Winter holiday activities for all in Montréal

This article was updated on November 11, 2019.

Every year, Montréal's winter holiday season seems to get brighter and more festive with the addition of even more fun things to do for families and activities for kids in every corner of the city.

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Holiday city sparkle

All kinds of holiday events make Montréal shine throughout December. In Old Montréal, the Merry Montréal festivities mean hot chocolate, cozy fires, Christmas-themed films and a Christmas market at Place Jacques-Cartier's Nordic Square. This year’s Luminothérapie art playground at Place des Festivals features interactive artwork POP! by Montréal creative studio Gentilhomme: five fantastical, brightly-hued creatures are waiting to play – just call out to them and you'll be greeted with surprises, music and dancing! Also downtown, at the Observatoire Place Ville Marie you can look out on the entire sparkling city. Also see Montréal in all its festive glory, night or day, from the Mount Royal Park lookout, the top of the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park, or on the tallest observation wheel in the country, La Grande Roue de Montréal.

On Prince-Arthur Street in the Plateau visit the Village du Vilain Sapin de Montréal to shop and see a mechanized Christmas tree that giggles when passersby tickle its branches. Visit Notre-Dame Basilica (one of many Montréal churches featuring cultural activities) to see multimedia show AURA and by night in Old Montréal search out the projections of Cité Mémoire on building facades. And fireworks light up the Old Port of Montréal ice skating rink on Saturday nights from December 14 to January 4, and a special New Year's Eve celebration brings music, fireworks and more activities to the Old Port.

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Must be Santa

Get in the Christmas spirit early at the annual Santa Claus Parade on November 23 – the family event begins at 11 a.m. along René-Lévesque Boulevard between Guy and Saint-Urbain Streets – dress warmly if you're staying for the whole parade! Enjoy live music, hot chocolate and more at Christmas in the park at Place Émilie-Gamelin downtown and in Parc des Compagnons and Parc Lahaie in the Plateau neighbourhood, from November 30 to December 24 – also where a travelling Santa Claus pops by for weekend visits. Or visit Santa at his natural habitat in the mall throughout the season, including at Santa's Kingdom – complete with a mini train and carousel, the multi-sensorial Fontaine Boréale show along with choirs, orchestras and dance performances.

For a more traditional take on the holiday, step back in time for a historic Victorian Christmas in Montréal with Château Ramezay's exhibition Around the fireplace... Holiday Traditions and a Victorian Christmas at the Cartiers' at the Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site. Join in Mont-Royal Avenue’s annual Noël sur l’Avenue celebrations all month long – hear music, take carriage rides, and even join candle-lit parade La Marche de Noël aux flambeaux on December 7. Explore the outdoor market and elves' kingdom of Le Village de Noël de Montréal at the Atwater Market from November 29 to December 22. And spot Christmas trees and Santa's elves among the many festive treats at the city's Christmas markets, such as the massive Salon des métiers d’art du Québec.

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Show stoppers

In keeping with long-time holiday tradition, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s The Nutcracker brings dancing soldiers and sugarplum fairies to the stage at Place des Arts, from December 12 to 30. A colourful, magical world also comes to life in Cirque du Soleil’s Axel, where world-class ice skating meets acrobatics, live music and moments of levity, at the Bell Centre from December 19 to 29. Another world-renowned circus company, Flip Fabrique presents Blizzard, a winter-themed, wonder-filled circus for young and old alike, at La TOHU from December 17 to January 5. At Place des Arts, see artist and producer Kid Koala's The Storyville Mosquito live animated graphic novel from November 27 to December 8 – and kids can join the free Robot Dance Party with Kid Koala at Espace culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme on December 7.

Among Montréal's many Christmas concerts: the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal celebrates with Bach’s Luminous Christmas Oratorio on December 3 and 4 and more concerts throughout the month; Les Violons du Roy perform Handel’s Messiah on December 13 at Place des Arts, while les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal perform the classic on December 22 at Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal; the Montréal Bach Festival delights with several concerts for all ages from November 22 to December 7; hear classics from around the world at a Candlelight Christmas with the Lyric Theatre Singers from December 5 to 8; Les Choralies are free concerts at the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, and the Place des Arts junior series presents inspiring music and theatre performances for kids in December. The sounds of Christmas also play at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts's Bourgie Concert Hall, including the popular Charlie Brown Christmas concert on December 19 and Celtic Christmas on December 18.

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Ice skating, hockey and other sports

Go ice skating outdoors at the picturesque Old Port of Montréal ice skating rink, tree-lined Parc La Fontaine ice skating rink rink and at beautiful Beaver Lake in Mount Royal Park, where you can also rent snowshoes and cross-country skis. Or take a day trip to the breathtaking Lanaudière region with a Bonjour Nature family friendly outdoor tour. Comfortably hit the ice indoors with Santa at Atrium Le 1000 downtown or, for a different take on winter sports indoors, visit Horizon Roc Climbing Center, featuring holiday-themed activities for kids, including full- and half-day camps. Cheer on NHL hockey pros the Montréal Canadiens as they go for the win at home against a roster of opponents throughout November and December at the Bell Centre. And when it’s time to re-fuel, try one of Montréal’s many great places to eat with kids in Montréal  and a variety of hot food for cold days.

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Indoor winter wonders

At the Space For Life, warm up under the seasonally decorated palm trees and plants at the Botanical Garden greenhouse, and explore the universe in films and exhibitions at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. More indoor family activities await at the city's many kid-friendly museums too. Join the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts's weekend family workshops and tours based on current exhibitions. Play around at the McCord Museum's It’s Your Move! exhibition and wonder at Enchanted Worlds, the classic Bavarian-style Ogilvy department store holiday window display rebuilt by the museum.

Four versions of Santa visit from around the world in the Who is the real Santa Claus? exhibition, alongside multimedia exhibitions and more at history and archaeology complex Pointe-à-Callière. The Montréal Science Centre sparks young minds with creativity labs, IMAX film adventures and more. Barbie fans can see her dressed to the nines through the decades at the free Barbie Expo. Hundreds of celebrities and historical figures are rendered lifelike in wax at Grévin MONTRÉAL, where kids can also create a 3D wax sculpture in workshops. Mini-Comiccon de Montréal brings fans, comic book and animation creators and sellers together on December 7 and 8 at Palais des congrès. Catch a holiday-themed family-friendly movie at the city's indie cinemas. And all season, the Exporail train museum hosts an immersive Railway Christmas.

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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