Things to do in Montréal December 29 to January 4

Robyn Fadden

Montréal welcomes 2018 with a bright and beautiful bang: fireworks on Saturday night followed by more fireworks on New Year's Eve along with parties of every stripe, plus ice skating and other wintery family-friendly activities all week, Cirque du Soleil's first on-ice show, inspiring art, live music and more.

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Ring in the New Year

Our Guide to New Year's Eve in Montréal roams from hotel hot spots and dinner clubs like the Casino de Montréal and Le Balcon to St-Laurent Boulevard dance clubs and Village late-night parties – plus massive (and free!) outdoor fete La Finale New Year’s Party in Old Montréal, with live music, fireworks and a special illumination of the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, a fitting close to Montréal's year-long 375th anniversary celebrations. The spectacular Natrel Fire on Ice fireworks adds an extra dose of fireworks to the weekend on Saturday night in the Old Port – also where you can skate to music next to the Saint-Lawrence River day or night at the Natrel Skating Rink. Enjoy all kinds of winter activities on New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and beyond, including outdoor art event Luminothérapie in downtown's Place des Festivals where you can ride illuminated see-saws while having a warm drink and a bite to eat – look up to see dreamlike architectural video projection Les Lointaines.

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Wintery city sights

Take advantage of the many free things to do this winter in Montréal – not to mention the picks in our budget-friendly guide to Montréal – including entertainment, ice skating and more at V Winter Village at Olympic Park and Old Montréal's Merry Montréal activities until Jan. 1, featuring live music and special event Place Nordique. Take a self-guided history tour of the Saint-Lawrence River with Montréal, toute une histoire. At night in Old Montréal the historic tableaux projections of Cité Memoire come to life and multimedia wonder AURA shimmers at Notre-Dame Basilica. Mount-Royal Avenue’s Noël sur l’Avenue celebrates the season with music and carriage rides all month. At the Buckminster Fuller-designed Biosphère see the city anew in Planète MTL and travel back 50 years with Écho 67. See amazing views from La Grande Roue de Montréal observation wheel, the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown and the Montréal Tower at Olympic Stadium. Or relax with a view of the Saint Lawrence River at Bota Bota floating spa. Watch the Montréal Canadiens against the Sharks on Jan. 2 and the Lightning on Jan. 4 at the Bell Centre – snag your tickets now at the only Canadiens authorized and secure site Ticket Vault. And discover Montréal hockey history in exhibition Passion: Hockey at Pointe-à-Callière museum.

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Family holiday activities

Seasonal and international history unfolds in Santa figurines and cartoons at the Stewart Museum to Jan. 7, while toys and fairytales take over in The Topsy-Turvy Storyland at the McCord Museum, with story hour and more activities over the holidays – free for kids 12 and under. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts offers free entry to the collections and to cultural activities to Jan. 7, with several creative workshops, musical performances and films for kids – pick up your free passes at the front desk. Go on a Tropical Adventure to see the animals at play at the Biodôme. And see animals in their natural winter wonderland habitat at the Ecomuseum Zoo – they'll be getting gifts from the zoo's elves Dec. 23 to Jan. 7. Explore the cosmos in two new immersive films at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium: EXO and Space Next, and go on a wild ride in IMAX with Amazon 3D and Incredible Predators 3D at the Montréal Science Centre.

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Leonard Cohen's Montréal

As part of Montréal's 375th anniversary and in honour of his artistic impact on the city and the world, Montréal celebrates Leonard Cohen. International exhibition Leonard Cohen – A Crack in Everything at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal features work by 40 artists from 10 countries, inspired by Leonard Cohen's life, music and writing – an absolute must-see. While there, also explore That's How the Light Gets In, a collections exhibition that frames art in terms of the fundamental aspect of light (visibility, reflection, representation, perception), and The Gaze Listens, an auditory contemplation of art. And see building-sized murals of Leonard Cohen on Crescent Street downtown near the Sir Winston Churchill Pub and on Saint-Laurent Boulevard at Napoleon Street not far from Schwartz's.

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Festive food and drink

There's nothing like feasting in Montréal this time of year. From traditional terroir to high tea, we've got the gourmet goods on where to eat in Montréal during the holidays. Warm up with a meal or a drink next to a cozy fireplace or by sipping the best hot chocolate in the city. If you're looking for tried-and-true Québécois classic dishes, let us guide you towards the best poutine and the best Montréal bagels along with more musts for foodies visiting Montréal – plus where to go shopping for foodies too. Or discover creative new cuisine from Québec at our Montréal restaurant picks. Explore the city's public markets and some of Montréal's liveliest neighbourhoods through their restaurants. Caffeinate in style at Montréal's indie coffee shops or relax with weekend brunch or a creative cocktail. And if your New Year is all about eating well, there's plenty of genuinely delicious health-conscious food in Montréal too.

On stage spectacles

Place des Arts sparkles with the return of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s The Nutcracker, by Quebec choreographer Fernand Nault based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale and set to the music of Tchaikovsky, to Dec. 30. A colourful, magical world comes to awe-inspiring life in Cirque du Soleil’s Crystal, the first Cirque du Soleil show on ice, to Dec. 31 at the Bell Centre – get a family package for the full experience. Meanwhile, experience a different kind of circus in Patinoire, a stunning and funny solo show by tightrope walker and high-energy performer Patrick Léonard at La Tohu circus centre, Dec. 19 to Jan. 6. See family-friendly musical The Nut Job Live & Friends, in English Dec. 29 and 31 at L'Olympia, or the inventive marionettes of Le cœur en hiver at Place des Arts Dec. 28-30. Laugh it up with the stand-up comedy of Scott Faulconbridge Dec. 28-30, Joe Machi on New Year's Eve and Dave Merheje Jan. 4-6, all at the Comedy Nest. And catch theatre that's off the beaten track at the Wildside Festival at Centaur Theatre Jan. 4-13, and

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Art for all

In over 400 works of art and artifact, Once Upon A Time… The Western gives the Western film genre new artistic life with a critical First Nations art twist at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – while there also see installation Kushapetshekan / Kosapitcikan by Eruoma Awashish, Meky Ottawa and Jani Bellefleur-Kaltush, Nadia Myre's Tout ce qui reste – Scattered Remains and WOOL WAR ONE, composed of 780 small knitted soldiers. Inspiring art foundation DHC/ART in Old Montréal celebrates its 10th anniversary with dynamic group exhibition The Gift/L'Offre as well as the pioneering video art and installation work of Bill Viola: Naissance à rebours. The Montréal Science Centre presents Indigenous Ingenuity: Timeless Inventions, from the essentials of First Peoples’ scientific principles to how to build an igloo, alongside photo exhibition Regalia: Native Pride. Explore the golden age of magicians in the McCord Museum's Illusions: The Art of Magic to Jan. 7 and see a new exhibition of photography by Gabor Szilasi: Le monde de l’art à Montréal, 1960-1980. The illustrations of exposition Le Montréaler emulate classic New Yorker covers, at the Maison de la culture Plateau Mont-Royal. If you're driving to or from the airport along Highway 20, keep an eye out for Alain Paiement's art work Bleu de BleuAnd watch art-house and indie films at Cinéma du Parc throughout the holiday season.

Live music

Along with all kinds of music at Montréal's New Year's Eve parties, big concerts and small shows keep the music going all week. Stay warm with Merry Montréal's Music on the Docks outdoors in the Old Port, featuring hip hop artists Rymz and Alaclair Ensemble on Dec. 29 followed on Dec. 30 by singer-songwriter Karim Ouellet. Beloved Québécois folk-rock group Les Cowboys Fringants play spirited tunes for a crowd ready to sing along, Dec. 29-30 at MTelus. On Jan. 1, the Strauss Symphony of Montreal returns in major holiday concert Salute to Vienna, led by Austrian maestro Alexander Steinitz and featuring sopranos Lyne Fortin and Lara Ciekiewicz, tenor Brian Cheney and dancers from the National Ballet of Hungary and International Champion Ballroom Dancers, at Place des Arts. Spectacular stage show and band in one, The Musical Box performs The Black Show, Genesis and Peter Gabriel's emblematic 1974 performance, at Place des Arts' Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier on Jan. 4. For more live music throughout the week, check out our picks for Where to hear live music in Montréal, Montréal's best jazz and blues clubs and our Insider guide to electronic music in Montréal

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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