Montreal Summer Weekend

Montreal is a friendlier-version of Paris, especially for an American who is not fluent in French. Embrace everything the city has to offer. Visit this metro-accessible city in the summertime, when it comes alive with dozens of fun festivals and Rue Sainte-Catherine in the city’s gay neighborhood, The Village, transforms into a pedestrian thoroughfare.

Here are some of my gay-friendly recommendations for things to do if you’re planning your first summer trip to Montreal.

Stay at the Hotel Gouverneur Place Dupris Montreal

Hotel Gouverneur Place Dupris Montreal
Les Hôtels Gouverneur

Located on the corner of Rue Saint-Hubert and Rue Saint-Catherine in The Village, Hotel Gouverneur Place Dupris is a place to rest your head when you’re not sightseeing or venturing out to grab a drink or a bite to eat at one of the area's many bars or restaurants. In addition to a great concierge service, enjoy the amazing $15 continental breakfast that includes fresh pastries, fruit and morning fare like scrambled eggs and French toast. Don’t let the understated and sometimes dingy décor scare you from making a reservation here. The hotel’s moderate rates, package deals and close proximity to the Metro make it a perfect location for tourists.

Indulge in a Decadent Brunch at Cacao 70

Cacao 70
Cacao 70
If you miss Hotel Gouverneur’s continental breakfast, then you’re only a short walk away from Cacao 70, a restaurant that serves decedent chocolate-laced brunch fare. As with most restaurants along Rue Saint-Catherine, take advantage of the al fresco seating and enjoy chocolate-infused items like the Illegal Chocolate Waffle, Chocolate Chunks Oatmeal, Intense Black & White Chocolate Crepe Roll and Young’s Chocolate Beer. Cacao also serves food for patrons who don’t have a need to satisfy their sweet tooth. Try the crepes, grilled sandwiches, frittatas or my favorite, the Lazy Breakfast with scrambled eggs, country-style ham, sausage, bacon, potatoes, baked beans and fresh fruit drizzled with melted chocolate.

Go Jogging on Mont Royal/Parc du Mont-Royal

Parc du Mont-Royal / Mount Royal Park
Tourisme Montréal, Rosalie Pépin
Enjoy the beautiful summer weather and head to Parc du Mont-Royal, one of Montreal’s largest green spaces. Frederick Law Olmstead -- who also co-designed New York’s Central Park -- designed this park that sits on a hill west of downtown Montreal. Relax and commune with nature as well as dozens of bikers, joggers, birdwatchers and tourists along a few multi-purpose paths. Walk to Chalet du Mont Royal and pass the semicircle plaza -- usually occupied by skateboarders -- to get an amazing panoramic view of downtown Montreal from the Kondiaronk Belvedere Lookout. Explore the trails, grab a bite to eat at Maison Smith, and on Sundays, experience Tam Tams, a fun hand drum jam session. It’s not uncommon to catch the smell of marijuana wafting in the air.

Explore Historic Old Montreal

Old Port of Montreal
Kwin Mosby
Walk the cobblestone streets and appreciate the distinctive architecture of Old Montreal. In addition to City Hall, the Basilica of Notre Dame and a few museums, tourists can also explore dozens of small shops, restaurants and vendors including more than half dozen local artists willing to draw a caricature in your likeness in Place Jacques-Cartier. Summer is the perfect time to stroll along Montreal’s Old Port, a historic waterfront that stretches over a mile along the St. Lawrence River. Head to Parc du Bassin Bonsecours for a fun picnic with family and or friends, pick a park bench for a prime spot for people watching, sip on a cocktail under palm trees at Scena restaurant’s large terrace or rent a paddle boat to see Old Port by water.

Brave Adrenaline-Pumping Fun at La Ronde

La Ronde
La Ronde / Pierre Cloutier
Bring out your inner child and spend a fun-filled day at Six Flags Theme Park, La Ronde, the largest amusement park in Quebec. Located on the eastern tip of Saint Helen’s Island, the 146-acre park has 40 rides, including the water ride Aqua Twist, a top-spin ride called Demon and 10 roller coasters. Ride Le Monstre, a 131-foot wooden, double-tracked roller coaster. Open from mid-May to late October, La Ronde has hosted L’International des Feux Loto-Quebec (Montreal Fireworks Festival) over Dolphin Lake since 1985. Each summer, 8 or 9 pyrotechnical companies from different countries present a 30-minute pyro-musical show to compete for gold, silver and bronze Jupiters or trophies. And even if you don’t make it to see the fireworks at La Ronde, you can catch a glimpse of the show from key vantage points around the city, like Jacques Cartier Bridge.

Party at Piknic Electronik

Piknic Electronik
Tourisme Montréal
Pack your cooler with food, grab your friends and end every weekend on Parc Jean-Drapeau for Piknic Electronik. This weekly electronic music festival -- featuring local and international DJs and producers -- takes place every Sunday on Île Notre-Dame from mid-May to late September. This summer dance party for all ages runs from 2 pm to 9:30 pm and costs $15 per person, but if you get there early (between 2 – 3 pm) you pay only $10. Entry is free for kids 12 and under. Cocktails and buckets of beer (straight from the tap) are served in designated areas. No outside alcohol is permitted.

Attend a Summer Festival

Just For Laughs Festival
Just For Laughs Festival
Summer in Montreal also marks the start of festival season for the city. From the Montreal Chamber Music Festival in May to the Montreal International Jazz Festival in July to Diverse/Cite (Gay & Lesbian Pride Days) in August and the International Black Film Festival in September, there’s always something going on in Quebec’s Metropolis. One festival I’d recommend is the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival, the largest international comedy festival in the world. See some of the biggest comedians on stage like Seth Rogan, Andy Samberg, Chevy Chase, Nick Offerman and Don Rickles. This festival is usually scheduled in mid-July for about 2 weeks, and located just a few blocks from Hotel Gouverneur. If comedy isn’t your thing, try something like the Festival International Nuits d'Afrique, a festival that features music and popular musicians from Africa, South America and the Caribbean.

Sample the Cuisine at Le Steak Frites Village

Le Steak Frites Village
Kwin Mosby
Rue Saint-Catherine is lined with several, diverse restaurant options. Les Rotisseries St-Hubert Restaurant, and the 24-Hour A&W are just a few choices, but my favorite spot was Le Steak Frites. Enjoy a tender filet mignon with your choice of 3 types of sauces, a side of steamed vegetables and all the French fries you can eat. Just make sure you remember to bring a bottle of wine or your preferred choice of spirits. Le Steak Frites does not serve alcohol, but the chic décor and buzzing atmosphere will more than make up for that. Wait for seating outside to really enjoy the summer weather.

Go Shopping at the Montreal Eaton Centre

Montreal Eaton Centre
The Montreal Eaton Centre
Montreal is a very pedestrian-friendly city; if the weather is nice, take a 20-minute walk down Rue Sainte-Catherine to get your shopping on at the Montreal Eaton Centre (MEC), located downtown. Designed by renowned architect Peter Rose, this shopping complex has 5 floors of 175 trendy boutiques, food courts and free Wi-Fi available. The MEC is connected to Montreal’s Underground City, an indoor city that includes 21 miles of interconnected tunnels linking shopping malls, museums, 7 metro stations, universities, banks, condominiums and more. The Eaton Centre is also connected to the McGill Metro Station. Plans are underway to combine Eaton Centre with the neighboring Complexe Les Ailes Mall.

Experience Montreal’s Gay Nightlife

Le Stud Bar
Jason Pier in DC
Grab a beer or cocktail on Rue Sainte-Catherine -- it’s a great way to mingle, make new friends and pick up great tips on local hangouts. Watch an entertaining drag show and then dance the night away at Apollon Club Bar or grab a cocktail and see male strippers shake their money makers and more at Campus and Stock Bar. Beware of the strippers’ subtle charms and good looks. I’ve heard stories of costly lap dances in the backrooms at the latter 2 bars. Start the night out (around 10 pm) by hanging out and chatting with scruffy locals at the always-crowded L'Aigle Noir (Black Eagle). Summers are great for drinking spirits on the bar's outdoor deck. After a couple hours, walk a few blocks to Le Stud, where patrons can play pool, try their luck at video poker and dance until the early morning. Just remember that bartenders in Canada give measured pours; ask for a double if you’re looking for a cocktail with more bite.
Montreal Biosphere
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