The winter holiday season in Montreal can be as relaxing as it is exciting – whatever pace you choose, the city can match it, whether you’re in the mood to dine and shop, see art and go to the symphony, run away with the circus, or take the whole family out to play in the snow…
(light fare) There are plenty of bright, shiny reasons to spend time outdoors in Montreal over the holidays. Our Christmas and Holiday Guide outlines several, from skating in the Old Port (with fireworks on Saturday nights!) to walking among the public art of Luminothérapie in the Quartier des Spectacles. Visit Old Montreal for the Merry Montreal festivities along with skating, ice fishing and more in the Old Port, or head further east to Olympic Park’s Winter Village, featuring a skating rink, fire pits, games and performances, and on January 4, a gathering of the city’s gourmet food trucks, serving up fois gras poutine, crepes and more. For a more indoor-outdoor foodie experience, book a dinner at the SAT Foodlab’s Nordic Terrace, a yurt complete with cushions, litres of mulled wine, and simply delicious dishes. If you’re still on the lookout for gifts, check our Holiday Shopping Guide, including artisanal and craft fair Salon des Metiers d’Art to December 22 at Place Bonaventure. And, of course and as ever, Montreal gets even brighter on New Year’s Eve: see our New Year’s Eve Guide to some of best events and parties.
(spectacular shows) Cirque du Soleil stuns once more with Varekai, a story of otherworldly adventure told through world-class circus acts, at the Bell Centre, December 20-30. One of the most creative circus troupes around, 7 Doigts de la Main ties its incredible acrobatic acts together with emotionally-engaging themes and good humour: see Traces at La Tohu to January 4. And for younger kids, Circus Incognitus entertains with juggling tricks, balancing acts and comedic touches at Place des Arts, December 28-30. In more traditional seasonal entertainment, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal delight with The Nutcracker, December 12-30 at Place des Arts. On December 23, experience the CBC’s Vinyl Cafe live with beloved storyteller Stuart McLean, at Place des Arts. Excellent independent theatre wins the day at the Wildside Festival at Centaur Theatre, January 3-12. And Pop-punk gets the all-singing, all-dancing musical treatment in Green Day: American Idiot, January 4-5 at Place des Arts.
(family time) Summertime in Montreal is wonderful for families, but winter has its perks as well, especially when it comes to keeping kids busy and happy. The city’s Ecomuseum, an environmentally-active zoo, stays open every day but Christmas, inviting visitors to see how wild animals spend their holidays. The Space for Life also keeps things lively: wander through the different ecosystems of the Biodôme, spotting plants and animals along the way, ride a miniature train, and see new multimedia show Biorama, created by Moment Factory; visit the greenhouses at the Botanical Garden and the creatures of the Insectarium; and see two multimedia shows about our vast universe at the Planetarium. International trade relations of yore become fun and fascinating at Pointe-à-Callière’s Pirates or Privateers interactive exhibition, specifically made for kids age 6 to 12, while the museum’s Who Is the Real Santa Claus? looks at the history of Santa through Christmas-themed archaeological findings, and the Beatles exhibition, while not specifically made for kids, presents musical fun for everyone. And space is the place at the McCord Museum’s cosmic-themed Toys exhibition.
(at the museum) Art, hip hop music and social activism meet at the Musee d’art contemporain’s incredible and inspiring Beat Nation exhibition, a carefully curated collection of contemporary work by North American Native artists, on until January 5. Take a stroll along the waterways of Venice at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’s Splendore a Venezia show, inspired by the music to the city and featuring paintings from the 16th to 18th centuries as well as a full-scale gondola. See porcelain like you’ve never seen it before at Art Mur‘s De la porcelaine à l’oeuvre exhibition, a stunning display of inventiveness, on only until December 21. And the McCord Museum displays over 100 life-affirming documentary photographs by Quebec’s Claire Beaugrand-Champagne in Touching Reality – Photographs from 1970 to 2013.
(winter music) Sing along as the classical musicians of I Musici de Montréal play Christmas carols and a variety of festive music from France and England, at Maison Symphonique at Place des Arts on December 22. Alternatively, hip hop artist Machine Gun Kelly comes to Club Soda that night, with openers Tommy Kruise and Nation Ruckus. While on December 21, unorthodox chamber music collective Warhol Dervish – Lukas Ligeti, Sam Shalabi and Vergil Sharkya – plays new music at Sala Rossa. Attila Glatz Concert Productions celebrates the New Year with an Homage to Vienna, featuring Strauss waltzes, polkas & operetta excerpts, at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, January 1. The Montreal Symphony Orchestra, with conductor Kent Nagano and Romanian pianist Radu Lupu, extends an invitation to An All-Beethoven Evening, featuring Symphony No. 4, Piano Concerto No. 4, and Symphony No. 2, on January 7-9 at the Maison Symphonique. And New York City’s Shen Yun Performing Arts brings the music and dance of ancient China to the stage with dozens of performers and a live orchestra, at Places des Arts, January 6-9.
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