Reading Week is fast approaching, and while this is a much-needed break for McGill students to catch up and relax, it is also the perfect opportunity to get to know our temporary (or permanent) home––Montreal. Whether you plan to stick around in the city or take a trip nearby, Montreal offers an expansive variety of activities and events to enjoy this fall. With summer tourists long gone, the city has taken on a new cozy atmosphere as the air turns crisp and the leaves crunch underfoot. Treetops are bursting with colour, and the social calendar is packed with fun holidays and artistic spectacles.
Local festivals and events
To kick-start your weekend, try an evening activity at the Botanical Garden. The Light & Lantern Festival offers “An Ode to the Moon” sensory experience. Grab a friend and discover the majestic Chinese garden filled with glowing lanterns and autumnal light displays.
Continue your discoveries against a colourful backdrop with the fourth edition of “Carnaval des Couleurs”, hosted in Montreal’s downtown core from Oct. 7-9. This event gathers and celebrates multicultural and LGBTQ+ communities with free music shows in the Quartier des Spectacles near Place des Arts metro.
Keep an eye out for the last day of Piknic Electronik on Oct. 9 this year. Located in Parc Jean Drapeau, a mere 20-minute metro ride from downtown, Piknic has established itself as a flagship event on the Montreal summer calendar. DJs come every weekend over the summer and set fire to the dance floor. Partying, music, dancing, and human connections are at the heart of these events, and a vibrant, unforgettable experience awaits.
Eating and relaxing
After the parties and festivals, get your cozy on and recharge with promenades around Montreal’s vast natural parks and trails. From a casual stroll around Parc La Fontaine to an energetic hike to the top of Mount Royal, take the time to breathe in the fresh air, observe the colourful explosion of orange and red foliage, and let your mind reset.
Try riding your bike or an easy-to-rent Bixi to a nearby Farmer’s Market––this is harvest time for fall’s best fruits and vegetables and the bike ride makes the experience all the more enjoyable and ecological. Montreal’s rich history of urban markets provides a wonderful opportunity to get a taste of the province’s cheeses, pastries, and fresh produce that come straight from Quebecois farms and artisans.
The city’s biggest public market is Jean-Talon. Nestled in the heart of Little Italy, the market boasts an enormous variety of Italian specialties, fresh produce, bakeries, and much more. Next, situated along the Lachine Canal bike path, the Atwater Market offers high-quality, seasonal products from local producers. This market is a great place to walk around and get to know the farmers, butchers, fishmongers, and cheese-makers who help make the city thrive.
Once you have returned home with a basket filled with unique finds, get into the Canadian Thanksgiving spirit and cook a warm holiday meal. This year, Thanksgiving lands on Oct. 10, so take this opportunity to experience the age-old tradition of friendsgiving through a culinary experience. On the menu: Roasted turkey with gravy, creamy mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, and a timeless apple pie. Invite a couple of friends, wear something nice, and spend a terrific evening eating and laughing. If cooking isn’t the way to go, plenty of the city’s restaurants offer traditional holiday meals for lunch and dinner.
Looking to get away from the city? Quebec’s Oka National Park has a new boardwalk with 360° fall foliage views. Located just a 45-minute drive from downtown Montreal, the national park offers a great variety of trails, observation towers, and walks through maple groves. For $9.25 a day (tax included), grab a picnic basket, find a spot, and spend the day at Oka for the most magnificent views and a calming environment.