Things to do in Montréal – October 18 to 24, 2019

Autumn bursts with colour and activity this week in Montréal. Experience illuminated outdoor events Gardens of Light and Feux Follets. See breathtaking performances by Cirque Éloize and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, thought-provoking art and museum exhibitions, and films from around the world at Festival du nouveau cinéma. Eat a seasonal Québécois meal worth writing home about. Watch dance, theatre, burlesque and drag shows, hear a classical music or rock concert, and more.

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Autumn activities

Autumn is an ideal time to visit the city's famed Mount Royal Park, where the air is crisp and the leaves hued in oranges, reds and yellows. Also take a stroll through the city's many other parks and green spaces to see Montréal's fall colours. Great entertainment and fun can be found at harvest season activities like the Montréal Botanical Garden's family event The Great Pumpkin Ball with pumpkin decorating, storytelling and a Halloween play area. More family activities await in the Old Port of Montréal: ride the MTL Zipline or find your way through the SOS Labyrinthe. Halloween in Montréal starts early – go on a ghost tour, scare yourself silly at interactive show Malefycia and at amusement park La Ronde's annual Fright Fest, enjoy the all-ages antics of Festival Halloween MTL downtown starting October 18, ride on a ghost train at Exporail / The Canadian Railway Museum's Railway Ghosts exhibition, and more!

This fall also marks Tourisme Montréal's 100th anniversary! We've made a list of 100 creative things to do in celebration of the city's inventive spirit and gathered several free things to do this fall too. See Montréal in all its glory from the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown, La Grande Roue de Montréal in the Old Port, and the observatory at the top of the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park. 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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Urban illumination

Montréal brightens the autumn night with truly illuminating events. Gardens of Light fills the Montréal Botanical Garden's Chinese, Japanese and First Nations gardens with glittering hand-made lanterns and multimedia creations. Traditional Chinese lanterns meet Montréal’s signature magic at new event Feux Follets, an immersive journey through Parc Jean-Drapeau, featuring holograms, shadow art, 3D animation and even dancing drones until October 31.

In downtown's Quartier des spectacles after dark, watch the façade of UQAM’s Pavillon Président-Kennedy for the geometric projection art of Caroline Monnet's Mooniyang, inspired by traditional Anishinaabe patterns. Visit Notre-Dame Basilica to see multimedia show AURA and by night in Old Montréal search out the projections of Cité Mémoire on building facades. And new immersive pop-up experience HideSeek on Saint-Denis Street has us playing like kids again.

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Food and drink

Wake up in Montréal at Thr3d Wave's East Coast Coffee Madness coffee festival on October 19 and 20 at the Montréal Science Centre, featuring incredible coffee, demos and workshops. Nearby in the Old Port of Montréal, stop by seasonal outdoor market Marché des Éclusiers and discover more of what's in season at Jean-Talon Market and Atwater Market. DIY your own Oktoberfest tour at these inventive Montréal microbreweries. And explore the city to discover some of Montréal's hidden gems, including excellent restaurants off the beaten track.

Get a taste of Montréal at these five restaurants with amazing chefs crafting unique dishes, from classic French menus to ground-breaking Asian cuisine. Go for a dinner cruise on the St. Lawrence River with Croisières AML or Bateau-Mouche! If the weather's cool, warm up with a wide variety of hot food for cold days. Explore more of Montréal and its culinary delights on Montréal's best food tours. If you're here in early November, book your table now for major Montréal culinary event MTLàTABLE.

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Sports and outdoor adventures

The official NHL season keeps going strong this week: cheer on the Montréal Canadiens at home this week with a game against the San Jose Sharks on October 24 at the Bell Centre. Catch a CFL football game with the Montréal Alouettes against Toronto Argonauts on October 18 at Percival-Molson Memorial Stadium.

Take a bike ride through city streets and parks – consult our guide to bike paths, bicycle rentals, BIXI and all things biking in Montréal. 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. Visit the Ecomuseum Zoo conservation area to see 115 animal species from the St. Lawrence Valley, including otters, wolves and hawks. And take a day trip to Verger Labonté to find your way through its massive galaxy-themed corn labyrinths. Back in the city, warm up at Montréal best spas, including Bota Bota, spa-sur-l'eau where, on October 21, you can bring kids aged 10 and older for the Escale des Pirates event.

On stage

A must-see for its circus arts set to the music of Serge Fiori, Cirque Éloize's creation Serge Fiori, Seul Ensemble ends its run at Théâtre St-Denis on October 20. Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal present Carl Orff's Carmina Burana & Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's Stabat MATER, viscerally choreographed by Edward Clug, from October 3 to 19 at Place des Arts. As part of the Altérité, pas à pas! festival, Tangente presents Elad Schechter's Premiere from October 17 to 20. The Phénomena festival presents experimental performances from October 5 to 20, including the Deaf Performances Cabaret, the Dada Cabaret: First Contact and queered burlesque show Le Boudoir Fantasmagorique. Hear stories of all sorts at the 15th Montreal Intercultural Storytelling Festival from October 18 to 27, including English-language performances The Geography Teacher's Orders by Marta Singh and Confabulation, Montréal's original autobiographical storytelling series.

A woman's life turns upside down in fascinating drama-comedy Alice and the World We Live In from October 15 to November 3 at Centaur Theatre. Persephone Productions present Blue Stockings, a witty late-Victorian era story of four young women at Cambridge University fighting for self-determination and the right to receive higher education. Sing along with Richard O'Brien's fabulous and hilarious live musical The Rocky Horror Show from October 17 to November 2 at MainLine Theatre. The Montréal Burlesque Festival entertains and titillates from October 17 to 19 at Club Soda. RuPaul's Drag Race World Tour comes to Montréal's Place des Arts on October 20, with Asia O’Hara, Aquaria, Detox and many more queens. Meanwhile, several Gay Village stages light up with world-class drag shows in Montréal.

On screen

The 48th Festival du nouveau cinéma continues this week with screenings of features and shorts from around the world, as well as free multimedia and VR works at FNC EXPLORE in Complexe Desjardins, multimedia projects, presentations and workshops, “P'tits Loups” weekend children's programming, live music and more until October 20. 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. See art in virtual reality in the Phi Centre's VR Cinema: Short Films on Canvas. The Montréal Science Centre presents IMAX films and hands-on science exhibitions and activities such as Health from Head to Toe. 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.

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Art for everyone

Untamed Colour: Celebrating Jean McEwen pays homage to the Montréal painter at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts. See Francis Alÿs: Children's Games at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal. At the McCord Museum see Celia Perrin Sidarous: The Archivist as well as SDING K’AWXANGS – Haida: Supernatural Stories and new retrospective exhibition Jean-Claude Poitras: Fashion and Inspiration, opening October 24.

La Guilde presents exhibition Nunatsiavut / Our Beautiful Land, featuring work by 25 artists from Nunatsiavut, the Inuit region of Labrador. At the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Second Life offers a glimpse of getting away from it all while Rough Cuts and Outtakes showcases the work of Gordon Matta-Clark. The Museum of Jewish Montreal presents Return to The Fortress by Julie Gladstone, portraits and landscapes drawing from medieval Sephardic iconography, ancient legends and native flora of Béjar, Spain, opening October 24. Mile-Ex gallery and cultural space Never Apart features new art in its fall exhibitions, including the dreamlike visions of Cosmic Manifestations, the meditative Infinite Light. The Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec presents two new exhibitions, Escales de murmures and Permanence & transfiguration. And there's more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing in the city.

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History near and far

One of this fall's major exhibitions, the British Museum's Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives makes its North American premiere at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 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, experience multimedia exhibition Generations MTL, cabinet of curiosities Into the Wonder Room and more. The Stewart Museum's new Nights exhibition lets visitors explore the fiction-meets-reality of four night worlds created by Québec writers Heather O’Neill, Simon Boulerice, Dominique Demers and Éric Dupont – while at the museum, you can also explore the old fort that houses five centuries of day-to-day life in New France in exhibition History and Memory. 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.

Château Ramezay features autumn activities like outdoor exhibition Pick a Peck of Pumpkins in the Governor’s Garden, as well as World War I exhibition WAR Flowers. The city's Irish roots run deep – discover Irish Montréal through landmarks and more – as does Montréal's Scottish history. Tour Montréal architectural icon Moshe Safdie's Habitat 67. Écomusée du fier monde presents Raconte-moi Centre-Sud, stories and photographs about the neighbourhood. 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.

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Classical music

The Canadian International Organ Competition presents a by-donation organ concert by Els Biesemans on October 20 at Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal and on October 18 at Église de l'Immaculée-Conception, a concert at Christ Church Cathedral on October 18, at Le Grand Séminaire de Montréal on October 20 and more. Hungarian pianist-conductor Sir András Schiff performs and conducts the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal on October 23 and 24 at Maison symphonique de Montréal. And Hear the London Haydn Quartet on October 23 at Bourgie Concert Hall.

More live music

Spend Friday night with Irish singer-songwriter Dermot Kennedy with opener Talos at MTELUS or indie-rock collective San Fermin at Ritz P.D.B. Also on Friday, Latin Grammy® winner Javier Limón's The Paco de Lucia Project performs Flamenco Fantasies at Place des Arts. MUZ brings a diversity of Québec music, including rhythms of the world, jazz, rock and blues, to L’Astral from October 17 to 19. On Saturday night, indie-folk rockers The Head and the Heart illuminate MTELUS with openers Illiterate Light and singer-songwriter Tom Speight goes acoustic at l'Escogriffe Bar Spectacle, while electronic artists Ismail Negm, Philippe-Aubert Gauthier and Tanya St-Pierre perform on the Satosphère dome's 157 speakers as part of the Society for Arts and Technology's Substrat deep-listening music series – afterwards, dance into the night with electronic producers Mall Grab, X-Coast and Overland downstairs in Espace SAT. Or go out dancing with EDM heavyweight duo DVBBS and opener DLMT at New City Gas and progressive German producer Jerome Isma-Ae at Newspeak.

On Sunday, October 20, New York City-based artist Pharmakon performs at Phi Centre her experimental album Devour and English musician Marika Hackman brings her unique synth-folk-rock style to Ritz P.D.B. Monday features Chicago's post-metal Russian Circles at Théâtre Fairmount, and a Festival International de Jazz de Montréal free concert A Tribute To Vic Vogel at L’Astral, featuring musicians from his Big Band and surprise guests. Tuesday brings Toronto punk band PUP with Nobro to Corona Theatre and rockers Starcrawler to Ritz P.D.B. On Wednesday, October 23, see Jónsi (of Sigur Rós) with Alex Somers in concert Riceboy Sleeps at Place des Arts, electro-pop stars Tegan and Sara at Corona Theatre, indie multi-instrumentalist-songwriter Jay Som at Ritz P.D.B. and indie-pop chill-wave band Mr Twin Sister and Moon King at l'Escogriffe Bar Spectacle. And two festivals kick off at the end of this week: new music and experimental festival AKOUSMA from October 22 to 24 at l'Usine C and digital art and music festival Sight + Sound Festival at Eastern Bloc from October 24 to 26.

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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