Calling all nighthawks, night owls and burners of midnight oil. The once-a-year, all-night, nearly citywide arts, culture and performance party that is Nuit blanche is nearly upon us. It’s a vast undertaking with almost innumerable options and opportunities, and with that in mind, we offer you this guide to one of Montreal’s brightest winter nights.
The 13th edition off Nuit blanche, part of the annual MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE winter arts and culture festival at locations all over downtown Montréal and surrounding neighbourhoods, starting on February 27 and ending in the wee hours of February 28.
WHAT YOU’RE GETTING YOURSELF INTO
One of the highlights of MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE is the always illuminating, always epic Nuit blanche all-nighter. Nuit blanche (“white night”) invites all comers to partake in upwards of 200 (mostly free) activities this year, including live music, film, dance, performance art, interactive installations, storytelling, digital and visual art, and great food to match a great night.
IT’S WHERE EXACTLY?
Almost everywhere MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE’s family-friendly free outdoor site in the downtown Quartier des Spectacles is the central hub from which all the action radiates. The site features a giant outdoor stage, interactive installations, dining areas, numerous fun activities (we don’t need to say “zip-line” twice) and live entertainment. It opens at noon and will remain abuzz until 3 a.m. From there Nuit blanche spreads out to music venues, art galleries, museums and other performance/arts spaces across three city districts: most of downtown, Old Montréal and the Plateau/Mile End.
How to get around town Montréal’s métro (or subway) will remain open all night for Nuit blanche with normal fare prices, and a free shuttle service (featuring 13 shuttles, 4 routes and 58 stops) will run every 10-15 minutes from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., linking all the activities and the aforementioned neighbourhoods. For bus and métro info, visit the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) website.
WHAT TO BRING
A plan Consider it a path to Nuit blanche happiness. This writer, for example, typically likes to start the evening at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in the downtown’s western Golden Square Mile district. From there it’s on to the Belgo Building arts complex (more about that later), then across Ste. Catherine Street to the free outdoor site for rockin’ snowy good times. After that a quick walk through the Quartier des Spectacles and then up trendy St. Laurent Boulevard to all its indie theatres, intimate music venues and cool arts spaces. If the prospect of making a plan fills you with dread, no worries: the thoughtful folks at Nuit blanche have done it for you. They’ve created three possible tour routes, one geared towards families, intended to maximize your evening experience.
Winter clothing Given that Montréal’s temperature can fluctuate pretty wildly at the end of February (it could be 5 degrees Celsius or -25) it’s just generally best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Warm, comfortable boots (Nuit blanche typically involves a fair amount of walking) are a must as are removable head/face coverings and warm gloves. And perhaps consider a double layer of socks and long underwear if you’re planning to spend any length of time at the outdoor site.
WHAT NOT TO BRING
Your own “refreshments” Be aware that personal alcoholic bevvies aren’t permitted within MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE’s outdoor site (bags will be checked at all the site’s entry points) and most clubs and venues tend to be at DEFCON 1: High Flask Alert during Nuit blanche.
Travel light It’s advisable to leave bulky items like purses and backpacks etc. at home, especially if you plan to do a lot of exploring.
WHAT NOT TO MISS
There are so many amazing/intriguing/bedazzling things happening that its entirely unfair to cherry pick a few. With that in mind, consider the following as a kind of taster menu:
Video warriors The Montréal International Documentary Festival and the Canadian Centre for Architecture bring back their YouTube Battle. The tournament will see 16 teams, armed with their most hilarious YouTube videos, facing off against one another. It will be followed by a DJ set.
Circus freaks! The TOHU centre for circus arts is presenting the second edition of its popular Freak Show, promising a wilder-than-ever trip into the eccentric world of the circus and sideshow freaks.
Brace for an art storm Plan a stop at Ste. Catherine Street’s enormous Belgo Building, a multi-floor warren of avant-garde arts spaces that is home to dance, visual arts, film, music, street arts, installation pieces and more (and there are usually more than a few open-door DJ dance parties on the go as well).
Underground art… literally Montréal’s Underground City is a yearly source of subterranean adventure at Art Souterrain, which this year presents 70 contemporary art projects spread throughout 13 buildings around downtown. There is a downloadable audio guide this year to help steer you on your way.
Place des Festivals This massive outdoor mall on the outdoor site will be host to live acts, DJs and VJs, as well as interactive games and art displays, ice carvings, marshmallow and sausage roasting, warming stations and loads of live entertainment. Also…
Action activities And at the south end of Place des Festivals you’ll find the awesomely popular, giant multi-coloured China Ferris Wheel, soaring Zip-Lines that extend almost the length of the festival site, the light- and sound-bathed Urban Ice Slide and a Mini-Slide for the kiddos.
The Nuit blanche program is available at information kiosks on the outdoor site, and the complete program for “Nuit blanche à Montréal” is available on the mobile app for iPhone and Android. With it you can pinpoint activities that are close courtesy of “radar” and “augmented reality” functions. It also makes it easy to share photos and videos of your fave #MTLMOMENTS. Now get some sleep – you’re going to need it.
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