The 34th edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival kicks off tomorrow and runs through July 7th. This huge event attracts music lovers, not just jazz aficionados, from around the world to enjoy a myriad of performances, many of them free of charge. I thought I’d put together a few Do’s and Don’ts to help visitors to the festival.
Downtown Montreal is not a car-friendly environment
Whether you’ve come from out-of-town or are a local, don’t even think of driving to the festival site. At the very best of times Montreal’s downtown traffic is gridlocked, but during the festival many main streets are closed. Throw into the mix the ubiquitous summer road work and you have a recipe for patience testing at its best. Not only will you sit in traffic, but parking spots are few and far between. Downtown Montreal is not a car-friendly environment. Leave your car at the hotel or park outside of the downtown area and use the great transit system – or walk. The festival site offers bike parking and Montreal has a handy bike rental service called Bixi.
Montreal may not be Miami, but it does get hot and humid during the summer
Assuming our summer dries up a bit, keep in mind that shaded areas at the festival site are at a premium. Much of your time will be spent on concrete or asphalt under direct sun. Montreal may not be Miami, but it does get hot and humid during the summer. Grab a hat and keep sunscreen handy.
If, like me, you don’t feel comfortable in large crowds you can still enjoy the festival
If, like me, you don’t feel comfortable in large crowds you can still enjoy the festival. After 33 years they have mastered the art of crowd control. But there are some things you can do to make your visit less claustrophobic. Leaving an outdoor stage, or scene, a few moments before the end of the performance will give you a head start on the crowd. Keeping back and letting the front seating fill in is another strategy. The quality of the sound is very good and most venues have giant screens so being at the back is not a bad thing.
A portion of the proceeds goes to the many free concerts
Buy beer, hot-dogs, pretzels, tropical drinks, souvenirs and whatever is for sale. A portion of the proceeds goes to the many free concerts. I find myself twisting my arm and having that extra beer, just to help out you understand.
The jazz festival on a rainy day is depressing and akin to a ghost town
If it rains go to a museum and come back when it clears up. The jazz festival on a rainy day is depressing and akin to a ghost town. The city has innumerable indoor activities from those designed for children to the Casino de Montreal.
The staff pack a lot of work into two weeks
The staff pack a lot of work into two weeks so as the festival wears on be patient with exhausted beer sellers. They will speak a multitude of languages, but always appreciate a Merci. And a tip of course.
Use the website before arriving
Given the vastness of the festival the website can be overwhelming. Take you time to go through it before arriving at the site and use the my festival option to narrow down your options.
But most importantly have fun!