Things to do in Montréal – January 31 to February 6, 2020

Early February in Montréal is a wintery sight to see, with ice skating and more activities energizing the parks, festival Fête des neiges de Montréal transforming Parc Jean-Drapeau and electronic music festival Igloofest shaking up the Old Port. Indoors, see Egyptian Mummies and other museum shows, opera Written on Skin, contemporary dance, new theatre, comedy and live music (scroll down!). Or cheer for Canadiens de Montréal hockey and the Superbowl! Throughout it all, eat well at food festivals and Montréal's one-of-a-kind restaurants.

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Winter activities

Winter festival Fête des neiges de Montréal turns Parc Jean-Drapeau into a playground for kids of all ages: go tube-sliding on the massive hill in the park's Espace 67 area or stick to the smaller ice slides, the winding ice skating path and other activities, plus entertainment, food and more family-friendly fun. 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, or the tree-lined Parc La Fontaine ice skating rink in the Plateau neighbourhood. In Mount Royal Park rent skates and go for a spin on the refrigerated rink next to the Beaver Lake Pavilion or opt for a snowshoeing or cross-country skiing tour, or tube-sliding and sledding on the snow-covered hills.

Over at Olympic Park, check out Les Jardineries d'hiver, where you can play games of petanque and bowling, listen to music, roast marshmallows, 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. Visit Montréal's large nature parks, like du Cap-Saint-Jacques and de l’Île-de-la-Visitation, for more winter activities. Or take a day trip with Express du Nord, a coach service from downtown Montréal to Saint-Sauveur and Mont Tremblant in the Laurentian Mountains. No matter what the weather, keeps kids entertained with great indoor family activities or a visit with Québec wildlife at the conservation-focused Ecomuseum Zoo.

Bright lights, city sights

Outdoor music festival Igloofest electrifies 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 Australian alt-electro trio RÜFÜS DU SOL plus Québec's CRi and French producer Bellaire, while Saturday night celebrates the return of Kaytranada, plus High Klassified and Sentimental Rave. And Igloofest's final weekend kicks off with Boiler Room x Igloofest Montréal with Danny Daze, Ellen Allien and more producers on February 6. Also in Old Montréal, Notre-Dame Basilica (one of many Montréal churches featuring cultural activities) features beautiful multimedia show AURA and La Grande Roue de Montréal offers incredible views – also see the city from Mount Royal Park, the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown and the observatory at the top of the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park.

Or set your sights on sports this week: cheer on the Montréal Canadiens as they play the Florida Panthers on February 1, the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 2 and the Anaheim Ducks on February 6 at the Bell Centre. And watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, February 2 at these great sports bars, microbreweries and other locales with big screens and Super Bowl activities and eats, like factory-turned-club New City Gas. Whether you're in Montréal for a long weekend or a week, plot your visit with My Official Montréal City Guide (and save with the MTL Sweet Deal!).

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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. Meanwhile, new culinary event Tour de Tables offers five-course tasting menus at six excellent restaurants in the Plateau and other neighbourhoods. Dig into poutine specially created for Poutine Week, from February 1 to 7 at dozens of restaurants throughout Montréal. Sit down at these 5 restaurants with amazing chefs for their unique local dishes, from classic French menus to ground-breaking Asian cuisine. Or 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’s 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 – get a pastry to go with it at Montréal's best bakeries and pastry shops. If you're shopping downtown, 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. And new to the downtown food scene is Le Cathcart Restaurants et Biergarten, a skylight-lit culinary space featuring nine gourmet food counters, three restaurants, two cafés and a biergarten. Also check out these other foodie hotspots downtown. Explore more of Montréal and its culinary delights on Montréal's best food tours.

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 February 2. Modern circus meets a colourful Moroccan atmosphere and distinctive acrobatics in Halka by North African company circus company Groupe acrobatique de Tanger, at La TOHU from January 29 to February 9. Danse Danse presents Compagnie Marie Chouinard's new work Radical Vitality, Solos et Duos, a journey into the choreographer's artistic world exposing the human figure in all its forms, from January 30 to February 1. For the 30th anniversary of PPS Danse, Danse Lhasa Danse, an ode to life celebrates beloved musician Lhasa de Sela in dance, words and music at Place des Arts on February 6. Inspired by painting, writing and sculpture, the duos of Promesses by Louise Bédard Danse play with texture and the passage of time at Agora de la danse from February 5 to 8.

Centaur Theatre presents Stratford Festival production Paradise Lost, a theatrical adaptation of John Milton’s epic poem, from January 14 to February 2. Also at Centaur, see Imago Theatre's The Tropic of X, the wild story of street kids and arcade freaks Maura and Mori, by Latinx playwright Caridad Svich, until February 8. And Centaur’s TD Saturday Morning Children’s Series features Jacqueline Van De Geer's storytelling show The Wonder Room of Madame Mimi at 10:30 a.m. on February 1. Mini Pop Kids Live: Bright Lights Concert Tour gets kids dancing to pop hits at Place des Arts on February 2. At MainLine Theatre, check out comedy Malunderstood by Kenny Streule, tales of how Kenny was raised by a wild beaver of a grandmother. Just For Laughs presents comedian Jim Gaffigan on his Pale Tourist tour at L'Olympia on February 5. And in the LGBTQ Village, stages light up with world-class drag shows in Montréal.

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Art for everyone

At the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, see “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 much 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. At Old Montréal's Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain don't miss pop-culture, music-oriented installations and video work by British artist Phil Collins, while Eva & Franco Mattes’s video and sculptural works redefine the boundaries of the Internet – take a guided tour with the curators on February 1.

Arsenal Contemporary Art in Griffintown hosts Imagine Van Gogh, an immersive, technologically-enhanced experience of the artist's paintings, including Sunflowers and The Starry Night. 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 along with city walking tours. The Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery presents multi-artist exhibition In the No Longer Not Yet from February 5 to April 4, operating on the premise that the apocalypse is not to come but ongoing. Opening February 6, Galerie de l’UQAM presents climate-change focused These Rooms of Earth and Stones by Michel Boulanger and Katja Davar and Heidi Barkun's in vitro fertilization exhibition Let's Get You Pregnant! 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.

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History near and far

Montréal is also a must for history buffs. Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives stands out as one of this season's major exhibitions in Montréal, with ancient artifacts and multimedia reconstructing the lives of six Egyptians who lived along the Nile from about 900 BC to AD 180, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. 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, including a reading with Éric Dupont on February 2 – while at the museum, peek into New France in History and Memory, play history-illuminating escape game Phantoms of the Island on February 1, or join a snowshoeing tour on February 2. 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.

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. See what's up with the New Jersey stoner icons in Jay & Silent Bob Reboot screening with director Kevin Smith, on Tuesday, February 4 at Corona Theatre and Wednesday, February 5 at MTELUS. 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 (currently showing Will Prosper's Haiti-set film Kenbe la, Until We Win as part of Black History Month), Cinéma du Musée at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (this week featuring new made-in-Montréal doc Tuning the Brain with Music and more) and at long-running Cinéma du Parc (currently playing 2020 Oscar-nominated short films, 3D documentary Cunningham about choreographer Merce Cunningham, and more).

Live music

Starting with classical music, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal presents Jan Lisiecki Meets Brahms with prodigious young pianist Jan Lisiecki at Maison symphonique de Montréal on February 5 and 8. This weekend at Bourgie Concert Hall, Arte Musica presents concerts celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Montréal's Taverne Tour features The Sadies, Daniel Romano and Kristian North at La Sala Rossa on Friday night, while on Saturday Fred Fortin is at Sala and Lesser Evil and Petra Glynt play Casa del Popolo. Also on Friday night, Virginia rock duo Illiterate Light play Ritz P.D.B., blues-rockers The Blue Stones play Petit Campus, Puerto Rican rapper Iann Dior performs an all-ages show at Newspeak, while later on Newspeak hosts an Igloofest afterparty with French79 and Fonkynson. On Saturday night, catch British artist Rex Orange County at MTELUS. Black History Month begins on February 1 with Black Theatre Workshop's 34th annual Vision Celebration Gala with awards celebrations and live music by Kalmunity. Dance into the night at the New City Gas official Igloofest afterparty with Laidback Luke, Newspeak Igloofest afterparty with Miley Serious, or at the Society for Arts and Technology Dômesicle in the 360° dome with Music Is My Sanctuary DJs Lexis, Choozey and The Rawsoul.

The Casino de Montréal's Pop casino event hosts Poptastic ‘80s and ‘90s music nights on Friday and Saturday, a tribute show to Queen on February 6, themed food and drinks and more. Go out for dinner and live music at Le Balcon's show Édith Piaf: Ma vie en rose and black with Claire Garand on Friday and The Best Soul, Motown, Disco and Pop Hits with the Freddie James Project on Saturday. On Sunday, catch dream-pop singer-songwriter Jon Bryant at l'Escogriffe Bar Spectacle. On Monday, prog-metal supergroup Sons Of Apollo gets heavy at Corona Theatre. On Wednesday, February 5, Rufus Wainwright performs alongside his family, the Wainwrights & McGarrigles, in Complainte Pour Catherine, honouring Kate McGarrigle’s legacy, at Place des Arts. Also that night, see metal band Machine Head at Corona Theatre and rapper-singer-songwriter Roddy Ricch at Club Soda. On Thursday, February 6 festival Nuits d’Afrique presents Malian Mandingo blues musician Emde at Club Balattou, while Jasmine Trails plays Casa del Popolo.

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. Or stand up and sing yourself at Montréal's best karaoke bars! 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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