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Bucket List, Canada, Weekend Getaways

Montreal Bucket List – unique winter experiences you have to try

Montreal Bucket List:  7 ultimate winter experiences you have to try!

Don’t like winter? Thoughts of snow and ice make you want to run for the sun?  It’s time for a paradigm shift and Montreal’s winter festivities is just what you need to change all that!  Embrace it!  Experience it!  Love it!  Welcome to winter.  Welcome to Montreal.

Photo courtesy of the Montreal Tourism Board.  Photo credit: Stephan Poulin

Photo courtesy of the Montreal Tourism Board. Photo credit: Stephan Poulin

When I think of Montreal, I think of summer festivals, the Montreal Expos (childhood memories of trips into the city for baseball and people watching on Rue St Catherine) and bike racing.  I have spent more time racing my bicycle in the outlying towns of Montreal with early mornings spent driving across the city to get to the start line than anything else.  Sure, we have made the occasional trip to the Marché Jean Talon (fresh food market, gourmet Italian luxuries and traditional french Canadian delicacies at the Marché des Saveurs) for a day out or stop for lunch, but all too often, we drive by!  With a top 10 listing in Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Cities to Visit in 2013, I can see I have been missing out.

So…what do you do when the mercury plummets?  Go underground to Montreal’s Underground City and shopping district (officially known as Le RÉSO or La Ville Souterraine).  Shop the many unique boutiques in town?  Cozy up with cocktails or hit the town for a night of dancing at one of the many spectacular nightclubs?  What about staring Jack Frost down, snow suiting up and embrace the sub-zero nightlife that has made it’s mark on Montreal?

Embracing Montreal’s Unique Winter Bucket List

Snow Village – what can I say…sleeping in an ice hotel has been on my bucket list forever!  When I found out Montreal now has, not only an ice hotel, but the whole enchilada with a full ice themed village, I knew I had to check it out.  This is a limited time offer as the hotel melts away every year and has to be rebuilt from scratch for the next season.  They also have the Pommery Ice Restaurant to complete this unique package.  Like the hotel, it is made completely out of snow and ice.  Each year is themed after a different city and 2013 is the year of New York.  Check out the amazing packages with the InterContinental Hotel - they are the privileged partner to the snow village!  What are you waiting for?  This is your chance to spend a night in the ultimate snow fort!  (Read my review here: The Night I Slept in an Ice Hotel)

Photo courtesy of the Montreal Tourism Board.  Photo credit: Marco Michaud

Photo courtesy of the Montreal Tourism Board. Photo credit: Marco Michau

IglooFest – the only music festival of its kind in North America – join thousands as they rock the snow suit with live music over 12 unforgettable nights.  The dance party that is IglooFest has been described as an otherwordly spacial experience and is the only one of its kind in North America.  With over 70,000 visitors in 2012, the organizers have added another weekend to this sub zero winter festival for 12 incomparable nights.  But you don’t have to take my word for it….check out the YouTube video at the bottom of the post….another truly unique Montreal experience! (Read my review: Lights, Camera, Dance: IglooFest)

Photo courtesy of the Montreal Tourism Board.  Photo credit: Miguel Legault

Photo courtesy of the Montreal Tourism Board. Photo credit: Miguel Legault

Mount Royal Park – the jewel of Montreal, Mount Royal Park is a 200+ hectare green space with a view.  Popular with the locals all seasons of the year, Parc Mount Royal offers plenty of activities for all ages.  Whether you want to build up an appetite or tire the kids out with some traditional winter time activities, Mount Royal Park will let you embrace winter in all her glory!  For something special…why not try a night time snow shoe by the lights of the city below!

Family fun at Parc Montreal.  Photo courtesy of the Montreal Tourism Board.  Photo credit: Stephan Poulin

Family fun at Parc Montreal. Photo courtesy of the Montreal Tourism Board. Photo credit: Stephan Poulin

Horse Drawn Caleche (carriage) - Talk about your old world charm….wouldn’t it be romantic to take a horse drawn carriage through the streets of Old Montreal.  It’s like stepping back in time, to the bygone era when the clipity clop of the horses hooves rang out in the old port town.  Wrap yourself in a blanket and enjoy a slower pace to life.  How romantic.

Photo courtesy of the Montreal Tourism Board.  Photo credit: Diane Charron

Photo courtesy of the Montreal Tourism Board. Photo credit: Diane Charron

Bota Bota – I have luxuriated in the Scandinavian Spa (le Nordik) near Ottawa on a number of occasions and can safely say – I am a HUGE fan of the Scandinavian inspired experience.  When I started to read about Bota Bota, I quickly saw that they offer a unique twist to their spa experience.  Enjoy the energizing properties of the water circuit while, at the same time, being lulled by the natural movements of the St Lawrence River.  Bota Bota is in fact an old ferry boat that has found new life as a little bit of luxury at Montreal’s Old Port.  The perfect way to end a winter themed holiday. (Read my review: Bota Bota Scandinavian Spa sur l’eau)

Photo courtesy of the Montreal Tourism Board.  Photo credit: Sid Lee

Photo courtesy of the Montreal Tourism Board. Photo credit: Sid Lee

Ice Fishing - to be honest, I am no fisherman!  I missed my chance in Antigua when my friends spent the afternoon Deep Sea Fishing.  They came back with crazy stories from the day and grinned from ear to ear all night, proudly sharing their catch of the day with everyone who didn’t go out on the boat (we can thank the resort chef for cooking their catch- very tasty).  When I heard that Pêche Blanche in Old Montreal was expecting somewhere in the vicinity of 30,000 fishermen in the 12 week season, I figured I had better check it out!  There are 30 heated shelters and all the equipment you need to experience ice fishing in Montreal – a true nordic experience.  Good thing – all levels of fishermen are welcome.  It has been a while since I last held a fishing rod. (Read my review here: Ice Fishing Minutes from Old Montreal)

Poutine Week - Feb 1 – 7 – leave it to Montreal to create a week dedicated to one of Quebec’s signature dishes – poutine!  Word on the street – 30 restaurants are involved taking this humble Quebec institution to the next level!  The race is on for who can make the Top 5 Poutine Makers leader board and which restaurant will win the ultimate glory…Best Poutine in Montreal!  This is Montreal’s inaugural Poutine Week.  If you are in town – you know you have to try it.  It is the quintessential Quebec snack.  And to make it even better, a portion of Poutine Week’s sales will go towards the Montreal Canadiens Children Foundation.

Photo courtesy of the Montreal Tourism Board.  Photo credit: Bureau du Patrimoine

Photo courtesy of the Montreal Tourism Board. Photo credit: Bureau du Patrimoine

So many people shudder when they think of winter.  I have to say…I love the Montreal attitude…they get out there and kick winter’s butt!  Want to embrace winter – let’s have a party!

Related links:

Montreal Tourism BoardA special thank you goes out to the Montreal Tourism Board for all their help and information when planning my trip to Montreal.  Stay tuned for more from the unique winter experiences that is Montreal.  For more information on events  and what to do in Montreal, visit the Montreal Tourism Board.  You can also follow the trip live on twitter (#GirlsInMtl) or check out the pins on the Montreal board on Pinterest!
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About Anita Mac

The bucket list just keeps growing! The more I cross off - the more exciting new destinations and activities I find! I have been fortunate enough to travel a considerable distance over the years. My love of many things, including travel, cycling, kayaking and photography fit together like hand and glove. I have to keep asking myself....where to next? I am happy to share my travels and photography through my blogs: http://traveldestinationbucketlist.com and http://anitamacphotos.wordpress.com Hope you enjoy them as much as I do! On to the next adventure!

Discussion

50 thoughts on “Montreal Bucket List – unique winter experiences you have to try

  1. Sounds like you girls are going to have a lotta Montreal fun. Have a few at the ice bar for me you lucky lot. From your miserable mate in the sun!

    Posted by Tracey | February 6, 2013, 9:41 am
  2. I am totally going for Poutine Week! Yum!

    Posted by Annette | February 6, 2013, 9:49 am
  3. Not to worry Tracey…the snow comes back every winter! We can make plans for 2014! I’ll show you Montreal…you show me your favourite part of Australia! Will gladly have a drink for you at the ice bar! Feel free to tweet me your request!

    Posted by Anita Mac | February 6, 2013, 9:49 am
  4. That ice hotel looks great. I’d love to stay there.

    Posted by The Guy | February 6, 2013, 11:58 am
  5. I do not mind winter – it is the driving on ice and having fog turn into freezing black ice that I do not care for. I could so get into the Spa:) Happy Hump Day

    Posted by cravesadventure | February 6, 2013, 12:41 pm
  6. When it comes to the cold… I stick to just reading & looking at blogs :) hahaha

    Posted by Bashar A. | February 7, 2013, 4:07 pm
  7. Hello Anita, I’m glad you enjoyed your trip to Montréal. The city does offer many exciting activities.
    But on a sad note, the caléches (horse-drawn carriages) are not very exciting from the horses’ point of view. There are laws in place but no one to enforce them. The city is no place for a horse. Many of these horses are in poor health conditions, they have little or no access to water/food (many have protruding ribs), no grazing time, they work up to 9 hours in an environment that is unnatural: traffic, asphalt, they live in dirty, old stalls. Their main health problems include stomach and mouth ulcers, joint injuries, respiratory failure. Whoever is in favor of this either has a personal interest to protect or has a heart of stone. Horses are flight animals that rely on running as their primary defense. At 1200 to 2000 pounds or more, horses become unwitting weapons when spooked which is dangerous in a crowded city and has already injured and killed people. Please take the time to learn more about the life of these enslaved horses who are then sent to slaughter when they are no longer workable.

    Posted by Mirella | February 7, 2013, 10:45 pm
  8. Sitting in a cart behind a smelly old horse ? ? ARE YOU MAD ? ? Why on earth would anyone think this is “ROMANTIC” ? ? APART FROM THE FACT THAT THESE HORSES SHOULD NOT BE OUT WORKING IN A CITY – - -

    Posted by Jay | February 8, 2013, 7:45 am
  9. Hello Anita, I’m glad you enjoyed your trip to Montréal. The city does offer many exciting activities.
    But on a sad note, the caléches (horse-drawn carriages) are not very exciting from the horses’ point of view. There are laws in place but no one to enforce them. The city is no place for a horse. Many of these horses are in poor health conditions, they have little or no access to water/food (many have protruding ribs), no grazing time, they work up to 9 hours in an environment that is unnatural: traffic, asphalt, they live in dirty, old stalls. Their main health problems include stomach and mouth ulcers, joint injuries, respiratory failure. Whoever is in favor of this either has a personal interest to protect or has a heart of stone. Horses are flight animals that rely on running as their primary defense. At 1200 to 2000 pounds or more, horses become unwitting weapons when spooked which is dangerous in a crowded city and has already injured and killed people. Please take the time to learn more about the life of these enslaved horses who are then sent to slaughter when they are no longer workable.

    Posted by Veggy Junky | February 8, 2013, 11:54 am
  10. Taking a ride on the caléches is not so romantic- the horses are systematically overworked, injured, mistreated and forced to endure long hours in scorching and freezing weather alike. There is nothing romantic about outdated animal abuse to serve a cliche tourist activity.

    Posted by Julia | February 8, 2013, 12:42 pm
  11. Taking a ride on the caléches is not so romantic- the horses are systematically overworked, injured, mistreated and forced to endure long hours in scorching and freezing weather alike. There is nothing romantic about outdated animal abuse to serve a cliche tourist activity.

    Posted by Hulia Dafazio | February 8, 2013, 12:43 pm
  12. Thank you for the concern about the horses and the caleches in Montreal. I was really surprised to get so many negative comments about this particular activity, especially as they are so popular the world over (Europe, Central Park in NYC, Quebec City to name a few!). I have also noticed that many of the horses have blankets in the colder weather.
    I spoke with a representative at the Montreal Tourism Board, expressing my surprise to the reaction. I asked if there were any controversies surrounding the horses or whether there were concerns as to the treatment of the animals. As a horse lover myself, I would never propose the perpetuation of cruelty to animals. I worked on public horse ranches years ago and we took abuse by clients of the horses very seriously. The response I received from the tourism board follows: “With regard to the horse calèches, there is no controversy. The horses are examined every year by a vet and their “working conditions“ are strict. In other words, they’re well taken care of!”
    I have spoken to drivers of horse carriages in other places around the world and have found a respect and love for the animals that they are working with.
    Once again, thank you for your concerns.
    Anita Mac

    Posted by Anita Mac | February 8, 2013, 7:48 pm
  13. It is surprising that as a horse lover as yourself you would believe the words of the money making industry and not those of concerned citizens of this city who see the cruelty endured by the horses everyday of the year. The caleche drivers will always tell you how much they love their horses, but then keep them lined up for hours under the blazing sun. If you know horses, then I don’t need to tell you that horses seek shade and water. In the winter they are kept even longer hours without food and water which does not allow their bodies to produce a proper thermalregulation.
    There is an international coalition which Montreal is a part of http://www.horseswithoutcarriages.org/. Many cities and countries are banning the horse-drawn carriages, among which just recently Bogota, Mumbai and Israel.
    Toronto has banned them and Victoria is considering a ban as well. Also for more information please browse through the Anti-Caleche Defense Coalition FB page.
    If you have any questions feel free to ask. There are tourists around the world who have helped spread the word by blogging about it.
    If you travel to Rome, please don’t take a ride. Those horse are among the most exploited. I am originally from there and know very well how sad this industry is in Rome and in Montreal…
    Thank you for your response.
    Mirella

    Posted by Veggy Junky | February 8, 2013, 8:06 pm
  14. This is really cool. I had never heard of any of these before! Enjoy!

    Posted by travelwithlaughter | February 10, 2013, 2:25 pm
  15. This is perfect timing…I’m actually heading up to Snow Village in a few weeks. As you know, I’m embracing winter, and this seems to be the way to do it! :)

    Posted by The World Wanderer (@TheWrldWanderer) | February 10, 2013, 5:28 pm
    • I knew you were heading this way and wanted to ask you if you were going to the Snow Village! You will have a blast! Putting together a city guide…have a few awesome restaurants for you. So much to do in Montreal.

      Posted by Anita Mac | February 10, 2013, 6:08 pm
  16. How I wished I had these recommendations when I visited Montreal last year. I must return!

    Posted by Lorenzo Gonzalez | February 25, 2013, 3:07 pm
  17. A visit to Montreal in February appears to bear little resemblance to our fall strolls through the city this past September. Brrrr!, says a wimpy Texan.

    Posted by postcardsfromsanantonio | March 11, 2013, 12:57 pm
    • Luckily, Montreal is also known for its shopping….a few warmer items may be in order for you as there is a huge difference between your usual Texas winter and the snowy bonanza that is Montreal! Well worth it though – it is quite the experience.

      Posted by Anita Mac | March 27, 2013, 12:36 pm
  18. I have been to Montreal so many times but did not know about Bota Bota, that’s going on my to do list!

    Posted by Ayngelina | March 11, 2013, 5:10 pm
  19. Very beautiful post and very inviting.
    Thanks for sharing this! I live very far from Canada, and travel in winter is amazingly difficult, but if I’m ever there, I’ll do the ice hotel and tell them you sent me? ;-)

    Posted by Katharine Trauger | March 27, 2013, 11:54 am
    • I hope you get to try the ice hotel! It is unique and special. Soon it will be no more for another year! Spring is here and the snow is melting. I was surprised to hear that they actually have to bulldoze the hotel – it is pretty solid! They will rebuild next winter. Haven’t heard what the next theme will be. This year was New York. The work that goes into it is impressive.

      Posted by Anita Mac | March 27, 2013, 12:38 pm
  20. So fun! I love how you make the frost and snow look like such an amazing adventure!

    Posted by Vanessa | March 29, 2013, 4:03 pm
  21. I’ve never been to Montreal in the winter, it looks, um COLD! But beautiful! This wimpy little west coast girl might just have to buy a parka and trundle over to Montreal(and Quebec City) one winter!

    Posted by Andrea | April 12, 2013, 12:34 pm
    • You will have to check it out! It is so easy to get around, even in the cold. The underground system means you can get almost everywhere – you don’t have to worry! Quebec City is also beautiful…you’ll have to do an East Coast trip and see both. Happy travels.

      Posted by Anita Mac | April 12, 2013, 1:39 pm
  22. Regardless of whether you are religious or not if you are in Montreal you must see there basilica Notre Dame. I have been to many churches around the world for the architecture and Notre Dame in Montreal is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. The lighting in the church is fanominal and can change the entire mood inside by turning the lights up or down. It is a must see.

    Posted by Mark S | May 9, 2013, 1:04 pm
  23. One thing everyone needs to do when they visit Montreal whether they like churches is to visit Montreal’s Basilique Notre-Dame. The church is in the historic district and is one of the most beautiful places inside I have ever seen. The way it is painted and the way they use the lighting is exquisite.

    Posted by Mark S | July 23, 2013, 2:30 pm
  24. Sorry I didn’t realize I had commented on this article already.

    Posted by Mark S | July 23, 2013, 2:31 pm
  25. Bota Bota looks worth a try!

    Posted by Jodi | January 29, 2014, 9:57 am

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