Things to do in Montréal – January 24 to 30, 2020

Montréal's a winter wonderland this week in the parks and throughout the urban landscape.  Family festival Fête des neiges de Montréal turns Parc Jean-Drapeau into a snowy playground. Mount Royal Park is set for skating, snowshoeing and sledding. Outdoor music festival Igloofest electrifies the Old Port. Colourful Luminothérapie illuminates Place des Festivals. Indoors, don't miss Egyptian Mummies, opera Written on Skin and all kinds of theatre, dance and live music (scroll down!). And stay satiated from morning to night at Montréal's excellent restaurants, cafés and bars.

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Winter activities and sports

Play outdoors this weekend at family-friendly festival Fête des neiges de Montréal at Parc Jean-Drapeau, this year featuring a massive new tube-sliding hill in the park's Espace 67 area, plus ice slides, an ice skating path, entertainment, food and more winter activities for all ages. Among Montréal's many other wonderful winter activities, try skating at the Old Port of Montréal ice skating rink, where you can rent skates and sip on hot chocolate too. In Mount Royal Park, rent skates and go for a spin on the refrigerated rink next to the Beaver Lake Pavilion, or opt for snowshoeing, a cross-country skiing tour, tube-sliding or sledding on the snow-covered hills. Or cross-country ski and snowshoe along the 5.5 km of trails in Frédéric-Back Park.

Over at the Olympic Park, check out Jardineries d'hiver, where you can play games of petanque and bowling, listen to music, roast marshmallows and drink mulled wine and hot chocolate onsite. Learn to snowboard and ski at the Pente à neige snow park, also featuring a snow-tubing hill. Or visit Montréal's large nature parks, like Parc-nature du Cap-Saint-Jacques and Parc-nature de l’Île-de-la-Visitation, for more winter activities. Or cheer on the Montréal Canadiens as they play the Washington Capitals on January 27 at the Bell Centre

Bright lights, big sound

In downtown's Place des Festivals until January 27, play with the bright, colourful and musical creatures of interactive artwork POP! by Montréal creative studio Gentilhomme, created for this year's Luminothérapie, one of Montréal's free things to do this winter. One-of-a-kind winter electronic music festival, Igloofest brightens the Old Port of Montréal's Jacques-Cartier Pier on winter weekends: dance with hundreds of people under the light of high-tech visuals – on Friday, go for high-energy Canadian REZZ, the dark techno of i_o and Vladimir Cauchemar while Saturday night belongs to Nina Kraviz, back at Igloofest after seven years, Detroit legend Robert Hood, Swedish melodic house maker Jeremy Olander and Montréal's CMD. Igloofest's free family afternoon event Journée Igloofête returns on January 25, with music, games, discounts at nearby activities like the MTL Zipline, and more! And Igloofest's Weekend #3 kicks off with Québec hip hop artists LOUD, White-B and Charlie Shulz on Thursday, January 30.


City sights

A highlight of Old Montréal, Notre-Dame Basilica (one of many Montréal churches featuring cultural activities) stands out night and day – inside, don't miss beautiful multimedia show AURA. Look out on the snowy city from Mount Royal Park or the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown, La Grande Roue de Montréal in the Old Port or the observatory at the top of the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park. If the temperature drops, set your sights on warming up at Montréal's best spas.

No matter what the weather, kids will be busy (and not bored!) with these entertaining indoor family activities or a visit with Québec wildlife at the conservation-focused Ecomuseum Zoo. And the Montréal International Auto Show wows car enthusiasts with the sight of hundreds of new electric, hybrid and traditional vehicles and related products at the Montréal Convention Centre (Palais des congrès de Montréal) from January 17 to 26. Plot your visit with My Official Montréal City Guide (and save with the MTL Sweet Deal!).


Winter food and drink

Old Montréal's wintertime food festival Happening Gourmand returns for its 13th edition from January 16 to February 9, with delectable and affordable table d’hôte dinner, brunch and happy hour menus at 10 great restaurants. Celebrate the Chinese (Lunar) New Year in Montréal on January 25 with great food and events in Chinatown and beyond. Meanwhile, new culinary event Tour de Tables offers five-course tasting menus at six excellent restaurants in the Plateau and other neighbourhoods. Sit down at these 5 restaurants with amazing chefs for their unique local dishes, from classic French menus to ground-breaking Asian cuisine. Also try Montréal's best bring-your-own-wine restaurants and great casual restaurants.

Warm up with excellent winter cocktails and more at Montréal's coziest bars and inventive Montréal microbreweries, sip perfectly brewed hot tea at Montréal tea houses, get your caffeine fix in style at Montréal's indie coffee shops, and savour the sweet stuff with the best hot chocolate in the city (and get a pastry to go with it at Montréal's best bakeries and pastry shops). If you're shopping downtown and looking for a quick yet impressive meal, head to the new Time Out Market in Centre Eaton de Montréal on Sainte-Catherine Street. Another excellent new Montréal food hall, LE CENTRAL - MANGER MONTRÉAL serves up delicious local fare at the corner of Sainte-Catherine Street and Saint-Laurent Boulevard. Also check out these other foodie hotspots downtown. Explore more of Montréal and its culinary delights on Montréal's best food tours or discover some of Montréal's hidden gems.

On stage

Opéra de Montréal presents the Canadian premiere of composer George Benjamin’s triumphant Written on Skin, an opera that combines classical, medieval and modern elements, at Place des Arts on January 25, 28 and 30 and February 2. Modern circus meets a colourful Moroccan atmosphere and distinctive Moroccan acrobatics in Halka by North African circus company Groupe acrobatique de Tanger, at La TOHU from January 29 to February 9. Danse Danse presents a contemporary dance classic, Compagnie Marie Chouinard's bODY_rEMIX/les_vARIATIONS_gOLDBERG, a tribute to the body and the art of dance, at Place des Arts on January 28 and 29, followed by new work Radical Vitality, Solos et Duos, a journey into the artistic world of Marie Chouinard, exposing the human figure in all its forms, from January 30 to February 1.

Dramatic a cappella staging wows in Los Angeles Master Chorale's performance of Lagrime di San Pietro at Place des Arts on January 30. Centaur Theatre presents incredible Stratford Festival production Paradise Lost, a theatrical adaptation of John Milton’s epic poem, from January 14 to February 2. Choreographer-dancer George Stamos and collaborators Karla Etienne and Radwan Ghazi Moumneh explore kindness and grace through dance and music in the beautiful ONE KIND FAVOR, at MAI Montréal, arts interculturels from January 21 to 25. Discover an enticing encounter of diverse sounds and influences in ensemble piece D’os et d’écorce by Sinha Danse at Agora de la danse from January 22 to 25. And in the LGBTQ Village, stages light up with world-class drag shows in Montréal.

On screen

The immersive screen-and-sound creations of SAT Fest wow in the Society for Arts and Technology's 360° dome from January 7 to February 28 with seven creations by artists from around the world. Explore the universe at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, featuring science-meets-multimedia shows Planet Nine, Secrets of Gravity, EXO, POLARIS, Continuum and Aurōrae as well as Mice and the Moon for younger kids. The Montréal Science Centre presents IMAX film Great Bear Rainforest 3D and hands-on science exhibitions for kids such as Health from Head to Toe. 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 at long-running Cinéma du Parc, currently playing 3D documentary Cunningham about choreographer Merce Cunningham and new made-in-Montréal doc Tuning the Brain with Music.


Art for everyone

At the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, don't miss “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you”: Selections From The Bailey Collection as well as About Face: Photographs by Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons and Rachel Harrison From the Collection of Carol and David Appel and more. At the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, see some of the best of the museum's extensive collection in Painting Nature with a Mirror, a portrait of 1980s painting in Canada, Points of Light, focused on 40 years of moving image art, and Arthur Jafa's Love is the Message, the Message is Death, a cinematic montage exploring the complexity of Afro-American music experimentation.

The Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain presents music-oriented installations and video work by British artist Phil Collins exploring how we participate in popular culture, while Eva & Franco Mattes redefine the boundaries of the Internet in video and sculptural works. Montréal's Arsenal Contemporary Art gallery in Griffintown hosts Imagine Van Gogh, an immersive, technologically-enhanced experience of over 200 of the artist's paintings, including Sunflowers and The Starry Night. Galerie de l’UQAM presents Le déploiement, works focused on the Canadian Far North by photographer and video artist Emmanuelle Léonard, until January 25. See film art exhibition Quand nous sommes / When we are, inspired by the third cinema of Patricio Guzman, at SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art. At La Guilde see Nunavut artist Jessie Oonark's Artworks - Still Very Much Alive and Love-Struck Souls by jeweler Aurelie Guillaume. The Museum of Jewish Montreal presents Return to The Fortress by Julie Gladstone. Stop by Mile-Ex gallery and cultural space Never Apart to see new painting, photography and installation art as part of its winter exhibitions. And there's more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing in the city.


History near and far

Montréal is also a must for history buffs. One of this season's major exhibitions, the British Museum's Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives makes its North American premiere at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, with ancient artifacts and multimedia reconstructing the lives of six Egyptians who lived along the Nile from about 900 BC to AD 180. At Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex discover the origins and legacy of the Inca Empire in stunning exhibition The Incas, Treasures of Peru, and experience multimedia show Generations MTL and other family-friendly activities. History meets architecture in the Canadian Centre for Architecture's current exhibitions Building a new New WorldAmerikanizm in Russian Architecture and Detour: Alternative Readings of Travel. At the McCord Museum see retrospective exhibition Jean-Claude Poitras: Fashion and Inspiration, interactive toy exhibition It’s Your Move! Board Games: Larger Than Life and more. The Stewart Museum's Nights lets visitors explore the fiction-meets-reality of four worlds created by Québec writers Heather O’Neill, Simon Boulerice, Dominique Demers and Éric Dupont – while at the museum, peek into New France in History and Memory, or join a snowshoeing tour on January 26.

Among the city's other family-friendly museums, Exporail / The Canadian Railway Museum invites train enthusiasts of all ages to Iron and Ice: Snow Trains until February 23, 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. At the Biosphère, Environment Museum see several exhibitions on marine environments, weather and current environmental issues. Discover Irish Montréal and Montréal's Scottish history through historic 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.


Classical music

Hear Baroque Discoveries by musicians of the OSM on January 24 at Bourgie Concert Hall, while on January 26 Arte Musica Foundation presents the sacred cantatas of J. S. Bach with Theatre of Early Music. Écoute, rivière qui marche by Louis-Philippe Bonin and Léo Guiollot evokes rivers and oceans at Gesù on January 25. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal introduces kids and their families to the orchestra and more music in Jeux d'enfants : Voyage symphonique at Maison symphonique de Montréal on January 26 at 2 p.m.

More live music

On Friday night, keep dancing at the Igloofest afterparty at Newspeak with Jubilee and Thomas White or head to New City Gas for an afterparty surprise. Sub Pop singer-songwriter Damien Jurado returns to Montréal at L’Astral and Dr. Fresch gets Le Belmont hopping. On Saturday night, see indie rockers Kasador and Po Lazarus at Ritz P.D.B. Newspeak hosts an Igloofest afterparty with Riico and special guests, keep dancing with Elephante at New City Gas or at the Society for Arts and Technology’s Dômesicle in the 360° dome with DJs Das Mörtal and Franz & Diskommander accompanied by wild visuals.

Go out for dinner and dancing to live music at Le Balcon's Best of the 60s on Friday and An Amazing Soul, Motown and Disco Evening on Saturday. The Casino de Montréal's Pop casino event hosts Poptastic ‘80s and ‘90s music nights, a tribute show to Madonna on January 30, themed food and drinks and more. The LUX MAGNA Festival showcases a multitude of local music, including Saturday shows by Backxwash and BiG SiSSY at Casa del Popolo and YlangYlang Ensemble at La Vitrola. Sunday night brings British rock band Temples to L’Astral and heavy experimental folk band Heilung to L'Olympia.

Fans of Korn, Breaking Benjamin and Bones UK flock to the Bell Centre on Tuesday, January 28. Florida punks Hot Water Music and Cancer Bats rock Corona Theatre on both January 29 and 30. Swedish free jazz saxophonist Mats Gustafsson performs at La Sala Rossa on January 29. On Thursday, January 30, metal band Shadow Of Intent comes to Théâtre Fairmount and Deerhoof, Thus Owls and Tamayugé kick off Taverne Tour at La Sala Rossa. Or stand up and sing yourself at Montréal's best karaoke bars! For 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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