Every winter Montréal lights up for its biggest winter festival: Montréal en Lumière. The festival combines art exhibits, films, theater, music, gastronomy, and a outdoor site with free activities. This year the festival started on February 18 and lasted until March 5, 2016.
The heart of the festival, the free outdoor site, is located in the Place des Festivals in the Quartier des spectacles. Most activities happen there or around that area. During the festival the buildings display special light installations. A stage is set where local DJs and bands play. People form huge lineups for a chance to go in the ice slide, the ferris wheel, and the zipline that crosses the entire festival site. Food stalls sell hot foods and beverages to keep you warm. People gather around the bonfires scattered in the site. Some buy sausages and marshmallows on the stick to roast them themselves.
The bulk of the festival free entertainment is scheduled on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. But the most anticipated night of the festival is the Nuit Blanche. It’s held on the last Saturday of Montréal en Lumière. In 2016, the Nuit Blanche runs February 27, 2016. It attracts thousands of people eager to enjoy the 135 different activities around Montréal.
There’s no time to sleep. The activities are available to the public from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The activities are scattered around the city, in the old Montréal area, the underground city, the city center, Quartier des spectacles, Plateau Mont-Royal and Olympic Park. There are free shuttle buses connecting the sites. The metro stays open all night long.
To enjoy the Nuit Blanche some planing is required. There’s so much to do that you can easily get lost like I did. I decided to stick to the attractions around the Quartier des spectacles to avoid spending too much time moving around town. I guess everyone had that same idea. I ended up bouncing from one place to another without being able to get in anywhere because of the huge lineups. After trying a few places nearby, all awfully crowded, I decided to relax and just enjoy the Place des Festivals.
When I decided to visit Canada in the dead of winter I was expecting a dark gloomy atmosphere. Instead I saw myself struggling to fit all the winter festivals into my travel schedule. There’s the Quebec Winter Carnival in Quebec city, the Winterlude in Ottawa and the Montréal en Lumière in Montréal.