One of the best things about Montréal in summer is how easy it is to happen upon free concerts by major music stars, see a high-wire circus act in a park, find games for kids in a downtown square or fireworks shows in the night sky.
Festival freedom in June
Montréal’s many festivals almost always have a free component. First: we’ve made both a 2016 summer festival guide and a guide to summer music festivals to help navigate all that’s going on. Second: Here’s a look at some of the free stuff. Just before summer’s official start, two festivals give us free, family-friendly concerts by local and visiting musicians: Les FrancoFolies festival of French-language music on several stages at Place des Festivals in the Quartier des Spectacles until June 18, and the Montreal Folk Festival on the Canal, outdoors in the sun by the Lachine Canal and Atwater Market, June 15-19. The Montréal St-Ambroise Fringe Festival brings free theatre and live music into its eclectic mix at Fringe Park (corner of St-Laurent and Rachel) to June 19. And there’s free art to be seen and music to be heard at MURAL Festival’s final weekend, June 18-19. In Old Montréal, the Montréal Baroque Festival takes us back in time June 23-26, with free concerts at Square Phillips, Redpath Museum, Oratoire Saint-Joseph and other venues.
Festival freedom in July and august
When the hot summer days really arrive, so does the Montréal International Jazz Festival, letting loose a world of jazz, blues, rock, hip hop and more on outdoor stages at Place des Festivals, plus the Rio Tinto Musical Park for kids, June 29-July 9 – see Sharon Jones the Dap-Kings on opening night, Jamie Cullum on July 4, and much more free music. Follow the beat of the International Percussion Festival July 2-10, featuring more than 50 free and participatory performances and workshops. After all that jazz comes multidisciplinary circus arts festival MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUE, featuring several free outdoor performances by world-renowned Québécois and international companies at venues city-wide, July 7-17. And then comes the comedy of Just For Laughs, setting up a kids play zone and more entertainment, along with a street festival and parade on July 23 at Place des Festivals. African and African-influenced music shines at the Nuits D’Afrique festival, including free outdoor shows by Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, Afrique en Cirque, Les Ogres de Barback and many more, July 19-24.
Spectacular free things
The latest and greatest fireworks technology explodes above the Montréal sky this summer during L’International des Feux Loto-Québec fireworks competition, July 2-30 – a sight to behold from any high vantage point in the city. Celebrate the 180th Fête Nationale du Québec on the night of June 23 with a huge party with live music in the Quartier des Spectacles, followed on June 24 by a massive parade along Ste-Catherine Street downtown in the early afternoon and official neighbourhood parties throughout the city. More fireworks and music happen during the Canada Day celebrations in the Old Port on July 1. High fashion meets practical everyday wear in eye-catching free outdoor fashion shows during the Fashion Design Festival, August 15-20. And free for kids under 10 and inexpensive for teens and adults, Jackalope wows with extreme sports, including base jumping from the top of Olympic Stadium (!), plus live music, food trucks, a water gun fight, and more, August 19-21 at Olympic Park.
Free film, art and games
Film fans rejoice every year for the sci-fi, horror, fantasy and other genre films at the Fantasia International Film Festival, July 14-August 2, including free outdoor screenings. The SAT’s cinema under the stars series screens features, shorts and documentaries in Place de la Paix downtown all summer, and the RIDM documentary festival screens films in parks citywide. View art installations and more at the Aires Libres public art event in the Gay Village and discover over 600 public art works throughout the city in self-lead tours. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Museum’s Collections and Discovery Exhibitions are accessible free of charge the last Sunday of every month, and at all times for those aged 30 and younger. Experience whole new worlds at the Phi Centre’s Virtual Reality Garden to July 3 and Embodied Narrative: Sensory Stories of the Digital Age exhibition to August 21, plus the centre’s Affinities talks in conjunction with the free Joan Jonas art exhibition at DHC-ART. And the Mondial des Jeux festival of free games challenges players of all ages in video games, board games, physically challenging activities and more, July 16-30.
Parks and picnics
Pop-up markets with food, drink, music and free activities can be found throughout the city in July and August: Jardins Gamelin hosts performances, DJ nights, live music and other events in an oasis-like park downtown, complete with food and cocktail bar; Pop Montréal’s Marché des Possibles opens for fun times every weekend in Mile End; and Marché du Village au Pied-du-Courant at the foot of the Jacques-Cartier bridge holds free music events and more all summer. The McCord Museum of history creates a bright and calming Urban Forest in the street next door, with free entertainment every day all summer. Take a walk (or a bus) to the top of Mount Royal Park for one of the best views of downtown and beyond. Picnic and play in Parc La Fontaine in the Plateau and see cultural performances at the park’s open-air Théâtre de Verdure, including the Haïti en folie festival. And escape the city entirely in Parc Jean-Drapeau, a short metro ride away from downtown – celebrate Montréal’s cultural diversity during music, dance, food and fun event Week-ends du Monde, July 9-10 and 16-17. Repercussion Theatre adds drama to the parks with its annual Shakespeare in the Park performances: this year see The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. And cool off with a free swim at outdoor pools in the city’s parks – see our guide to swimming and sun in Montréal for more.
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