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Montreal's Top Summer Festivals: 2018 Edition
Believe it or not, Montreal is high on energy every season, not just summer. Even the coldest days of winter don't stop Montreal's locals 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 terraces. 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 28 below.
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Le Mondial de la Bière (Montreal Beer Festival)
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. It's 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 during the first half of JuneContinue to 3 of 28 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 the city's top attractions, showering Montreal skies every Saturday evening (sometimes Wednesday evenings, too) throughout the summer.
When: Sometimes late June, all of July, sometimes AugustContinue to 4 of 28 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? Well, the sales don't hurt. And it is kind of fun to walk all over the street as if you own it while wolfing down cheap and yummy street food as you watch Montreal street dancers breakdance on their heads. You can also play chess on a jumbo board. Then there are the stilt walkers—you never know when you'll see one in Montreal.
When: June through OctoberContinue to 5 of 28 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 from May through September, sometimes OctoberContinue to 6 of 28 below.
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Piknic Électronik is Montreal's nightclub in the day park. House, techno, progressive, and minimal round out the genres generally spun. Unusually family-friendly, too.
When: Most Sundays from May through September, sometimes OctoberContinue to 7 of 28 below.
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Grand Prix Weekend
Montreal goes absolutely nuts when Formula One racing rolls into town. But it's not everyone's cup of tea. Many locals hide at home that weekend to avoid puking from disgust over complaints of pollution, overt sexism, sexual exploitation, and the mindless excess that the event seems to encourage, whereas others cannot wait to dive headfirst 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: Usually early to mid-JuneContinue to 8 of 28 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 that bad, make a beeline for the Fringe Fest beer tent.
When: First three weeks of JuneContinue to 9 of 28 below.
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One of Montreal's most important festivals attracting almost one million spectators during the course of 10 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. Several free outdoor shows are scheduled every year at Place des Festivals.
When: Mid-JuneContinue to 10 of 28 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 28 below.
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Montreal Jazz Festival
The largest jazz festival in the world is right here in Montreal, drawing in two million people during the course of its roughly two-week run. Hundreds of indoor shows are complemented by hundreds of free outdoor shows 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 28 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 that celebrates Montreal's Caribbean community, carnival style, with beautiful costumes, steelpan performances, and vibrant parade participants animating the event.
When: Usually the first Saturday in JulyContinue to 13 of 28 below.
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Universes collide come Montreal ComicCon, a convention center smorgasbord of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, wrestling, and comic book celebrity panels, photo ops, and autograph signings. Assorted paraphernalia round out the experience.
When: Early JulyContinue to 14 of 28 below.
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Just for Laughs Comedy Festival
Montreal's other juggernaut festival attracting upward 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 28 below.
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Montréal Complètement Cirque (Montreal Circus Festival)
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 perform year in, year out.
When: Two weeks in early to mid-JulyContinue to 16 of 28 below.
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Weekends du Monde
Since 2005, every summer in Montreal features two weekends of free activities and events at Parc Jean-Drapeau. 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 28 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 28 below.
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Festival International Nuits d'Afrique
The Festival International Nuits d'Afrique ("African Nights") is nearly two weeks of world beat from the African continent, a proverbial show of hands from more than 35 different nations. An annual festival tradition? Accessibility. Every year proposes at least a couple dozen free shows for the masses, with 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 28 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 28 below.
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Osheaga Arts & Music Festival
California has Coachella, Glastonbury has, well, Glastonbury, and Montreal has 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 21 of 28 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 multiday music fest held in Parc Jean-Drapeau.
When: Late July or early AugustContinue to 22 of 28 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. It's organized by the people behind Osheaga.
When: early to mid-AugustContinue to 23 of 28 below.
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Gay Pride Parade
Montreal's Gay Pride Parade is fun, flamboyant, and everyone is invited to this LGBTQ 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 24 of 28 below.
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Festival Mode & Design
Turning the downtown core into a series of free outdoor fashion shows and special events during the course of several days depending on the year, Montreal fashion fest Festival Mode et Design is one of the city's more visible summer attractions and a prime opportunity to check out the latest trends from local designers and high-street brands.
When: Mid- to late AugustContinue to 25 of 28 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 26 of 28 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: Late AugustContinue to 27 of 28 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.
When: Late August or first weekend of SeptemberContinue to 28 of 28 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, which is a favorite landmark/eyesore among kids, their parents, and their grandparents. It's historically possible their grandparents' 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