Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Montreal - City of Festivals

Montrealers celebrate EVERYTHING from construction (yes, we have a construction festival!) to snow during La Fête des Neiges.
We don't let wide variations in heat and cold stop us from getting out and having fun. There is always a festival happening year-round in Montreal, so whenever you plan to visit, you'll be able to take part in the celebrations.

As the summer starts to heat up, so do the array of great festivals.
Piknic Electronik runs from May to October and is held each Sunday in a family-friendly park where you can listen to electronic music. Bring a picnic, enjoy the warm weather and dance to the music. With a $10 entrance fee, you can't go wrong.

Similar to the Picnik Electronik, but for only one week in June is MUTEK, an international festival of digital creativity and electronic music.

If you're a beer drinker and connaisseur, the best can be sampled at the International Beer Festival. Coupons can be bought and exchanged for samples and you can even get a special souvenir tasting mug.

Not a festival, though the atmosphere makes it feel like one - don't forget Montreal hosts Formula 1. Crescent street downtown gets closed off for free concerts and to show off the cars. You may even be able to get your picture taken in one.

Just before the school year ends, you can find the Eureka festival in the Old Port. It celebrates all aspects of science and is especially geared to children and education.

The summer seems to make the city come alive after a long hibernation, but we'll still duck in for some movies at Image+Nation, an LGBT cinema festival. But we head mostly back outside for Les Francofolies, which celebrates French music from around the world with more than 1000 acts.

You never know what you're going to get when you take in a show at the Fringe festival. Anyone can submit an idea for a show and they're choosen by random lottery, so you can get anything from high-quality entertainment to something just a little zany. It's worth the risk!
Or if you're looking for something even more original, if that's even possible, there's the Infringement Festival which runs right after.

Fireworks light up the night sky during the International Fireworks Competition. This is one of my favorite free activities to enjoy all summer. I go to the Old Port to watch them and take a stroll by the river - it's a very romantic outing. You can buy tickets and get a front row seat at La Ronde if you really want to get up close and personal.

One of our most well-known fests, Just For Laughs, brings together the best in international comedy acts. I take in a show every year and always leave with my cheeks and belly hurting from laughing so much. Loads of fun and silliness!

Our biggest fest of all is probably the Jazz festival. This is one fantastic festival. If you're not a big fan of jazz, don't worry, there are tons of extra acts with different styles to please everyone. Just taking a walk and enjoying the free shows in the evening is a great way to enjoy the city.

Right on the tails of the Jazz festival is Les Nuits d'Afrique or African Nights in English. It's a celebration of African music and dance, with performances also including artists from the Caribbean, Central and South America. The influences of African music are far-reaching and this fest brings them all together again.

If you're a fan of films from Asia or anime, look no further than
Fantasia. Hugely popular, you need to buy tickets well in advance to catch a screening.

A relative newcommer on the festival scene is Osheaga, a festival of music and art, held outdoors at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

There is even something for the little ones at La Fête des Enfants, or Children's Festival. It's in August and totally free for families with children under 12 years of age. There's music and dance shows and everything one can think of to entertain children.

Autumn brings POP Montreal, yet another great international festival of music and the arts! Activities related to POP Montreal go on in the city year round; from a craft fair to stuff for kids, so check back on the site often to see what's going on.

Now we're back into winter, but that doesn't keep us hiding inside. We have the Montreal Highlights Festival. This is a celebration of the finest music and food. You can sample dishes from internationally acclaimed chefs. The lights stay on all night for Nuit Blanche, where everything stays open for everyone to enjoy for free. Free public transportation is provided and you can do anything from go to a museum, skate outside under the stars or take a tango lesson. There's always a brunch or pancake breakfast provided in the morning if you've managed to stay up all night.

In conjunction with the Highlights Festival are the Montreal International Music Initiative or MIMI awards, given to talented emerging artists in Montreal.

Oh my, are we done yet? Did I miss anything? I probably did, but that's ok, I'll catch it next year. That's the beauty of Montreal's famous festivals.
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