Now, I could dazzle you with my incredible taste and culture, sending you on an urban goose chase across the city with a list of top picks far removed from each other, which, admittedly, looks great on paper. Reality check? Been there, done that. Those ooh-look-tango-lessons-in-the-old-port-followed-by-ooh-tea-time-on-the-Plateau-and-then-ahh-painting-downtown happened to be my worst Nuit Blanche experiences, ones plagued by wet feet from all the walking through sludge followed by heavy crowds supplemented by piss-me-off lineups when I actually made it to said locations. One Nuit Blanche consisted of me not doing anything at all, moving from place to place only to get discouraged by the constant waiting.
Whatever the weather conditions this Saturday, March 1, 2014, I propose to you a foolproof Nuit Blanche itinerary, one that keeps things fairly central in order to 1) minimize outdoor and indoor walk times which, in turn, 2) cuts down on lineups, since you're so close to alternate activities. You and yours can simply move on to the next destination should one be cursed with long wait times, which, from my extensive Nuit Blanche experience, is practically a given.
So, to reiterate, the sites listed below are located five minutes or less from each other in downtown Montreal and are crawling with several activities that are, again, mostly free of charge and will keep you occupied for hours.
- Free Outdoor Site
From roasting marshmallows to live shows, to sliding down a 110-metre-long (361-foot-long) urban ice slide to catching fireworks at 9 p.m., just head down to the downtown core’s Place des Festivals where dozens of activities, performances and random events suitable for a variety of age groups converge in one central, outdoor spot, a fairly safe bet and meeting point for those overwhelmed by Nuit Blanche’s 200 activities. From 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. At Place des Festivals (map).
- Musée d’art contemporain
Montreal’s contemporary art museum, which is housed smack in the middle of the above free outdoor site, proposes free exhibitions, free art workshops for the little ones as well as free cocktails and homemade treats. Most activities are from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. At Musée d’art contemporain (map).
- Place des Arts
Also right beside the Place des Festivals is Place des Arts. Best-of Fantasia Film Festival screenings are scheduled midnight through 4 a.m., as are street arts, circus antics and musical performances throughout the corridors from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., and much more, all free. From 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., depending on the activity. At Place des Arts (map).
- Belgo Building
Barely a block west of the free outdoor site at Place des Festivals is a multi-floor cultural institution packed with galleries, art collectives and studios, the site of dozens of exhibits and eccentric freebies. Best times to drop by and catch most exhibits and performances are between 10 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. though if you get there earlier, say between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., the crowds are less intense. At the Belgo Building (map).
- Art Souterrain
My favorite part of Nuit Blanche, the Underground Art circuit better known as Art Souterrain, features 140 contemporary and live performance art projects scattered throughout 7 km (4.4 miles) of Montreal’s underground city, the perfect anti-lineup and weather-shielding antidote. I’d recommend starting at Place des Arts and working your way from there, exploring a circuit that can take hours to complete.View map of circuit.
More on Montreal’s Underground City:
- Montreal's Underground City: Nooks, Crannies and Unsung Corridors
- Montreal's Underground City: The Largest Shopping Mecca in the World?