The 35th edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival lights up the city with hundreds of live music concerts, June 26 to July 6. Let our festival guide lead the way through some of the fest’s top-billing sweet sounds and an array of dining, shopping, late-night entertainment, and family-friendly options too…
(music for days) If you’ve come to Montreal for the Jazz Fest, then you’re here for music and lots of it – and if your vacation happens to coincide with the festival, you’ll find that music will make its way into your schedule one way or another, especially with free outdoor shows on multiple stages at all hours for almost two weeks. Big names abound on the indoor stages, and tickets go fast – this year’s roster of luminaries includes the infamous Diana Ross in concert twice, three solo shows from Rufus Wainwright, vocal virtuoso Bobby McFerrin, Ben Harper in concert with bluesman Charlie Musselwhite, Canadian crooner Michael Bublé, trumpeter Tom Harrell playing alongside Esperanza Spalding, pianist Keith Jarrett in a solo concert, prolific musician and producer Daniel Lanois, Grammy-winning jazz singer Dianne Reeves, Trixie Whitley (daughter of the late soul-bluesman Chris Whitley), Daniel “Pipi” Piazzolla’s Escalandrum, British drummer Ginger Baker (former member of Cream), Nigerian desert-blues guitarist Bombino, Zappa Plays Zappa (Dweezil playing his dad’s classics), and film-dance-music spectacle For the Record: Tarantino in Concert.
(fab food & drink) While Jazz Fest takes over the Quartier des Spectacles in the downtown core, and offers a diversity of food and drink within its sprawling grounds, restaurants abound in the many blocks circles the site. Find everything from haute-cuisine crafted by world-class chefs to gourmet sandwiches and open-air food trucks in Old Montreal, less than a 10-minute walk away. Stroll the blocks of nearby Chinatown to find tried-and-true Chinese dishes, dim sum, banh-mi sandwiches and pho soup, sushi, bubble tea, Szechuan specialities, and much more. And just north of the fest, find pub grub, casual bistros and upscale dining along Saint-Laurent Boulevard. Montreal’s summertime nightlife adds bar-hopping fun to the late-night mix – and there’s no shortage of water holes nearby. Settle in at one of the city’s best wine bars. Sip microbrews at Benelux on Sherbrooke, Cheval Blanc on Ontario Street, Brutopia on Crescent Street, L’amere a Boire and Le Saint Bock on Saint-Denis, and Les Soeurs Grises on McGill in the Old Port. Or find drink specials and dance the night away to top-40, electro or soul classics at clubs in Old Montreal, along Saint-Laurent, with even further into the Plateau neighbourhood along more-alternative Mont-Royal Avenue.
(shop this town) Montreal is a town meant for shopping all year round, especially during the Jazz Festival. If you’re looking for recorded music and festival memorabilia, the Jazz Fest’s on-site boutique is a thing of comprehensive wonder – find recent releases and back catalogues, alongside posters and t-shirts, for almost all of the artists performing at the fest, as well as Jazz Festival compilations, clothing, books, accessories and more. If a high-fashion shopping trip appeals, head to Old Montreal’s name-brand boutiques and seek out stores on St-Laurent Boulevard all the way up to the Mile End neighbourhood north of Mont-Royal Avenue, the length of Saint-Denis Street from downtown to the Plateau, and along much of Mont-Royal Avenue to find new styles by international and local designers. Find shopping shelter on a rainy day in the “underground city,” mainly situated near Sainte-Catherine Street downtown, where several of Montreal’s malls connect department stores and an abundance of well-known retailers for every price point.
(family grooves) Every day of the Jazz Fest surprises with something new for kids to enjoy, including music concerts just for them (and often scheduled earlier in the day), outdoor games and interactive activity stations, animated public art projected on building facades throughout the Quartier des Spectacles, circus performers and magicians making the streets into their stage, and more world-class entertainment tailor-made for families. For the artistically-inclined, the Musée d’art contemporain in Place des Arts and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in downtown Montreal both host regular art workshops and tours for kids of all ages. And the Montreal Science Centre in the Old Port invites kids to learn more about science and tech through interactive exhibitions and the latest educational and eye-opening IMAX movies. Further afield, but easily accessible from downtown via the metro (Montreal’s subway system), is Montreal Space for Life, home to the Biodôme, Insectarium, Botanical Garden and Planetarium.
Montreal International Jazz Festival, June 26 to July 6
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