showcasing inventive Québec designers, Omar Ba: Same Dream, a monograph dedicated to the influential African artist, Alanis Obomsawin, Printmaker and more. At the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal see Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental, a poignant and timely career-spanning exhibition of installation and performance art, and the immersive 360º ISM Hexadome audiovisual experience. Interactive and documentary exhibition Yoko Ono: LIBERTÉ CONQUÉRANTE/GROWING FREEDOM explores how Yoko Ono's work affected contemporary art practices and activism, at the Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain in Old Montréal.

The McCord Museum's The Polaroid Project – At the Intersection of Art and Technology highlights the artistic and scientific creativity of Polaroid photography through the work of 20th-century artists – while there, also see SDING K’AWXANGS – Haida: Supernatural Stories and historic photography exhibition Montréal at work along McGill College Avenue. Look for art in store windows downtown as part of the Vitrine sur l'art project. In exhibition Nehirowisidigital, artist Meky Ottawa presents illustrations inspired by her Atikamekw culture and heritage, feminist perspective and everyday urban life at La Guilde. At the Phi Centre catch This Light Never Goes Out: Political Cartoons by Jim Carrey as well as the Goodee Pop-up Studio, putting sustainable brands and humanist e-commerce in the spotlight. Head to Mile-Ex for the edgy Never Apart summer exhibitions, covering themes aligned with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. And there's more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing in the city.

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History near and far

At Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, experience multimedia exhibition Generations MTL, cabinet of curiosities Into the Wonder Room and food-related royal history show Dinner is served! French Gastronomy at its Best – join in Family Sundays activities and hear live music every Thursday at noon. Among the city's other family-friendly museums, the Musée de Lachine illuminates 350 years of history, wax museum Grévin MONTRÉAL features Québécois and international celebrities past and present, and the free Barbie Expo shows off Barbie's fashion transformations through the decades. Explore the old fort that houses the Stewart Museum and five centuries of day-to-day life in New France in exhibition History and Memory. And Château Ramezay features summer activities as well as World War I exhibition WAR Flowers.

At the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Our Happy Life looks at measurements of happiness – at noon on Friday, August 30, listen to the music of Daniel Áñez. Witness Montréal underground art and culture of the 1970s and '80s in a retrospective of Zïlon and other Montréal artists at the Écomusée du fier monde. Edward Hillel's photography installation Chambre Noire/Darkroom draws on his book The Main: Portrait of a Neighbourhood at the Museum of Jewish Montreal. The city's Irish roots also run deep – discover Irish Montréal through landmarks and more. Read all about jazz in Montréal, from the Roaring Twenties to today. And pick up some historic and present-day facts about Montréal that even some locals might not know.

More live music

See Lenny Kravitz perform at the Bell Centre on August 30, power metal band Demons & Wizards and Lizzy Borden come to Corona Theatre on September 1, Jamaican reggae star Sizzla gets L'Olympia hopping on September 2, and New City Gas keeps dancers dancing every night of the weekend, with electronic music courtesy of CamelPhat, Will Clarke, Malaa, DJ Diesel (aka Shaquille O'Neal) and more producers. And Hot Tramp Fest kicks off its first year of celebrating Montréal women in music with a weekend of shows at The Diving Bell Social Club, featuring L.A. Foster, Sorry Girls, Motel Raphael and more artists.

On Tuesday, see Seattle psychedelic heavy metal punk band Big Business and opener Atsuko Chiba at Ritz P.D.B. Soulful pop singer-songwriter Banks and talented opener Kevin Garrett perform at MTELUS on Wednesday, September 4. 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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