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Montreal skyline
Photograph: Shutterstock

The best things to do during Montreal's lockdown (without breaking curfew)

Winter is officially underway, and so is a month-long curfew, but there are still all kinds of things to do in Montreal during January.

By JP Karwacki

Well, it's official: As of Saturday, January 9, Montreal is going to be part of a near province-wide daily curfew in Quebec that will run from 8pm to 5am the next day. While that might make understanding what you can and can't do in Montreal right now more confusing than before, that new rule hasn't ultimately changed what is permitted in the city, so there are still plenty of things to do in Montreal during January. 2021 is a new year, so it's more important than ever to take care of ourselves with a focus on wellness, and that means just as many long walks in Montreal parks as there are checking out cultural powerhouses of the city.

Note that should you wish to go anywhere and do anything while you're there, you'd better be alone or in your household bubble and within the hours or curfew.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Montreal

The best things to do in Montreal during January 2021

Quai des Brumes
Photograph: © Maude Touchette Photographe

Rock out with the virtual L'Autel 4461 show

Miss live shows in Montreal? The Plateau's L'Escogriffe is hosting a big online show on January 7 (and it'll likely be free to watch as a recording after): L'Escogriffe has pulled together a line-up of 20 artists that will be playing a live two-hour show for free from 8pm to 10pm. The announcement's been made through Facebook, where they'll be posting the live feed (or directions to watch the live feed elsewhere).

Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal / Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Photograph: MBAM, Denis Farley

Take a free 3D virtual tour of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' holiday gift to the world is still on until January 11: The museum's announced that it would be granting free online access via 3D virtual tours to five of its exhibitions. This announcement came just as the Québec government announced that new lockdowns measures would go into effect on December 17 and 25. With a new lockdown and curfew on the horizon for Montreal, we should be taking every advantage we can to enjoy some local culture on the cheap.

Montréal Botanical Garden – Space for Life / Jardin botanique de Montréal – Espace pour la vie
Photograph: © Claude Bordeleau

Winter walks in the Botantical Garden

Pack a thermos, bundle up and go explore the gardens when they're covered in fresh snowfall: Montreal's Botanical Garden has announced that it is open for exploration every day of the week from 7:30am to 5pm with no reservations required. The gardens will be a great place to revisit by foot or with cross-country skis if there's enough snow on the ground (no snowshoeing, however).

Photograph: RécréoParc / Facebook

RécréoParc’s Polar Rendezvous on the South Shore

Sainte-Catherine's RécréoParc on the South Shore is creating a new winter attraction called Rendez-vous polaires within its grounds that's opening on January 16 and running for a month until February 14th, and admission is free. Details may change now with the announced curfew, but the plan for the site should coincide with the new rules: It's a site big enough for 1,000 people to safely socially-distance and access a new illuminated snow slide, a half-kilometer skating trail equipped with lights, a cross-country ski trail that's over 10 kilometers long and a 2.5km snowshoe trail. 

Photograph: Toshimi Juan Muniz

Listen in to Igloofest

The world's coldest electronic music festival is now the world's coldest virtual electronic music festival: The 2021 edition of Montreal's Igloofest is going completely digital this year, and as a result, they're making performances completely free. It's going down on January 21 to Feburary 13.

Photograph: Courtesy Extra Architecture & Design

Explore the winter relaxation stations of Montreal

The project began as a way to encourage local shopping by giving Montrealers spaces equipped with urban furniture and colourful lighting to enjoy during the holiday season. Christmas is done and gone for now, but the spaces in public squares, parks, parking and vacant lots are still up and running (like in Verdun, pictured above) or coming soon. The first one to catch our attention was this the winter station that's opening in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, a 360° cyclorama screen showing projections of the Northern Lights, as of late January. 

Canadiens de Montréal
Photograph: Canadiens de Montréal / @canadiensmtl / Facebook

Catch the beginning of the NHL season with the Habs

2021's hockey season promises to kick off (yes, despite the lockdown and curfew) as of January 13, and the Montreal Canadiens in the North Division will be hitting the ice aginst the Toronto Maple Leafs on the very first day. Four days after that, it's a match-up against the Edmonton Oilers with roughly two or three games every week after that. Pretty sweet—we just want all players to stay stafe out there! Find the schedule here.

Randonnées en traîneau à chiens / Dog sledding
Photograph: Pixabay / badamczak80

Did you ever think of dog sledding?

There's enough snow to starting screaming 'mush!', so there's no better time to reserve a spot from now on to do one of the coolest winter activities outside the city (or gift someone with the experience). We've found a surprising amount of places that provide a bunch of experiences to enjoy with adorable furry friends, and natch for winter activities, it's COVID-friendly. Just be sure to ask if your booking will be affected by regional COVID status shifts—just in case.

Parc Jean-Drapeau
Photograph: Parc Jean-Drapeau /

Parc Jean-Drapeau's winter activity setup

Fête des neiges 2021 may be cancelled, but there's still a bunch of reasons to go outside at Jean-Drapeau this winter: Parc Jean-Drapeau has a new winter program beginning tomorrow, December 19 2020 that will run until March 7, 2021, and it's stocked with outdoor activities that include a skating rink, hiking, cycling, biking, sledding tracks and free equipment for Montrealers under the age of 18. Just stay in your bubble and you're set.

Phi Centre, Soundbites
Photograph: Reinhart Julian / Unsplash

Dig into the Phi Centre’s Soundbites

From now until January 31, the Phi Center team has joined up with three chefs, each with the goal of sharing their personal stories that range from the hows and whys behind their careers as chefs to the fulfillment of their dreams in the kitchen and how they became masters of their own destinies by creating their own restaurants.

Old Montreal / Vieux-Montréal
Photograph: Maria Elena Zuñiga / Unsplash

Got wheels? Stock up for the lockdown—or just grab takeout—with free parking

If you think the free parking in Ville-Marie that lasts until January 31 only covers the downtown core of the city that's covered in construction sites right now, think again: The free parking extension includes neighbourhoods like the Village, Old Montreal, Chinatown, Shaughnessy Village around Concordia University and the Latin Quarter. Lots to explore for your lockdown prep on weekends, or plenty of spots to try some new takeout. Depends how you look at it.

Smugglers' Notch Resort
Photograph: Courtesy Smugglers’ Notch Resort

Rush the slopes, skiing near Montreal is allowed

We know, we know, if you're in Montreal it doesn't look like there's going to be a lot of skiing this year, but our top picks for slopes near the city are up and operational or soon going to be, and they're ready for business this season. If you're the type to get out there—or you're thinking of trying it for the first time—this would be a good time to do it, as no location is going to be as choked with tourists as we have been in previous years.

Beaver Lake Skating Rink, Montreal
Photograph: Ray Sabbagh

Go ice skating if you're alone or in your bubble

The city of Montreal's been big on helping Montrealers get out of the house once the temperature drops low enough for us to enjoy some outdoor and refrigerated rinks as they pop up. While preestablished favourites like the rink below the viaduct of Notre-Dame, the Toussaint-Louverture Park, the skating rink at Parc des Vétérans and Walter-Stewart Park will all be up and running before you know it, Montreal has announced that Beaver Lake's refrigerated rink will be operational this year, and—unless its controversy prevents it from happening—an all-new rink opening up at Cabot Square in the middle of downtown.

Mont Sutton
Photograph: © On The Edge Hiking

Winter hiking or snowshoeing in the country

There are a number of gorgeous options for hiking near Montreal that will allow you to get back to nature and take a breather from it all. Use those muscles you’ve gained from stepping over construction holes and dodging traffic cones for one of these local and not-too-distant hikes, which can all be found within a three-hour drive of the city—all of them are equipped with trails for winter hiking and snowshoeing, and oftentimes for cross-country skiing.

Photograph: Illumi / @IllumiCavalia1 / Facebook

Check out Illumi's winter light setup while you can

They expanded their hours and availabilities to Christmas back in November, but now they've be open until January 31. If you need a spectacle and you're craving the flashing lights of a once-pumping city like Montreal, you'll like driving through as many as 15 million individual lights shining across hundreds of thousands of sculptures in a 1 million square-foot lot. 


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