A Frozen Big Apple
With natural light during the day and dazzling effects at night, Snow Village Canada (www.snowvillage canada.com) is a frozen spectacle. It features an ice hotel, gourmet restaurant, ice bar, a wedding chapel for couples who don’t mind saying “I Do,” while wearing a parka and ski hat, and new this year, a replica of New York City crafted entirely of ice and snow. For a unique winter experience and bragging rights galore, the hotel offers ten rooms, fifteen suites and five real igloos - all with beds that are mounted on an ice base, on which rests a cozy mattress and thermal sleeping bag. Dining a la subzero at Pommery, the only restaurant in North America made of snow and ice, is a culinary treat under the watchful eye of Michelin star chef Eric Gonzalez. At the Ice Bar, cocktails warm the soul like a Quebec Fizz shaken with whiskey, splash of lemon juice and dash of local maple syrup. Open January 4 - March 21, weather permitting.
When the Snow Melts
When the snow melts, Montrealers take to the streets for what is billed as the World’s Biggest Bike Fest, which for 2013 will take place from May 27 through June 3. Velos, or bikes in French, are the main attraction for three events starting with the Metropolitan Challenge that takes cyclists through the woods and valleys outside city limits. Tour la Nuit is a twilight ride along city streets. The granddaddy of them all, Tour de l’Ile, attracts 35,000 cyclists who pedal fifty kilometers on designated routes around the island. For more information, visit www.velo.qc.ca
The much-anticipated kick-off to summer, Festival Mondial de la Biere, or International Beer Festival, pours more than six hundred brews from around the world at various indoor and outdoor venues. A unique tasting event, the frothy festival is all about savoring a chilled mug on a sunny afternoon and sampling an exotic array of snacks; from alligator soup to kangaroo and boar on a stick. This year, festival dates are May 29 - June 2. Visit www.festivalmondialbiere.qc.ca
Hands-down the best espresso this side of Milan, Club Social is one of five thousand cafes, or coffee shops, in the city. Lorded over by five Italian brothers who take their cappuccinos to heart, the funky cafe in the uber-funky Mile End neighborhood is well worth a stop for a cappuccino and a chat. “I’m part barista and part psychiatrist,“ smiles Jay Lucifero as he expertly pours an espresso for one of his regulars. “Our customers come for a great cup of coffee and good conversation, and that is exactly what we give them.” Stop in at 180 St. Viateur St. West, 514-495-0114.
Striking in a glass building at the foot of Parc Mont-Royal, Sofitel Montréal (www.sofitel.com) is smack dab in the hub of the Montreal’s art galleries, museums and designer boutiques. With 258 rooms and seventeen suites, the European-inspired hotel is popular with international travelers, not only for its impeccable level of service but also for the culturally diverse staff. On the top floor, the Opera Suite is, indeed, sweet with floor to ceiling glass windows that offer spectacular panoramas of the city. For tantalizing tapas (we recommend Quebec asparagus with white peaches) and a tangy Limontini with white cranberry juice and gin, Le Bar is the place to go.
On the roof top of Montreal’s tallest building, Altitude Club 737 (www.promoclub737.com) is a hip and happening dance club where vistas of the city are mesmerizing. For VIP’s and VIP wannabees, outdoor terraces on two floors stay open year round. Note to trend-setters and tourists over forty: arrive early to avoid lineups.
Once the French pavilion at Expo ‘67, Casino de Montreal (www.casinosduquebec.com) tempts with three thousand slot machines, five restaurants and the aptly-named Bar Poker, just steps from the Texas Hold ’em terminals. Open twenty-four hours every day of the week, the casino is a quick cab ride from downtown Montreal.
For additional information, visit www.tourisme-montreal.org