Music Festival Guide for Osheaga in Montreal

The Osheaga sign at the music and arts festival


California has Coachella. Glastonbury has, well, Glastonbury. And Montreal? We've got Osheaga, a three-day summer smorgasbord of the music industry's hottest acts, from indie to top 40.

A music festival held in Parc Jean-Drapeau every summer since 2006, Osheaga is usually scheduled in late July and/or early August and lasts three days - three days of trending musical properties from the established to the emerging often playing at the same time but spread out across the grounds, part and parcel of Osheaga's charm.

As with other major international outdoor music festivals, attendees can discover dozens of acts in the course of one day, sometimes three or more in the span of one hour with booked talent often overlapping each other's stage time. As for the crowd, Osheaga attracts roughly 135,000 people over its three-day run, a huge leap from its 25,000-person debut in 2006.

Frequently Asked Questions

From why is the festival called Osheaga to where to stay if from out of town to what to bring and not bring on festival grounds, find out everything you need to know about attending one of Montreal's hottest music events by scrolling below.

Admission and Tickets

Headliners and the bulk of Osheaga's booked artists are usually revealed sometime in March or April. Three-day festival passes typically go on sale around the same time and one-day passes can be expected to become available as of May.

What Does Osheaga Mean Exactly?

According to festival organizers, the word “osheaga” has First Nations roots, as per Mohawk oral history. Festival organizers claim famed explorer Jacques Cartier first met members of the tribe near what's now called the Lachine rapids and he was apparently waving his hands around. They say it was unclear if he was trying to shake their hands or inquire about the rapids so the Mohawk tribe members, confused, allegedly looked at each other and said "o she ha ga," which fest organizers claim is Iroquois for “people of shaking hands.” Meanwhile, they say Cartier thought that "o she ha ga" meant large rapids, the possibly first of a long series of language and cultural misunderstandings between Europeans and First Nations.

Yet other sources claim that members of the tribe exclaimed ''oshahaka,'' or ''people of the hand'' to describe what they saw as the white man's unusual fixation on shaking people's hands when they greeted. 

And yet select historians think that ''osheaga'' derives from Hochelaga, or vice versa. Hochelaga was, at the time of Jacques Cartier's arrival during his second voyage to the part of the New World in what is today's Quebec, a sixteenth-century Iroquois village which Cartier visited on October 3, 1535. Some linguists think the word Hochelaga is a French mispronunciation of an Iroquois word. That word, according to historians, is ''osheaga.'' And they claim it's Iroquois for ''big rapids,'' contradicting the festival's historical claims.

Can I Camp on the Grounds?

There is no camping at Parc Jean-Drapeau, Osheaga's official site. And there are no hotels in the park. However, downtown and Old Montreal are but a short subway ride away and feature a slew of choice accommodations.

For a European feel, try one of Old Montreal's top hotels. For accommodations in the heart of downtown and Montreal's entertainment district, consider Montreal festival hotels. For a stay sandwiched between Chinatown and Old Montreal, hotels near Montreal convention center Palais des congrès are perfect.

If money is no object, make a beeline for Montreal's most luxurious hotels. And if aching for style but on a slightly tighter budget, some Montreal boutique hotels will fit the bill. 

When Can I Show Up?

Osheaga usually opens the festival grounds one hour before the first act is scheduled to perform. Depending on the edition, expect to have access to the grounds anytime between noon and 1 p.m. 

What Should I Bring to the Festival?

Fest-goers can bring the following items on Osheaga grounds:

  • one clear plastic water bottle per person (fountains are on-site for refills)
  • small beach towels
  • waterproof ponchos / small umbrellas
  • small, non-camping sized backpacks, bags and purses
  • sunscreen
  • lighters/cigarettes (except sunscreen in flammable aerosol cans)
  • disposable cameras
  • digital cameras (non-professional, i.e., no SLRs, no removable lenses)
  • disposable cameras (non-professional)
  • baby strollers

Note that all bags are searched.

What Am I Not Allowed to Bring?

Fest-goers who attempt to bring the following items on site will either have them confiscated or will not be allowed to access the grounds:

  • alcoholic beverages (brought from outside)
  • illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia
  • glass bottles and cans
  • musical instruments
  • rigid coolers or other such containers
  • megaphones
  • laser pointers
  • fireworks
  • beach balls, soccer balls, frisbees, etc…
  • skateboards
  • animals (except guide dogs)
  • items intended for sale and/or promotion
  • flags or banners
  • large backpacks (camping size)
  • tents
  • large beach umbrellas
  • folding chairs
  • video equipment (unless otherwise pre-authorized under media accreditation)
  • professional photo equipment (SLR cameras, i.e. removable lens cameras, unless otherwise pre-authorized under media accreditation)
  • audio recording equipment
  • items intended for sale/promotion (unless otherwise pre-authorized by organizers)
  • any object that can be used to cause bodily harm

What About Food and Drinks?

Osheaga has several vendors selling food (burgers, vegetarian, foodie/exotic, etc.) and drink (alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, tea, coffee, etc.). And yes, poutine is available. Smoked meat will probably be as well.

A quick note about Quebec's legal drinking age. It's the lowest in North America but nonetheless, ensure to have at least two pieces of I.D. with you for unhindered access to alcohol.


Osheaga is not in short supply of bathrooms, portable or otherwise, but soap and toilet paper is another matter. From personal experience, we've learned to bring our own stash of TP and hand sanitizer as hygienic insurance. It's paid off.

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