Each May—due to spring's long-awaited arrival—the city of Montreal comes alive with outdoor events and things to do. And whether you're a tourist or lifelong Canadian local, May in Montreal—with its lush green grass and blooming flowers—provides a memorable experience. Free art events and food festivals make for some of the biggest celebrations of the year. So, immerse yourself in the city's culture by adding one or two to your trip itinerary. Just make sure to pack a layer and a raincoat (for the unpredictable weather) or head inside on Museums Day if things get too bad.
An annual tradition with over 40 participating museums, Montreal Museums Day allows the public to visit the city's treasures free of charge. This event takes place on the last Sunday of the month and includes both the city's larger museums, as well as small, independently-funded galleries. Visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Montreal Science Centre to see new exhibits and interactive displays. Galerie Got in Old Montreal and the PHI Centre are favorites of photography buffs. And Pointe-à-Callière museum (also in Old Montreal) provides a hands-on archeological adventure for families.
The Montreal Sketchfest isn't as suspect as it sounds. In fact, this ten-day festival dedicated to sketch comedy features North America's most promising troupes. Most performers come from the major metropolitan hubs of Montreal, Toronto, New York, and Philadelphia, but the festival also features lesser-known acts from Vancouver, Ottawa, and Halifax. Admission prices vary and package deals (like double-features and weekend passes) provide the most bang for your buck. Catch the bulk of the performances at Théâtre Ste. Catherine.
Producing world-renowned maple syrup is a coveted Quebec pastime and you can see how it's done at Sucrerie de Montage. This weekend tradition starts out with a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the maple trees to see the sap drawn. Next, the nectar is taken to a wood-fired evaporator where it's transformed into delicious maple syrup. While you're there, partake in the all-you-can-eat sugaring-off feast and check out the general store, where you'll find maple syrup, butter taffy, and other sweet treats.
The art of tattooing takes center stage in Griffintown in May at a restored church called Le Salon 1861. Tattoo artists from around the world show off their own unique styles while food trucks and concerts add to the festive atmosphere. Griffintown, itself, is full of hipster restaurants, art galleries, antique shops, and cafes, making it a worthy stroll after the event.
Go back in time the first week of May by visiting the Montreal Medieval Fair at the Pierre-Charbonneau Center. You'll be bombarded with music and dancing, fights and acrobats while mingling among gunsmiths, jewelers, leathermen, and makers of armor, candles, and shoes. Vikings, Roman gladiators, and Musketeers will also grace your presence in the carnival-like atmosphere, complete with simulated battles and a fashion show.
Toward the end of May, a slew of bars and restaurants serve up specialty cocktails all week long during Invasion Cocktail, an annual celebration of Montreal's bar and nightlife scene. Featured bars include 132 Bar Vintage, Bar Palco, Bootlegger, Chez Tao, and La Distillerie No. 1. Download the free event passport app online to get deals on special creations at participating establishments. Invasion Cocktail also hosts events including cocktail workshops, a visit to the Cirka Distillery, and a brunch at Perles et Paddock.
The Chromatic Festival—held in mid-May—returns to the Ancienne École des beaux-arts de Montréal. The modern festival highlights the tech industry with exhibits on modern graphics artistry, digital installations, photography, virtual reality, and painting. Meant to bring attention to local Quebec artists, this event also attracts a diverse and expansive international crowd and community, as well as families. An industry-wide conference, complete with parties almost every night, caps off each day.
One of the largest celebrations of Latin culture in Quebec takes place each year at the Complexe Desjardins over Victoria Day. The annual Montreal Salsa Convention features workshops in salsa dance, dance showcases, free dance classes, and multi-level competitions all in one place. Complete with parties and feasts, this event draws both international and local talent, including amateur and professional dancers, DJs, and musicians.