Museums, art galleries and performance halls will be throwing open their doors to the night owls.
How do you distill year-long celebrations of Montréal’s 375th anniversary, Canada’s 150th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the Expo 67 World Fair into one wild party? Nuit blanche, that’s how. The arts, culture and performance all-nighter will take on a “1967” theme this year in commemoration of one of the pivotal moments in the history of Montréal, and we offer you this guide to “surviving” it in style.
The 14th edition of Nuit blanche, part of the annual MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE winter arts and culture festival taking place at locations all over downtown Montréal and in surrounding neighbourhoods. The “white night” starts on Saturday, March 4 and ends in the wee hours of Sunday, March 5.
What you’re getting yourself into
One of the highlights of MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE is the always illuminating, always epic Nuit blanche all-nighter. Nuit blanche invites all comers to partake in upwards of 200 (mostly free) activities this year centred around the theme of revisiting the spirit of Expo 67. These will include live music, film, dance, performance art, interactive installations, storytelling, digital and visual art, and great food to match a great night.
It’s where exactly?
Almost everywhere MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE’s family-friendly free outdoor site in the downtown Quartier des Spectacles is the central hub from which all the action radiates. The expanded site features a giant outdoor stage, interactive installations, dining areas, concerts, DJ dance parties, a new “Nuit blanche 67 party zone” and numerous fun activities (urban ice slides, a Ferris wheel, zip-lines and new this year, Illuminated Curling). The site opens at noon and will remain abuzz until 3 a.m. From there Nuit blanche spreads out to music venues, art galleries, museums and other performance/arts spaces across three city districts: most of downtown, Old Montréal and the Plateau/Mile End.
How to get around town Montréal’s métro (or subway) will remain open all night for Nuit blanche with normal fare prices, and a free shuttle service (featuring 12 shuttles, 4 routes and 62 stops) will run every 10-15 minutes from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., linking all the activities and the aforementioned neighbourhoods. Nuit blanche hosts will ride along as guides and to provide info on programming. For bus and métro info, visit the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) website.
What to bring
A plan Consider it a path to Nuit blanche happiness. This writer, for example, typically likes to start the evening at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in the downtown’s western Golden Square Mile district. From there it’s on to the Belgo Building arts complex (more about that later), then across Ste. Catherine Street to the free outdoor site for rockin’ snowy good times. After that, a quick walk through the Quartier des Spectacles and then up trendy St. Laurent Boulevard to all its indie theatres, intimate music venues and cool arts spaces. If the prospect of making a plan fills you with dread, no worries: the thoughtful folks at Nuit blanche have done it for you. They’ve created six possible tour routes, one geared towards families, intended to maximize your evening experience.
Winter clothing Given that Montréal’s temperature can fluctuate pretty wildly at the beginning of March (it could be 5 degrees Celsius or -25) it’s just generally best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Warm, comfortable boots (Nuit blanche typically involves a fair amount of walking) are a must as are removable head/face coverings and warm gloves. And perhaps consider a double layer of socks (nothing puts an end to fun like cold feet) and long underwear if you’re planning to spend any length of time at the outdoor site.
What not to bring
Your own “refreshments” Be aware that personal alcoholic bevvies aren’t permitted within MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE’s outdoor site (bags will be checked at all the site’s entry points) and most clubs and venues tend to be at DEFCON 1: High Flask Alert during Nuit blanche.
Travel light It’s advisable to leave bulky items like purses and backpacks etc. at home, especially if you plan to do a lot of exploring.
What not to miss
There are so many amazing/intriguing/bedazzling things happening that its entirely unfair to cherry pick a few. With that in mind, consider the following as a kind of taster menu:
Video fun and games Get ready for a play-filled trip back in time at Moveo (at the UQAM St. Denis Street campus), a nutso night of retro video games activated by a giant joystick connected to motion sensors.
Ice arias Espace La Fontaine, in picturesque Parc Lafontaine, will be the site of an Illuminated Symphony, which promises to transport visitors with the music and colours of interactive ice sculptures.
Anchors away! At L’Escale 67 down in the Old Port, steam back into an era where the Bota Bota, spa-sur-l’eau was an actual ferryboat and then showboat on the St. Lawrence River. On deck: DJs, an exhibition, massages and much more.
Realize your hoop dreams In the spirit of ’67, Vert Prana Studios present “Spin Me in Your Hoop,” where participants of all ages are invited to a free 30-minute demonstration and a beginner hula hoop class, and to try hoop fitness.
Freak your cabaret chic The 7th edition of Le Cabaret de Nuit Blanche recalls the “Summer of Love” on what will be a night of “complete artistic freedom.” Performances by Fanny Bloom, Daniel Boucher and his Cabaretteries, the vintage funk and soul band of The Brooks and more at the lovely Monument National.
Brace for an art storm Plan a stop at Ste. Catherine Street’s enormous Belgo Building, a multi-floor warren of avant-garde arts spaces that is home to dance, visual arts, film, music, street arts, installation pieces and more (and there are usually more than a few open-door DJ dance parties on the go as well).
Underground art… literally Montréal’s Underground City is a yearly source of subterranean adventure at Art Souterrain, which this year presents 70 contemporary art projects spread throughout 9 buildings around downtown. There is a downloadable audio guide this year to help steer you on your way.
Place des Festivals This massive outdoor mall on the outdoor site will be host to live acts, DJs and VJs, as well as interactive games and art displays, ice carvings, marshmallow and sausage roasting, warming stations and loads of live entertainment.
The Nuit blanche program is available at information kiosks on the outdoor site, and the complete program for “Nuit blanche à Montréal” is available on the mobile app for iPhone and Android (which also has a new “friend finder” function). It also makes it easy to share photos and videos of your fave #MTLMOMENTS. Now get some sleep – you’re going to need it.
Up next : Your MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE survival guide