Why visit the Paris of North America just to explore the museums, landmarks, art galleries, parks, and shopping districts? If you're going to hit Montreal, the second-largest French-speaking city in the world, make it a flavorful experience that generates envy in everyone who follows your social media feeds.

Montreal is the host city of some of the world's best annual events, nightlife activities, and cultural spots. Design your vacation around one of these must-see Montreal attractions, and generate a ton of crazy photos with more than a museum or cathedral in the backdrop.

01Montreal International Jazz Festival

Deva Mahal performs during the 2018 Festival International de Jazz de Montreal at Quartier des spectacles on July 1st, 2018 in Montreal, Canada. Roberta Parkin / Getty Images

Visit Montreal in late June or early July, and plan to attend the annual Montreal International Jazz Festival, the largest such festival in the world. Held at The Place des Arts entertainment complex in downtown, the festival attracts over 2 million people from around the world and brings in some of the most famous names in jazz. The festival showcases over 650 indoor and outdoor concerts, hundreds of which are free.

02Just For Laughs

Travel to Montreal later in July and enjoy the annual Just For Laughs Festival, the biggest comedy festival in the world. Boasting attendance by over 2 million comedy-lovers at hundreds of comedy shows spread across dozens of venues, this festival has something for every sense of humor. Comedians, both world-famous and new-to-the-scene, showcase their talents and keep audiences laughing.


03Sunday Tam-Tams

African male and female percussionists play djembe and dunun bongo drums at Tam Tams festival in Mount Royal Park, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Stop by historic Mount Royal Park on Sunday during your trip and enjoy the weekly hand-drumming sessions, popularly known as the Tam-Tams. Along with the spectacular view of the city skyline, the Tam-Tams attract a range of local musicians and affords you the opportunity for some serious people-watching. Other local visual artists showcase their wares during the performances, giving you the opportunity for some shopping.

04Canadian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel racing the Ferrari at the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix weekend, Canada

If you're in Montreal in June, plan to attend the annual Canadian Grand Prix auto race at the Formula One racetrack in Parc Jean Drapeau. While the two islands comprising the park have plenty of free and paid activities to keep you busy, from a beach to the Montreal Casino, the Canadian Grand Prix is an exciting, internationally treasured event with wild, unpredictable races that are sure to make your vacation memorable.

05Cabaret Mado

Any time of the year is a great time to party hard at Cabaret Mado, Montreal's famous drag cabaret in the Gay Village. Hosted by the unforgettable Mado Lamotte, the venue delivers wild drag performances of music, comedy and dancing seven days a week. The shows are generally in French, with Madame Mado translating. Keep in mind that you're more likely to become the butt of a joke, the closer you sit to the stage.


06Sugar Shack

Pouring maple syrup on snow

Take in one of Montreal's essential annual traditions at a sugar shack cookout if you're in town anytime from February through April. The spring thaw allows sugar shacks to tap into maple tree sap to boil it down into maple syrup. Check out the urban sugar shack events in Montreal complete with breakfast, live music, and other family-style entertainment, or go upscale and try a fine dining-level sugar shack experience hosted by famous Montreal chef Martin Picard's at his restaurants La Cabane d' à Côté and Cabane à Sucre Au Pied De Cochon.

07Crescent Street

Say you partied hard during your trip to Montreal by enjoying all the city's nightlife has to offer. Downtown areas such as Crescent Street offer a strip of bars and clubs that makes it easy to party the night away, especially on the weekends. With a number of university campuses in the area and a legal drinking age of 18 years, it's no surprise that Montreal is known for its robust nightlife featuring famous DJs and underground spots that let you dance until dawn.


08Cirque du Soleil

Check out the world-famous circus company Cirque du Soleil at its home base and in the city where the troupe got its start. The Montreal-based company shows off its unique global style of storytelling and acrobatics at the big top in the warmer months from about the middle of spring to the middle of summer. Although you can see this traveling circus in other cities around the world, there's a certain je ne sais quoi to seeing the show in the city the troupe calls home. The astounding show is sure to make any trip to Montreal a memorable experience.


09Montreal Fireworks Festival

Montreal Fireworks Festival Exhibition with The Jacques Cartier bridge, Annual La Ronde fireworks, Montreal, Quebec, Canada ReverseProject / Getty Images

Visit Montreal in the summer and coordinate your trip with the dates of the annual Montreal Fireworks Festival, the largest fireworks show of its kind in the world. Check out the fireworks from the vantage point of the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, which connects the island of Montreal to Longueuil city, or enjoy a dinner cruise on the river to watch the lights in luxe style.

10Café Cléopâtre

Make memories that last a lifetime with a stop at Café Cléopâtre, a prime example of Montreal's Paris-style history of exotic dancing in the city's traditional red-light district. The cafe sports a strip club on the first floor and a cabaret on the second floor featuring drag, vaudeville, and burlesque shows. Time your trip in September, and visit the club during Montreal Fetish Weekend for a down-and-dirty experience, or simply visit on any Saturday and participate in Bareoke, which combines karaoke with a bit of stripping by anyone willing to try.