There’s always something going on in Montréal in spring, whether the snow is falling or melting, but this year the number of free happenings gets a boost with the city’s 375th anniversary. Outdoor multimedia shows, musical swings, giant marionettes and more, we’ve got you covered for things to do in Montréal for free with friends, kids or on your own – from the first day of spring to the last.
Energetic kids and adults alike can swing and make music at the same time on the 21 Swings musical art installation, right downtown on de Maisonneuve Boulevard outside Place des Arts starting April 10.Head to traditional-meets-urban Cabane à sucre urbaine on April 9 at Place Émilie-Gamelin to try old-fashioned maple taffy on snow. Photography project Aime comme Montréal celebrates diversity in an installation at Place des arts, April 20 to May 21. Take a historical tour alog the Saint-Lawrence river using the Montréal, toute une histoire free mobile app. Family-friendly Flashmob in your neighborhood pairs entertaining dance performances with high-tech digital projections, at the Olympic Stadium Esplanade May 6 and June 2. Two incredible multimedia light shows start on May 17: Illumination of the Jacques Cartier Bridge by Moment Factory’s digital, real-time interactive lighting creation; and Montréal Avudo, a spectacular show that brings the Saint-Lawrence River to life in the Old Port featuring historic 3D images, screens of water, an original score and more. And May 19-21, keep your eyes peeled for The Giants, Royal de Luxe street theatre’s building-sized marionettes roaming the city.
Curious kids will love the hands-on Eurêka Festival, with over 100 thought-provoking demos, workshops, performances, magic shows and more, outdoors in the Old Port, June 9 to 11. Delve into Québec’s varied history, art and culture with a museums pass, taking advantage of the fact that kids 12 and under have free admission at many of the city’s major museums and galleries, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (which hosts several workshops and tours for kids and where admission to the permanent collections is also free for ages 13-30), the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, history museums the McCord Museum, the Stewart Museum and the Centre d’histoire de Montréal, the Biosphere environment museum (free to 17 and under, in fact!) at Parc Jean-Drapeau, McGill’s Redpath Museum (see whale and dinosaur bones!), the Canadian Centre for Architecture and more. If you’ve got a toddler or pre-schooler, thrill them with the antics of monkeys, capybaras, penguins, sloths and more wildlife at the Space for Life Biôdome – kids 4 and under are free. If you’re here on May 28, Museums Day means that almost all museums and galleries free for everyone! The Blue Metropolis literature festival features free readings, discussions and storytelling for all ages, April 24-30. And kids 12 and under ride free in Go Bike Montréal‘s massive Tour de l’Île de Montréal and Tour la Nuit public rides in early June.
Go for a scenic walk along Old Port boardwalk next to the Saint-Lawrence River with views of the city, iconic Habitat 67 and the Biosphere on Île Sainte-Hélène. Continue on through Old Montréal, where if you need to check a map or restaurant reviews online you can do it for free via the MtlWiFi network. A walk up Saint-Laurent Boulevard any time is colourful, but even more so during Mural Fest, June 8 to 18, when you can watch artists paint new works on buildings’ walls. From there go to the top of Mount Royal for one of the best views of downtown, the east end and the Saint-Lawrence, stroll around the fountain and picnickers in Parc La Fontaine in the Plateau, and escape the city entirely by taking a short metro ride over to beautiful Parc Jean-Drapeau – download the park’s free sound-walk app to discover public art, architecture and local music while you’re there.
See world-class dance and theatre at Festival Transamériques, including in open-air art installations and performances May 25 to June 8, and boundary-pushing emerging artists at OFFTA, May 30 to June 8. Watch the outdoor stage downtown at the Formula 1 Grand Prix not only to for appearances by drivers but for live music too, June 10 to 12. Also in early June, the Montréal St-Ambroise Fringe Festival is cheap as it is but also features several free performances – theatrical shows, live music and drag queens to name a few – on its outdoor stage at the corner of St-Laurent and Rachel. And from May 17 all the way to mid-October, watch for more performances, music, karaoke, food, drink and more events atthe redesigned Jardins Gamelin outside Berri-UQAM metro station downtown.
Community-minded punk rock festival Pouzza Fest takes over part of downtown May 20 to 22 with outdoor shows, food trucks and barbecues. Hear classical music and jazz recitals for free as the school year winds down at McGill’s Schulich School of Music, while Christ Church Cathedral holds a variety of by-donation concerts every week and the Festival Musique de Chambre Montréal presents free concerts in early June. One of the world’s biggest Francophone music festivals, Les Francofolies brings free outdoor concerts outside at Place des Festivalsto June 8 to 18. And spread out a picnic blanket along the the historic Lachine Canal while talented local and visiting musicians play outdoors in the sun as the Montreal Folk Festival on the Canal celebrates its 10th year June 14 to 18.
Citywide digital arts events Printemps Numériques showcases technological creativity in its many forms, March 21 to June 21. Art fair Papier gathers dozens of the city’s art galleries in a massive exhibition and sale of contemporary art on paper – see it all at Arsenal gallery April 21-23. Chromatic Festival celebrates local art and creativity with art exhibitions and late-night parties May 24 to June 1 at Arsenal at Studio l’Éloi. . In late May, the Montréal Comic Arts Festival brings Québec artists and their art to Parc La Fontaine along with free activities for all ages. And you’ll definitely know when spring has officially sprung when public art event Aires Libres drapes hundreds of pink balls above Sainte-Catherine Street in the Village.
Along with major museums‘ free evenings (not to mention free entry for kids), discover a wealth of commercial galleries and artist-run centres throughout the city. Five floors of art in downtown’s Belgo Building, home to SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art, , Projet Pangée, Galerie Donald Browne, SKOL, Galerie Dominique Bouffard, Les Territoires, Visual Voice, Circa and more. Downtown’s Galerie UQAM at the Université du Québec à Montréal, Old Montréal’s Phi Centre, DHC/ART and Darling Foundry, Parisian Laundry in St-Henri and Arsenal next door in Little Burgundy/Griffintown always feature incredible international and local artists. Go for the art, stay for the neighbourhoods’ restaurants, shopping and creative good vibes at the Plateau and Mile End’s Galerie Simon Blais, Centre Clark, Optica, Galerie d’Este and Monastiraki, and Little Italy/Mile-Ex’s Never Apart, Galerie Yves Laroche, Battat Contemporary and Eastern Bloc. Spring is clearly all about creativity in Montréal!
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