Planning to Make the Most of a Summer in Montreal

Mid May of 2012 is approaching and spring is certainly here in Montreal – it’s no longer freeeezing cold and certain days have even been fully summer like. I’ve already sat and drank beer in a park and witnessed spontaneous dancing in the afternoon sun, I can only wonder what further excitement summer will bring.

I know Montreal has a lot of summer festivals, people keep telling me how amazing Montreal is in the summer! Not wanting to miss out on anything I thought I’d sit down and book a few events into my calendar. With the number of enthusiastic comments I’ve heard on Montreal’s summer I’m starting to expect something pretty impressive.

If you are like me, and feel you’ve been boxed up during the long winter months, and could really do with some summer weather – then you are in luck. With the cold months behind us the northern hemisphere has plenty of sunny destinations to offer. Montreal’ers will say that Montreal has the best summers in the world; I’m intending to put that to the test. There is certainly a great festival line up which I go into below, but as far as summer in general – we will have to see… There are just so many perfect little tropical islands, and resorts specialising in sunshine holidays and get-a-ways which promise relaxation on white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, happy people and flowing cocktails. Sure Montreal will get some hot weather, and hopefully some happening festivals, but for the ‘best summer in the world’? Can a land locked destination really compete with coastal destinations and tropical islands? We will see!

First, which festivals am I looking forward to, for this 2012 summer in Montreal?

In fact the first festival I plan on attending isn’t actually in Montreal, we plan on taking a weekend trip to Ottawa for the Tulip Festival which I’ve already mentioned on my post on day trips from Montreal. The Ottawa tulip festival runs from the 4 – 21 May and I’m excited to see what it’s like. A flower festival I have to admit sounds kinda boring, but apparently its big and popular, and with my new interest in photography I’m looking forward to getting some great macro flower shots. Stay tuned for this, we’re heading to Ottawa on the 18th.

Montreal Museum Day i.e. FREE museum day is next on my calendar. Sunday 27 May, 29 museums are free from 9am to 6pm and free busses circuit between museums. I plan on checking out the Biosphere, not to be confused with the Biodome – which I might also check out as both of these are listed as museums…

Starting that same Sunday and running one week is the Montreal Bike Festival (May 27 – June 03). I’ve mentioned that Montreal has a great bicycle culture, the city is heralded as the cycling capital of North America, festivals which encourage the use of bikes no doubt help cement that position. So I’ll be out on my bike with my camera hoping to catch lots of cycling action.

From 04 – 27 June runs the Montreal Fringe Festival which I’m intrigued by. The core principles of the Fringe Festival are 1. No Artistic Direction (meaning any kind of art is welcome) 2. No censorship (because everyone knows censorship sucks) 3. Accessible to any artists (anyone can apply for the lottery) and lastly 4. Cheap ticket prices to keep it accessible to any audience – and the money goes to the artists. This is going to be fun, the hard part will be deciding which acts to attend. I’ve followed @FringeMtl on twitter and will keep an eye on the #FringeMtl tag to try determine the worthwhile acts from the worthless.

Now I know what you were thinking. You were thinking, “WTF, Sam has already listed four festivals and none have any mention of beer, WTF!” I was thinking the exact same thing. Fortunately, running during the Fringe Festival is the Mondial de la bière – Montreal beer tasting festival! Sweet. So from 06 – 10 June I’m going to be beer tasting at Place Bonaventure, admission is free, tastings range from $1 – $5; no doubt all the beers I’ll want to taste will be expensive, grrr.
My experience of the beer festival – view post [09 June 2012]

This time is actually a busy weekend in Montreal because also running Friday through Sunday 08 – 10 June is the Montreal Grand Prix, when the karts will be screaming around Parc Jean Drapeau. I’m not normally a car racing kind of person but Grand Prix does somewhat intrigue me. So Friday the 8th I may well be attending my first ever Formula One race to see round seven of the 2012 season.

From 28 June – 07 July runs the International Jazz Festival, one of Montreal’s largest summer festivals. While I don’t often listen to jazz music at home, I am hoping that this festival will create something of a cool atmosphere in town. I certainly plan on heading down to Place des Arts to check it out, even if I don’t end up buying any individual tickets – for that I’ll wait and see how things pan out.

Running from late July through to early August  the Just For Laughs festival is big and I’m really looking forward to some great outdoor acts and potentially some hilarious comedians in small seedy bars around town. There are three main weekends which feature free outdoor events, these include weekend one on 16 – 17 July which features The Pinkarnival, long weekend two on 21 – 24 July  featuring street arts, and lastly long weekend 28 – 31 July called Humour All Over the Place. Stay tuned for how that goes.

Running at the same time as Just for Laughs is the Montreal Festival of Circus Arts (05 – 15 July) which will also feature a lot of free outdoor entertainment which I’m hoping to be entertained by. Clowns, acrobats, gymnasts, fire breathers – I predict this is going to be good.

Music wise Osheaga 2012 on Fri 03 – Sun 05 August looks fun, three days of non-stop concerts with reasonably big acts. I’m looking forward to MGMT on the Friday. Whether I just get the day pass, or the three day pass is yet to be determined.

Lastly from 11 – 19 August runs the Montreal Hot Air Balloon festival which I’d really like to attend. There is something inherently tranquil about floating into the air only supported by a hot balloon and simply drifting wherever the wind takes you…

So that’s my planning for summer 2012 in Montreal. A lot of festivals, and that’s not close to being an exhaustive list of whats happening. While I’m really excited about the organised festivals I’m equally as excited about the idea of more sunny days, chilling in parks drinking beer and watching the world wander by. In particular I hope to spend many a Sunday afternoon in Mont Royal park witnessing the weird and wonderful happenings – from spontaneous drum circles to tight rope walking and enthusiastic jugglers, it’s an interesting place to hang out.

For a more complete list of festivals in Montreal check out


  1. Montreal is amazing during the summer, there is pretty much a free festival or event every single weekend.