After surviving another cold, long and relentless winter, Montreal always finds a way to bounce back come summer. It almost turns into a different city when the heat rolls around. As Montrealers, we want to use all the energy we’ve been conserving from our hibernation and take advantage of any half-decent weather.
That being said, while there is a plethora of things to do in the rest of Montreal this summer, there is a black-sheep among the neighbourhoods on the island: the East-End. The East-End often gets overlooked by visitors and locals alike because it doesn’t have the flash and glamour that downtown Montreal and Old Montreal has, but you know what, that’s perfectly okay with us because the East-end is about getting back to basics and enjoying the simpler things in life!
Here are 5 of the best things to do this 2020 summer in Montreal’s East-End
Food truck festival “First Fridays” at the Olympic Stadium
As the name suggests, the food truck festival named First Fridays takes place every first Friday of the month between June 7th to October 4th (June 7, July 5th, August 2nd, September 6th and October 4th) and operates between 4:00pm to 11:00pm.
There are many ways to access the festival grounds as well. You can go by car and make use of the underground parking at the Olympic stadium, but travellers be wary – there will be a fee. You can also travel by bike or Bixi, but the easiest way is to take the metro (green-line) to either Viau or Pie-IX station and take a short walk towards all the hubbub.
First Fridays is one of, if not the biggest collection of food trucks in Canada. That being so, the crowds are big and some lines tend to require a patient constitution, but fret not, it is totally worth the wait. It boasts 50 food trucks from around the city and as Montreal is known as a food haven you can expect some amazing eats from every one of them. The site offers 500 spaces to sit around at themed terraces to eat with a total of 3,000 seats available around the entire festival site. Just when you think it couldn’t get better, there is no entrance fee to join the festival!
With 50 food trucks available at your disposal It has a wide range of food options to satisfy any of those knacking cravings. From poutines, tacos, burgers, Asian cuisine and desserts there is something for everyone here. Based on past years they’ve also had many vegan options as well!
If the food wasn’t enough to entice you, there is also the SAQ (Société des alcools du Québec) and a handful of microbreweries on standby that offer something to cool your throat to go along with the copious amount of food you definitely won’t be able to stop devouring. First Fridays are a perfect date spot or just a simple evening with family and friends. Eat drink and be merry we say and if that doesn’t call for a perfect summer evening in Montreal, we don’t know what does!
2. Spend an afternoon or evening at Parc de la Promenade-Bellerive
Located in the Mercier-Est borough, Parc de la Promenade-Bellerive is one of the more unique parks located on the island. It is hard to believe that a park like this exists in the middle of Montreal. It really offers something for everybody and here are a couple of our favorite ideas on how best to spend your time here!
For those of you who want to take your bikes to the East-End make sure to take advantage of the bike path here. If you look at the park on a map, it doesn’t seem that you would be here long but it is bigger than the image suggests! The path is traditional in the sense that it circles the park but what sets it apart from the others is the incredible view as you bike alongside the St-Lawrence river. With boats passing by and the noises of it all, you can really get immersed in all of it. The park also has a lot of kite-flyers on nice days so you will have a great view for your entire bike ride.
For those preferring a more relaxing experience, why not spend the day outside and have a picnic! At the park, there are plenty of tables and gazebos in which you can bring a lunch or supper and enjoy it by the waterfront. You can eat and watch the boats pass by and enjoy some alone time and of course, you are encouraged to bring family and friends!
Visit during the evening
If you chose to go during the evening, you can sometimes catch local bands playing in the gazebos which can be a lot of fun as quite a bit of people end up showing up and having a good time.
Take the Promenade Bellerive-Boucherville Ferry
If you’ve got more time on your hands and are looking for a bit more adventure, look no further! Bellerive park also provides you access to Charron Island! At the southern edge of the park, you will find the ferry which will take you across. The ferry will run you about $10 Canadian and takes about 15 minutes to cross. Once on Charron island, you’ll have a few options on what to do! You can check out Longueuil Beach, A disk golf center or our top recommendation of visiting Îles-de-Boucherville National Park.
Here you can really take advantage and do a ton of different activities. From taking a picnic to biking, canoeing, and kayaking it can be a daunting task on what to do. Asking the friendly staff members or getting yourself a map of the island can help plan your day ahead. It also has quite a bit of wildlife to be found ranging from deer, birds, and beavers so if you have an interest in photography, this can be a great spot for you. The island is also big so be prepared with the essentials when arriving!
- Check out Village au Pied-Du-Courant
Village au Pied-Du-Courant is a very unique event that happens in the East-End during summer. It is located on Notre-Dame Street East, almost under the Jacques-Cartier bridge. The village started back in 2015 and was a creative way in which Montreal used its empty space. This reinvented public space was the product of many collaborators across the city that made this happen. It really has encouraged the communities to get together which creates a very attractive atmosphere to be a part of.
The village is a fantastic way to spend a day or evening, however, make sure to check the hours of operations as they still have not released the information. (Assuming they do the same hours as last year it goes as follows. Mondays to-Wednesdays they are closed. Thursday 4-9 pm, Friday 5 pm-12 am Saturday 4 pm-12 am, Sunday 3-11 pm). It is important to note that Pied-Du-Courant is absolutely free!
The village really has a beach-themed/boardwalk feel to it with features like (you are quite literally walking on sand) live music, barbeque, a bar inside, food trucks with various activities present on-site throughout the day. It is also very much a kid-friendly environment providing family spaces and activities for kids and family alike. During the day, it is generally accepted that it is for everybody of all ages as the vibe and environment changes a little as it gets later.
During the evening you will have a bit of a different experience than earlier in the day. At night, the village slowly turns into more of a loungy party area, which is a great time if you are looking to let loose a little and have a unique date idea or outing with friends. A mix of the gathering people, the cool summer breeze, the atmosphere, and the view of the Jacques Cartier bridge, LaRonde and the St-Lawrence scream Montreal at its finest. If you truly want to round out your night out, plan to go on a Saturday night where LaRonde will have its fireworks show which is sure to create some great memories for Summer 2020.
P.S You are not allowed to bring your own alcohol and make sure to bring cash as they do not have debit or credit card machines on everything!
- Saint-Leonard Cavern
For those of you wanting to do something different and adventurous have you ever thought of spelunking right here in Montreal, let alone right here in the East-End? That’s right, in the St-Leonard borough there’s a cave that was used as a weapons armory during the 19th century. It is now turned into an explorable cave in which you can visit and pay tour guides to take you around.
The tour is short, but is very informative. It is something you never really think about doing, but once you actually try it out you realize how unique and enriching of an activity it could be. It’s a great experience for all ages and something else to knock off that bucket list.
Here you have it, the 5 best things to do in Montreal’s East-End in summer 2020. As we all eagerly await another beautiful summer in Montreal, try to plan something new this year and come back to simpler times in Montreal’s East-End!