Ask Ainsley, Student Life

Ask Ainsley: What can I do for fun this winter in Montreal with all of the new restrictions?

Dear Ainsley,

The Quebec government’s announcement of new public health measures has me discouraged, to say the least. I’m entering my last semester at McGill, and I want to make the most of my time in this dynamic city. During normal times, I enjoy socializing with friends, going to the gym, and eating out in restaurants, but none of this is possible with the current guidelines. What can I do for fun this winter in Montreal while still staying safe? 


MISER (Montreal Isolation Seems Ever-Returning)


It is completely understandable to be discouraged by these new measures. As we enter our third year of the pandemic, a 10 p.m. curfew, a ban on indoor gatherings, and the closure of dine-in restaurants can make us feel as though we are right back where we started. Just remember that, as we learnt from previous waves, lockdowns don’t last forever: Eventually, we will regain the freedoms we enjoyed just a few short months ago. In the meantime, there are plenty of ways to enjoy Montreal in the winter while respecting COVID-19 restrictions. 

Outdoor sports and activities are a great way to stay fit and socialize with friends this winter. Bring out your inner kid by sledding at Parc Jean-Drapeau. The park’s Espace 67 slope, perfect for tobogganing, overlooks the St. Laurent river with the stunning backdrop of Montreal’s skyline. Or, take the metro with friends and explore a new part of the city, like the Jean-Talon Market. Just make sure you stay socially distanced and follow the provincial COVID-19 regulations. For somewhere closer to home, try skating at Parc Jeanne Mance. The park’s two recreational rinks—one for skating and the other for hockey—help to keep skaters distanced while catering to different interests and skill levels. Don’t forget the quintessential Montreal hike up Mont-Royal. When you reach the top, you can take in gorgeous views of the city that even lockdown can’t stop you from enjoying. You could even rent cross-country skis and explore one of the mountain’s numerous ski trails

If you’re looking to cater to your sweet tooth while out and about in the city, be sure to stop by the Beavertails food truck located in Montreal’s Old Port. Bring a friend along with you to enjoy these delectable deep-fried pastries while taking in Old Montreal’s historical landscape. Just make sure to dress warmly! You might also wish to order from one of Montreal’s many cafes to help you power through your early-morning Zoom classes. Cafe Humble Lion—a locally-owned cafe, known for its creamy lattes and delicious scones—is a great place to start. For more cafes to try, check out The McGill Tribune’s guide to indie coffee shops

While the outdoors offer many venues to enjoy the city, do not shy away from developing new hobbies at home this winter. Try creating something new by finger knitting or expressing yourself through paper mache. Craft your own signature recipe for a favourite dish—family and friends’ recipes can be great inspiration for this. During times of isolation, writing down your thoughts through journaling is a great way to remain mindful and grounded. Plus, it might serve as a time capsule as to what life was like during the pandemic. To combat the winter urge to hibernate from exercise, try creating a home-workout routine to help release feel-good endorphins that will keep you motivated throughout your day. Finally, spending time with friends and family—whether it be through a Zoom Movie Night or a socially distanced walk—is a great way to feel connected during lockdown.

Remember, it is normal and more than okay to be frustrated by these new COVID-19 measures. During these difficult times, be sure to take care of your mental health by talking to a professional if needed and reaching out to friends and loved ones—there is comfort in sharing frustration. While this season will be different from those in years past, I hope that these tips will help you make the most of your last winter in Montreal. 

Stay strong,


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