Montreal may not be known as a place where “healthy types” congregate (we’re far too excessive!), but we do live for fun and games. Proof? Hockey, football, basketball, tobogganing and Cirque du Soleil were all invented or popularized here. Plus, we have a wave that makes surfer’s swoon. Here are 10 ways to enjoy Montreal’s playful side this summer.
Beach volleyball: After emerging from 8 months of winter, there’s no better way to welcome summer than by joining scantily clad locals for a game of beach volleyball! Parc Jeanne-Mance (du Parc and Mont-Royal; 3$/day) and Park Saint-Louis (waterside near 34e Avenue; Free) each have busy sand volleyball courts in warmer months. Be sure to sign up when you arrive, and bring sunscreen & water!
Jogging: Most of the lovely spots to jog in Montreal are off-pavement: Park Lafontaine (514-872-6381) is a lot like a romantic Parisian-style park, with over 40-hectares of green space that includes ponds, an open- air concert hall, activities and gorgeous giant poplars. If you want a challenge, Mount Royal Park ( 514-843-8240) offers a summit climb that’ll give your legs a decent workout. There are more winding paths and spectacular views on Île Ste-Hélène, a man-made island built for Expo 67.
Bike riding/Inline skating: Montréal is quickly becoming a cyclists Mecca (you hear that cars?! ). To roll along the river in style, take the Lachine Canal bike path (starting at de la Commune, 514-283-6054) – it offers a great tour of the island. For a city getaway try Parc d’Oka (2020 Oka, 450-479-8337) or Parc du Mont Orford (Mont Orford, Magog, 819-843-9855).
Pétanque: The ultimate summer sip‘n’play sport, pétanque is a form of boules or lawn bowling where the goal is to throw metal balls as close as possible to the cochonet/ piglet (the smaller ball). Played at a leisurely pace in most public parks. You can buy a pétanque kit at a Dollar Store. Make sure to pack a picnic, because Montreal parks allow you to BYOB (drink often hones the pétanque instinct).
Pools/beaches: Montreal is a city of extremes: after surviving a mean winter, we endure heat waves that charbroil us. Just minutes from downtown, Jean-Drapeau Park is home to a beach where you can swim, lounge in the sun, or play more beach volleyball (Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Adults $8, family $20). Various neighbourhoods also have public pools, open all summer long.
Golf: Tee up at Club de Golf de l’Île de Montréal (3700 Damien-Gauthier in Pointe aux Trembles, 514-642-4567), a prestigious course open to the public, and all skill ranges. Club de Golf was created and designed by famous Irish architect Pat Ruddy.
Tennis: I love tennis, in part anyway, because a tie game is called Love-Love, which sounds all’right. For fans, the star-studded Canadian Open/Rogers Cup is held every summer in Jarry Park (285 Faillon West, 514-872-6381). Most large public parks offer courts for a small fee or for free. Jeanne- Mance Park offers 12 courts (4420 Esplanade, 514-872-2644).
Dancing: For fans of dancing, especially progressive house tech house and minimal techno, check out Piknic Electronik every Sunday under the Calder statue in Jean-Drapeau Park. If outdoor Ballroom or Line Dancing is more your groove, free lessons (no partner required) are offered in the same park. Kiddies (age 2-5) can learn Afro-Brazilian art form, for free on July 15 in Cabot Square Park (Ste. Catherine St. and Atwater Ave., 10:30 a.m., 514-931-2304).
Larping: Every Sunday, Mount Royal Park (off Park Avenue) becomes the scene out of a medieval pow-wow, thronging with drummers, jugglers, trinket sellers… further up the hill, there’s even a mock medieval battle where dozens of people dressed as warriors face-off with craptastic weapons made of foam and duck tape. Anyone can join the drum or fight circle.
Rock-climbing: One of the best rainy-day activities around, climbing is also a great way to conquer a fear of heights. Horizon Roc (2350 Dickson, 514-899-5000) is one of the largest climbing gyms in the world, and has the first indoor high ropes course in Canada. The beloved Allez-Up (1339 Shearer, 514-989-9656) gives a 3-hour introductory course for $50 then $13.50 for a day pass or $110/10 entries.
Surfing: Only minutes from downtown, Big Joe is the world’s tallest standing wave and one of Montreal’s best-kept sport secrets. Out of sight behind the famous Habitat ’67, three big waves in the St. Lawrence River provide awesome thrills to all surfers, whether beginner or pro. Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth offers a Surf’s Up Montreal package : 2 nights accommodation, a full day surfing lesson with a pro from Kayak Sans Frontières, free breakfast and snacks!