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Montreal's Hottest Summer Festivals: 2018 Edition
Best Montreal Summer Events in 2018: The Crème de la Crème
Believe it or not, this town is high on energy every season. Even the coldest days of winter don't stop us from dancing in the streets.
But there's something unique about Montreal's hot and sticky summers. Thoroughfares close off to cars to make way for sidewalk sales and terrasses. The entertainment district's Place des Festivals primes its 235 water jets for weeks of free concerts, events and artistic manifestations. Parc Jean-Drapeau turns into a wonderland of music fests, picnics and assorted frolicking. And some of Montreal's best summer events, as listed below, draw crowds in the millions.Continue to 2 of 31 below.
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Montreal Beer Festival Le Mondial de la Bière
I'm cheating a little here. It's technically still spring when Montreal's Mondial de la Bière rolls around the first or second week of June, but this event has the making of a summer prelude. A chance to sample hundreds of beers from around the world, try the latest in chocolate beer, pair a lager with a slab of kangaroo meat or indulge in special brews made expressly for the festival. Pub crawls involving Montreal's hottest brewpubs are often part of the fun once the fest shuts down for the night.
When: usually some time during the first half of JuneContinue to 3 of 31 below.
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Montreal International Fireworks Competition
The largest pyrotechnics competition of its kind in the world, the Montreal International Fireworks Competition has been going strong since 1985 and remains one of this city's top attractions, showering Montreal skies every Saturday evening (Wednesday evenings too, depending on the edition) throughout the summer.
When: sometimes end of June, all of July, sometimes AugustContinue to 4 of 31 below.
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Montreal Sidewalk Sales
What is it about the lure of summer sidewalk sales that gets some folks all giddy over them? The sales don't hurt, I suppose.
And it is kind of fun to walk all over the street like you own it while wolfing down cheap and yummy street food as you watch Montreal street dancers breakdance on their heads -LOVE those guys! If you spot some gents popping and locking with their "Montreal Street Dancers" shirts on, tell them I say hi!- or play chess on a jumbo board. Then there's the stilts people. You never know when you'll see one in Montreal.*
When: June through October
*Don't ask. I have no answer.Continue to 5 of 31 below.
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Ah yes. The mysticism of the hand drum dance in the park paired with dark age revivalists fighting to the death with foam swords. Like the stilts people who roam Montreal, no one is entirely sure why Montreal loves its Tam Tams so, but it does. And so it is.
When: Sundays May through OctoberContinue to 6 of 31 below.
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Piknic Electronik. Montreal's nightclub in the day park. On Sundays. House, techno, progressive, and minimal round out the genres generally spun. Unusually family-friendly too.
When: most Sundays May through September, sometimes OctoberContinue to 7 of 31 below.
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Grand Prix Weekend
Montreal goes absolutely nuts when F1 rolls into town. But it's not everyone's cup of tea. Many locals hide at home the duration of the weekend to avoid puking from disgust over complaints of pollution, overt sexism, sexual exploitation and mindless excess the event seems to encourage, while others cannot wait to dive head first into the madness, be it at associated street parties or exclusive invite-only affairs. Folks are so divided over the race, it's remarkable.
When: generally early to mid-JuneContinue to 8 of 31 below.
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Montreal Fringe Festival
Expect anything to happen on stage at the Montreal Fringe Festival: the good, the bad, the outrageous, you name it, the Fringe Fest categorically refuses to censor it.
A performance art festival that believes anyone should be able to express creative urges in front of an audience if they so wish, the Fringe Fest selects its lineup via a judge-free lottery system that randomly awards applicants a spot on the roster, the ultimate democratic solution to bypassing casting couch suckage and/or who-you-know politics for a chance to show the world what they can do. After all, it's luck of the draw. In turn, audience members are charged modest admission fees to ostensibly counter the risk factor inherent with the Fringe's unique hit-or-miss selection system. That chainsaw dance massacre you paid $10 to catch could very well be the performance art highlight of your entire summer. Or it could be 45 groan-worthy minutes of your life you'll never get back. But hey, if it's really tha...t bad, make a bee line for the Fringe Fest beer tent.
When: first three weeks of JuneContinue to 9 of 31 below.
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One of Montreal's most important festivals attracting almost one million spectators over the course of ten days, Les FrancoFolies de Montréal is the largest French music festival in the world. June in Montreal? Only the best time of the year to discover the language of love in song, including free of charge: several free outdoor shows are scheduled every edition at Place des festivals.
When: two weeks in mid-JuneContinue to 10 of 31 below.
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Gay Village Summer Events
Every spring and summer, the Montreal Gay Village undergoes a transformation. Its main thoroughfare Ste. Catherine Street shuts itself down to car traffic, making room for the neighborhood to come alive with free art exhibits, street sales, performances and spontaneous out-of-left-field busking action. And like clockwork, Gay Village restaurants and bars flood the concrete with terraces.
When: usually May through SeptemberContinue to 11 of 31 below.
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Montreal Jazz Festival
The largest jazz festival in the world? Right here in Montreal, drawing in two million people over the course of its roughly two-week run. Hundreds of indoor shows complemented by hundreds of free outdoor show featuring the best in the biz, check out this year's Montreal Jazz Festival lineup. And be primed to join the masses indulging in dozens of free outdoor shows scheduled every day at Place des festivals, the Jazz Fest's official hub.
When: late June through early JulyContinue to 12 of 31 below.
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Carifiesta Montreal -aka Carifête- is one of the city's more engaging parades, a summer tradition in effect since 1975 celebrating Montreal's Caribbean community, carnival style, with beautiful costumes, steelpan performances and vibrant parade participants animating the event. Find out when the next Carifiesta parade is due.
When: usually the first Saturday of JulyContinue to 13 of 31 below.
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Universes collide come Montreal Comiccon, a convention centre smorgasbord of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, wrestling and comic book celebrity Q&As, photo ops and autograph signings. Assorted paraphernalia round out the experience. My favorite part? Comiccon's cosplayer minions.
When: used to be mid-September but in 2016, the first weekend of JulyContinue to 14 of 31 below.
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Montreal Comedy Festival Just for Laughs
Montreal's other juggernaut festival attracting in the upwards of two million rubberneckers interested in free outdoor performances is Just for Laughs, a comedy fest crawling with talent scouts, booking agents, managers and producers looking for the next big thing. Many of today's household names -Denis Leary, Tim Allen Dave Chappelle, Jon Stewart- got their big break at the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival or saw their career take off after participating.
When: most of JulyContinue to 15 of 31 below.
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Montreal Circus Festival Montréal Complètement Cirque
One could make a case for Montreal being a world capital for circus arts, what, with Cirque du Soleil headquarters located in the city alongside the National Circus School and other renowned Quebec circus troupes such as Les 7 Doigts de la main and Cirque Éloize staking a claim to international circus fame. So it should come as no surprise that one of Montreal's leading summer festivals -Montréal Complètement Cirque- homes in on the mind-bending contortions, flips, juggling, balancing, clowning, flying and other physical feats circus artists surprise us with year in, year out.
When: two weeks in early to mid-JulyContinue to 16 of 31 below.
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Weekends du Monde
Every summer in Montreal features two weekends of free activities and events at Parc Jean-Drapeau, this, since 2005. It's called Weekends du Monde (French for "weekends of the world") and the four-day attraction features live entertainment, family fun and workshops, everything from on-the-spot dance lessons to world beat performances. Last but not least, there's food, glorious edibles representing the culinary traditions of Montreal's various cultural communities.
When: two weekends in JulyContinue to 17 of 31 below.
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A summer tradition in Montreal, Shakespeare-in-the-Park is an annual theatrical performance of Shakespeare's work set in various Montreal parks free of charge courtesy of Repercussion Theatre.
When: most of July, sometimes spilling into AugustContinue to 18 of 31 below.
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The Festival international Nuits D'Afrique ("African Nights") in nearly two weeks of world beat from the African continent, a proverbial show of hands from over 35 different nations. An annual festival tradition? Accessibility. Every edition proposes at least a couple dozen free shows for the masses, concerts usually held on an outdoor stage about a block or so east of Place des Festivals.
When: almost two full weeks in mid JulyContinue to 19 of 31 below.
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Fantasia Film Festival
Fantasia Film Festival, a Montreal silver screen staple since 1996, is not quite as tame and heartwarming as Disney's groundbreaking collection of shorts that go by the same name. Horror, fantasy, Hong Kong action, animation, gored up sci-fi, gratuitous nudie shot B-movies, name your non-PG genre and chances are Fantasia has it covered in its programming, particularly Asian films which make up almost half of every year's selection.
When: usually mid-July to early AugustContinue to 20 of 31 below.
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Formula E Race
Montreal's first Formula E Race runs July 29 and July 30, 2017 just south of the Gay Village. View map. Whether the electric car road race will be on the annual FIA roster remains to be seen. Brought to you by FIA, the federation behind the Formula One Canada Grand Prix.Continue to 21 of 31 below.
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California has Coachella, Glastonbury has, well, Glastonbury and Montreal? We've got Osheaga, a smaller-scale answer to its mega-fest cousins, a music festival held in Parc Jean-Drapeau every summer, one featuring dozens of the hottest acts in the music industry, from headlining household names to up-and-comers poised to take their place.
When: late July and/or early AugustContinue to 22 of 31 below.
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Heavy Montreal features an annual lineup of the hottest metal bands. Hardcore, hard rock, death metal, thrash metal and a cross section of other subgenres round out the usually three-day long music fest held in Parc Jean-Drapeau. Sadly, it's a no-go in 2017. Park renovations shortened festival season this year. Expect Heavy Montreal to be back in 2018 though.
When: early AugustContinue to 23 of 31 below.
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ÎleSoniq is Montreal's chief EDM festival, a chance to catch some of electronic music's hottest acts under the same proverbial roof. Hot properties from other genres, notably hip hop, are also thrown into the mix. Organized by the peeps behind Osheaga.
When: early to mid-AugustContinue to 24 of 31 below.
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Gay Pride Parade
Montreal's Gay Pride Parade is fun, flamboyant, and everyone is invited to a LGBTA tradition going strong since it was rooted in 1979, when a group of 200 people commemorated New York City's 1969 Stonewall Riots with "Gairilla," a precursor to Montreal's gay pride parade celebrations.
When: mid-AugustContinue to 25 of 31 below.
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Fashion Festival Mode et Design
Turning the downtown core into a series of free outdoor fashion shows and special events over the course of four, five or even six days depending on the year, Montreal fashion fest Festival Mode et Design is one of the city's more visible summer attractions, a prime opportunity to check out the latest trends from local designers and high street brands.
When: mid to late AugustContinue to 26 of 31 below.
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World Film Festival
High on clout, low on commercialism, Montreal's World Film Festival is, according to its founder Serge Losique, considered the "largest fully independent film festival in the world." And Losique's reputation precedes him, one characterized by stubborn resolve in preventing "interference from funding agencies or commercial sponsors."
When: late August to mid-SeptemberContinue to 27 of 31 below.
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World Press Photo
The most prestigious photojournalism competition in the world, World Press Photo drops its annual exhibition of winners by way of Montreal every September, sometimes earlier.
When: usually throughout September, sometimes starts as early as late AugustContinue to 28 of 31 below.
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18th Century Market
A public market reenactment of what it was like to shop, dress and socialize with the Montreal community in 1750, Pointe-à-Callière, Montreal's museum of history and archeology, sets up stands with "authentic" 1750s produce for sale and hires actors to roam around Old Montreal, gesturing and talking 18th century style. Also, the event has hands-on games and kid-approved cookies as well as spirits, cider and cheese for a more mature palette.
When: the last or before last weekend of August, but in 2017, it's exclusively held in the spring and rebranded "Encounters in New France"Continue to 29 of 31 below.
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Following in the footsteps of Berlin's defunct Love Parade and Paris' Techno Parade, the latter which attracts up to 400,000 dancers, is Montreal's first ever Electro Parade. Technically, it's also North America's first electro parade. Count on thousands invading the streets of Montreal September 2, 2017 to dance to electro, techno, and house tunes spun by local and international DJs. Fingers crossed it becomes an annual tradition.
When: Labour Day weekendContinue to 30 of 31 below.
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Labour Day Weekend
Canada Labour Day weekend in Montreal as well as in the province of Quebec as a whole is rife with business closures, countryside getaways and a collective lamentation over the symbolic end of summer, which coincides with the first Monday of every September across Canada as well as the United States.
When: last weekend of August and/or first weekend of SeptemberContinue to 31 of 31 below.
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Orange Julep's Vintage Hot Rods
Legend has it that since at least the '60s, Montreal's finest hot wheels and classic cars converge at the "Big Orange" on Decarie Boulevard, a favorite landmark/eyesore among kids, their parents, their grandparents... it's historically possible their grandparent's parents perused the parking lot for yesteryear's modern rides as they sipped the secret recipe behind the Orange Julep, a foamy, neon orange liquid that inspired original founder Hermas Gibeau to set up shop in 1932.
When: throughout summer