Though you wouldn’t know it from our currently near-tropical (for Canada) weather, Montreal gets quite cold in the winter. Us Montrealers know that the winter will always rear its frosty head. How do we deal with it? Besides curling up near the fireplace with a bottle of red wine and some Arcade Fire albums? We get out there and get active…
Now, maybe you’re saying, “Whoa, whoa- I came for nightlife tips, no one said I’d have to exercise”. Fair point, but there is a way to combine both nightlife and winter activities. We’ll do it by keeping the focus on winter sports that you can do at night, by keeping the actual exertion light and, to stay true to the mandate, we’ll include a place nearby for you to get your hands on that post-exercise drink that you’ll totally deserve.
Mount Royal Park: The epicenter of winter fun located in the vibrant, middle-of-Montreal neighbourhood called the Plateau. There’s little you can’t do here and the park is open from 6am until midnight. You can cross-country ski their great, tree-lined 20-kilometre trail, but that’s a lot of exercise, so we’ll move on. It also has one the cities’ most beloved skating spots, Beaver Lake, and a heated retro-swanky chalet that offers skate rentals and hot chocolate (which is only available for purchase, not rental). But by far my favorite activity is tobogganing- it combines the speed of downhill skiing with the effort of sitting on your couch. You can do it at the park’s entrance on du Parc, but right by Beaver Lake is a whole bank of icy paths specifically designed for bombing down on the inner tubes that you can rent nearby. Once you’ve done that, it’s time for a beer or a glass of wine at Café Smith. Check the out very well done Mount Royal website, which has videos, slideshows and guided walks that you can download onto your iPod.
Parc Lafontaine: Another great urban park, Lafontaine is a favourite of locals all year. In summer it’s all about sun tanning, people watching and picnics, but in winter it’s all skating, hockey (skate rental available) and, if you really insist, some of the walking paths are converted into cross-country skiing trails. Lafontaine really is close to all kinds of nightlife fun- in fact, smack dab in the middle of the park is the Centre Culturel Calixa-Lavallée, which plays hosts to events throughout the winter. But if you want to turn the party up, both the ever-busy St-Denis street and the Gay Village are 5 minutes away.
Old Montreal: But if you’re looking for the classic Montreal winter experience, you’ll want to head down to the historic Old Port of Montreal and go skating. The Quays boasts a beautiful outdoor rink that’s kept in impeccable condition with a stunning view of the city (honestly, I’m not a big sucker for “views” but this one is truly impressive). The ice is open until 10pm on weekends and 12:30am on New Year’s Eve. Now, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that a moonlight skate in Old Montreal on New Year’s Eve would be worth a fair bit of romance points. And where to get a drink after? My Google Map of Montreal Nightlife has got you covered.