A rare spell of warm weather warrants ample summer travel to the southern Quebec city of Montreal. However, the fun persists even after plummeting temperatures trigger a mass exodus of tourists. Fall is packed with festivals and Montreal traditions, including the brilliant Gardens of Light display at the Montreal Botanic Gardens and the city's biannual Restaurant Week.
In 2020, many events have been altered or canceled. Check the websites of organizers for updated information.
POP Montreal is a music festival, visual art exhibit, film event, open-air flea market, and workshop series all wrapped into one. Above all, though, it's a celebration of creativity that has grown continuously since its first event in 2002. Attracting roughly 10,000 people per day, the five-day Montreal International Music Festival dares to combine emerging talents with commercial success stories. Headliners for 2020's event include Lido Pimienta, Backxwash, Flore Laurentienne, Jeremy Dutcher, and more. Concerts will take place both virtually and in person from September 23 to 27.
The arrival of fall in Quebec symbolizes the harvest season for U-pick apple orchards around Montreal. Anyone visiting between mid-September and November would be remiss not to make an afternoon jaunt to Dunham Fruit Paradise (Au Paradis des Fruits) or Domaine De Dunham in Dunham; Apple Heart Orchard (Au Coeur de la Pomme) in Frelighsburg; Cidrerie et Vergers Léo Boutin, Vergers et Cidrerie Denis Charbonneau, or Mountain Orchard (Verger de la Montagne) in Mont-Saint-Grégoire—all within an hour's drive from the city. Check with individual orchards for opening information and safety procedures.
Much like Thanksgiving in the U.S., but with less fanfare, Canadian Thanksgiving (October 12, 2020) is celebrated on the second Monday of October to commemorate the country's colonization. It is widely referred to as Action de Grâce and is a much quieter affair than its neighbor's November counterpart. However, it, too, is centered around family gatherings and turkey dinners.
If you're visiting Montreal over Thanksgiving weekend, you'll find plenty of the city's top restaurants offering traditional holiday meals for lunch and dinner. Just don't expect any Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales in which to indulge afterward.
Not to be confused with the now-defunct Montreal Wine and Spirits Show, La Grande Dégustation is Montreal's largest wine event, featuring more than 200 wine producers, distillers, and brewers at a three-day expo. Including more than 1,500 wines, beers, and spirits from 20-plus countries—many not found in Quebec's SAQ stores—La Grande Dégustation is a breeding ground for holiday gift shopping. It will take place virtually in 2020, with producer meet-and-greets, at-home tastings, and virtual vendors from October 26 to 31.
Canadians celebrate Halloween in the same style as Americans: by dressing up in extravagant costumes, eating candy, and seeking out thrills. Montreal, specifically, hosts an annual Zombie Walk (canceled in 2020) and has a number of spooky ghost tours (many also canceled) about. Other popular Halloween happenings include the Club La Voûte Halloween Ball on Halloween night, the Spasm Film Festival (on Facebook live stream on October 29), and the Malefycia Haunted House (hosting a revised city-wide treasure hunt in 2020).
Scouting local and international acts since 2006, M for Montreal is both a music festival and conference that showcases more than 100 artists and breakout bands from all over in various venues across Montreal. Whereas it would normally include outdoor concerts, large venue attractions, nightclub events, panels, workshops, networking activities, cocktail receptions, and other exclusive events, this year's edition will instead be a "unique virtual edition for industry pros" housed on a tailor-made distribution and networking platform, according to the organizers. It will take place November 18 to 20, 2020.
While Black Friday may not be acknowledged north of the U.S. border, Canada instead has The Great Quebec Fashion Sale (La Grande Braderie de Mode Québécoise), a biannual event featuring samples and inventory surplus sales of up to 80 percent on locally and designer-made clothing and accessories. In Montreal, Braderie de Mode takes place over four days, typically in October, at Marché Bonsecours, close to the Champ-de-Mars metro station. In 2020, the event has been postponed to spring 2021.
Between early September and Halloween, the Montreal Botanical Gardens stays open late so visitors can peruse its nighttime Gardens of Light displays. Originally named "The Magic of Lanterns" for the handmade silk lanterns hung throughout the gardens (specially constructed in Montreal's sister city of Shanghai), this event has become a local fall favorite, especially for Montreal's resident Chinese and Japanese. Coinciding with the Moon Festival in China, Gardens of Light features three gardens—the Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, and First Nations Garden—draped majestically in lights. In 2020, the event has been canceled.
What began as a relatively small cultural event in 1997 has grown exponentially into a movement of cultural democratization featuring thousands of free activities over the course of three days across Canada. In Montreal, those "Culture Days"—known in French as "Journées de la culture"—take place over the last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in September. More than 3,000 activities, from free dance classes to glass-blowing demonstrations, will commence. In 2020, Culture Days have been canceled in Canada's "red zones" (coronavirus hotspots), including Montreal.
Club Soda, located in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles on Saint Laurent Boulevard, hosts a prestigious festival each fall dedicated to glamour, humor, and the art of burlesque. The Montréal Burlesque Festival features exceptional cabaret and burlesque performances by male, female, intersex, and non-binary artists alike. The 2020 Montréal Burlesque Festival has been postponed to October 15, 2021.
Montreal's first and largest storytelling celebration, Festival Interculturel Du Conte de Montreal, features dozens of events over 10 days in October at venues across the city. The rich and varied program of the Intercultural Storytelling Festival offers audiences everything from traditional tales, myths, and legends to autobiographical stories and contemporary creations about modern life. In 2020, the event has been postponed to October 22 to 31, 2021.
With more restaurants per capita than any other metropolitan area in North America, Montreal is an ideal destination for foodies. The best of the best is brought forth by the biannual Montreal Restaurant Week—known as MTLàTABLE—during which more than 150 restaurants serve up their most epic three-course brunches and dinners across the city. Montreal Restaurant Week typically takes place the first two weeks of November each year and features dinner menus at reasonable prices ($23, $33, or $43) as well as a $17 brunch at some restaurants. The 2020 edition has been postponed.
An annual tradition since 1925, the Montreal Santa Claus Parade, better known as Défilé du Père Noël, is one of the final big events of fall. Kicking off the holiday season, it's the largest of its kind in Montreal, attracting up to 300,000 spectators to Sainte-Catherine Street West from the Rue Du Fort to St. Urbain. It would typically feature dozens of floats, dancers, singers, stiltwalkers, and acrobats near the end of November, but in 2020, it's been canceled.
Marvel at World-Class Photography
Every year, the world's most prestigious photojournalism foundation, World Press Photo, organizes a touring exhibition featuring competition winners. Among its international exhibition host cities is Montreal. The exhibit includes the work of more than 4,000 photographers from 125 countries. More than 55,000 people reportedly visit the exhibit held at Marché Bonsecours. The 2020 event has been postponed to 2021.
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