It’s almost December in Montreal, which means the lights have gone up, the mulled wine has come out and the carollers have taken to the streets. This year, we’ve been lucky enough (or unlucky enough, depending on your perspective) to see plenty of the white stuff fall from the sky well before December, making for what feels like an extended holiday period.
We’re personally far from feeling any winter fatigue, though. There’s plenty to do in Montreal come December; the Christmas markets especially are a big draw. If you—like us—are stoked for another few months of winter fun or are keen to discover new ways to indulge your festive side, check out these recommendations for annual winter traditions from our staff, who have spent years honing their ideal local winter experiences… yule be glad you did!
“Skating on Mount Royal. They’ve got a cute little rink and music-themed weekends. It’s a quiet getaway from the rest of the city. Or a day trip to le Village illuminé at the Village Québécois d’Antan. They do carriage tours and you can go cross country skiing there. It’s like a winter wonderland. Another thing I would recommend generally is to check your local neighbourhood events. Lots of neighbourhoods have their own pop-up christmas markets and activities.” —Rachel, English Teacher/Front Team
Mount Royal may have a reputation for its stunning summertime views, but it’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of Montreal all year round. You won’t find many skating rinks with a better view than the one on Mount Royal’s Beaver Lake. City busses regularly run up the mountain for those that are weary of the walk, and the scene at the top is like something out of a Christmas card.
Drummondville’s Village Québécois d’Antan—or “village of yesteryear”—caters to those that like a side of history with their winter amusements. On select dates in December and January, the village is lit up with 25,000 lights and hosts a number of indoor and outdoor activities, including a Christmas market and a chance to meet Santa and his elves for the little ones. Oh, and doughnuts. Lots of doughnuts.
What: Le Village illuminé Desjardins at le Village Québécois d’Antan
Where: Drummondville, QC
When: December 7, 8, 14 and 15 and from December 21 to January 2 (excluding December 25 and January 1), 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
How much: $21.74 for adults, $17.39 for teens, $16.09 for children
“The craft market at Bonaventure is a good place to do Christmas shopping. You’ll find things you can’t find in the stores.” —Kanako, Front Team
The Salon des métiers d’art du Québec brings over 400 vendors together from across the province to hawk their unique wares, all designated as “crafts” by the Conseil des métiers d’art du Québec. This year’s fair will be held between December 6 and 16 at Place Bonaventure and feature a range of products including food and drink, clothing, jewellery, soaps and more. And the best part: free samples galore!
What: Salon des métiers d’art du Québec
Where: Place Bonaventure, 800 rue de la Gauchetière
When: December 6 to 16, 11 am to 9 pm (Monday to Saturday), 11 am to 6 pm (Sunday)
How much: Free admission
“Tobogganing at Mount Royal Park is one of my fondest memories growing up. I hope I can pass it on when I have my own family.” —Precilla, Front Team/Graphic Designer
Tobogganing is perhaps the most quintessential Canadian winter activity, and as long as you’ve got your own toboggan, sled, Crazy Carpet or Flying Saucer, it’s completely free at any public park with a good hill. There are plenty of parks around the city that are ideal for a good slide, but the views on Mount Royal are unparalleled. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, why not give tubing a try?
Where: Public parks around the city
When: Whenever there’s enough snow on the ground
How much: Free (rentals may be available for a fee at certain parks in and around the city)
“When my friends and I were at University in Ottawa, we always went skating on the Rideau Canal at least once a year. It’s beautiful.” —Kelsea, English Teacher/Administration
If you’re looking for a road trip outside of Montreal, grab your skates (or rent a pair by the ice) and head to the world’s largest skating rink, which winds through the nation’s capital for 7.8 km. Don’t forget to bring your appetite—there are Beavertails and other goodies available for sale along the Canal. If you visit later in the winter (February 1 to 18), you can also check out Winterlude, Canada’s preeminent winter festival.
What: Rideau Canal Skateway
Where: Ottawa, ON
When: (Typically) January to late February or early March
How much: Free
Do you have a favourite winter tradition in or around Montreal? Let us know in the comments!
– By Holly Tousignant