Free Winter Fun: Montreal High Lights Festival 2010

Montreal High Lights Festival

What: Montreal High Lights Festival 2010

Where: The High Lights event and all affiliated outdoor activities take place in Old Montreal and the Quays of the Old Port; performances and culinary events happen all throughout the city.

When: February 18-28, 2010

Why: We all need a little more light in these dark, dreary days of winter, and no one does light better than the good people of Montreal. This year’s High Lights Festival celebrates Portugal, New Orleans, and the Eastern Townships of Quebec in a festive lineup of culinary and entertainment events to please all the senses.

The bleak winter will melt away in the warmth of cozy bonfires and under the illumination of spectacular light shows and torchlight processions. The High Lights Event takes the already fabulous (and free) daily activities to higher heights, lighting up land and sky with mind-blowing digital arts, circus feats, and more.

On hand to fire up the ears, eyes, mind and spirit is a stellar (and star-studded) lineup of musical and artistic performances. Think the smooth, sweet rhythms of the Buena Vista Social Club and the crazy, mind-boggling circus act, Psy, or pay tribute to Portugal through the elegant, soulful strains of the country’s traditional fado.

The new annual series, Caliente, promises to heat things up with sexy Latin music and dance, including Elementos, brainchild of acclaimed Cuban choreographer Lizt Alfonso. And audiences looking to be shaken all night long need look no further than Nuit blanche à Montréal (a.k.a. the Montreal all-nighter) and its 175 mostly free concerts, exhibitions, and performances.

A festival isn’t a festival without a little deliciousness to warm the belly. Culinary luminaries from around the world—including 39 chefs and winemakers from Portugal—will congregate to serve up gourmet grub at some of the finest dining establishments. Cocktail parties and themed brunches will be on the menu of epicurean experiences, but the real treats are the scrumptious culinary tours that explore the tastes and smells of Old Montreal, decadent desserts, and more.

The High Lights Festival is a bright spot in the depths of winter. And the marvelous packages offering accommodation at uber-chic hotels, plus tickets to some the festival’s best events, make attendance a no-brainer.

Cost: Many events, including the High Lights event, and the Montreal All-Nighter, are free. Prices for shows and food events vary. Check out the performance calendar and the Dining Experience calendar for full pricing.

How to get there: There are a few options. You can take the 11-hour ride on Amtrak, or the Greyhound bus, which generally takes 8 or 9 hours. Or touch down at Montreal Trudeau Airport, where there are a number of transportation options heading into central Montreal. Check with your hotel to see if it provides a shuttle. Otherwise, take the 204 bus or L’Aérobus shuttle. For a full list of transportation options, click here.

Photo: Courtesy Flickr