Montreal, where the entertainment is FREE… A city of festivals

Just For Laughs
Fireworks Competition

It goes without saying that travel can be expensive. With these challenging economic times it’s nice to know that there are places to travel where the entertainment is FREE.  Montreal, a city rich in summer festivals, provides a wide range of world-class entertainment for all ages.  

Here is a summary of some summer highlights from the 2012 festivals:

International Jazz Festival: 28 June – 7 July
This festival brings together artists from around the world for ten days of music from noon until midnight. Several main downtown city blocks are closed off to traffic, creating a huge outdoor musical venue. All outdoor concerts are free. This year’s lineup includes personalities such as Liza Minelli, James Taylor and Norah Jones.

Montreal International Fireworks Competition: 30 June – 3 August
This globally recognized event has the distinction of being the largest pyrotechnics competition of its kind in the world. The evening sky is transformed with all the colors of an exploding rainbow. Beginning 30 June, each night of the competition is dedicated to the sights and sounds of a specific country, starting with Japan, followed by Switzerland, Canada, Greece, France, Portugal, Italy and the United States. On 3 August there is a tribute to Queen Elizabeth, followed by the final awards ceremony.

Just For Laughs Festival: 12 – 29 July
This year marks the 30th Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal. This festival offers more than 1,600 performances, including 1,300 free outdoor shows, many of which are held in Old Montreal. One of the annual favorite celebrations is the Twins Parade, which invites twins and triplets of any age to parade wearing costumes. The Just For Laughs 2012 lineup includes a heavily-buzzed appearance by Kermit the Frog, lady love Miss Piggy and other cast members of The Muppets. Also headlining this year are Chelsea Handler, Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader, Aziz Ansari, Bob Saget and Kevin Hart.

International Dragon Boat Race Festival: 1 – 31 July
The Dragon Boat Race Festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar.  The racing activities attract over 200 teams from across North America. The Chinese culture celebrates this day by wrapping rice dumplings in bamboo leaves and holding dragon boat races.  In Montreal, a festival coincides with the race, featuring live entertainment, arts and crafts, and a children’s drawing contest. Ethnic delicacies are offered from a vast array of vendors.

Italian Week Festival: 10 – 19 August
This ten-day festival promotes the Italian-Canadian community and celebrates its people and passions. The wide array of activities includes a fashion show, an outdoor opera, classical and popular music concerts, soccer and bocce tournaments, comedy shows, art exhibits and guided walking tours of Little Italy. On Saturday, 13 August, Little Italy will be transformed to accommodate The Ferrari Club of America, with several Italian luxury cars parading for admiring onlookers. The cars will remain on exhibit for the afternoon while children, drivers and families enjoy the lively and dynamic atmosphere of the festivities.

The Tam Tams on Mount Royal: every Sunday
This modern-day hippy festival takes place eac Sunday afternoon from May until the end of September. The name ‘Tam Tams’ was derived from the French word for hand drums, but today many non-drummers also participate in this lively event. This is a truly unique experience, where hundreds congregate to play music, sing songs, dance, play games, and meet new people, many of whom show up dressed in costume.

For a more complete listing of festivals go to

Donna Salle is a travel writer living in New York. She can be contacted at Follow her on Twitter @DonnaSalle.
Source = Donna Salle
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