Montreal Jazz Fest for Families Who Like to Improvise

Moms, dads, grandparents, and godparents: Are you looking for a special occasion to dedicate to some one-on-one bonding time with your kid? Check out our series of hip happenings that will give the two of you secrets to share and a ritual to return to year after year.

Hey you hepcats and cool kids: Want to be-bop to the sounds of tricky trumpeters, sultry singers, and slippery scat? The world’s most elusive art form has crystallized, expanded, and j'adored at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, to the delight of fans all over the world.

It’s a great excuse to take your kids on a foreign adventure and practice your French (don’t worry – it’s completely bilingual so English still works) without leaving the continent. The compact, faux-European city of Montreal will become your bike-friendly playground for almost two weeks of mainly-free live jazz and headlining artists from all over the world. If you want to expose your children to the only genre for true music lovers, the Montreal Jazz Festival is the only place to be.

Jazz Town Basics

Montreal; Canada’s second-largest city, and the lively capital of French-speaking province Quebec, is filled with quaint quarters of a European vintage that are well worth the visit (see our city guide). The festival takes place along just such an area in Downtown Montreal, near the St. Lawrence River. It’s centered around the Places des Artes, a complex that holds the symphony, national theatre, and contemporary art museum.

If you want to stay near the festival, you’d do best to book your stay straight away – especially if the festival is 10 or 11 months away! Nearby participating hotels can be booked through the festival’s website, making it an easy one-stop-shop for fest planning. You can also purchase a Jazz Travel Package, which bundles your accommodation, breakfast, access to select ticketed shows, and a swag bag that includes a Jazz Fest fedora so you can keep it classy during every show.

Although many performances are free, you’ll want to check out the lineup and purchase any ticketed concerts early too. These ticketed spaces are usually reserved for the headliners, so if there is someone you truly need to see, book ahead.

Regardless of where you stay and what you see, a bike share program called Bixi Bicycle will get you to the festival grounds – just be prepared for the hills! Alternately, there are two metro stations, Places des Artes, and Saint Laurent, at the edges of the festival, which you can get to from anywhere in metro-range.

Everyone in your family will need a valid passport, but traveling to Canada (as a tourist) does not require a visa. As long as you’ve got at least six months of validity left in your passport, that should make border crossing easy as pie.

The Greats in Great Supply

The festival consistently draws great lineups, including Ray Charles and Tony Bennett in its early years! Among the hundreds of performers from all over the world, New Orleans-based Preservation Hall Jazz Band, trumpet sensation Ibrahim Maalouf, diva Sharon Jones, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy have all been recent headliners making Montreal International Jazz Festival the most coveted festival destination for jazz lovers and jazz talent, worldwide.

Although some acts fall outside the traditional range of “jazz,” who cares when those outsiders are R&B superstar Lauryn Hill, Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher, and Beach Boy Brian Wilson? The world music lineup proves an interesting alternative to strictly jazz, as well.

Watch out for the Festival Awards lineup too, which recognizes emerging talent, lifetime achievement and excellence in vocals, trumpet, blues, and other sub-genres within jazz. This might help you winnow down the hundreds of performances to find a few you really want to see; or, just wander the festival area and sneak into whatever looks good on the fly.

Keeping It Active

Need a break from the endless barrage of shows at countless stages? There’s plenty to do outside the music too.

Check out one of the many walking tours in Downtown Montreal, like a “History of Jazz in Montreal” tour, which takes you through jazz clubs, old photos, and musical recordings that date back to the 1920s. You’ll get to see the city and learn about the history of jazz in it all at the same time.

An extra fun and funky part of the fest for young ones is the Rio Tinto Musical Park, a special zone with interactive exhibit areas that help kids explore and learn about instruments. You can beat on drums, play a giant piano with your feet, spin some vinyl, and crash some tambourines. Prepare to make some noise!

Kids who are a little more serious about their musical education can go to “jazz school,” a daily dose of instrumental education nearby in the Family Zone. Got an instrument? Bring it along for improv workshops and street busking. All of those lessons must be worth something! Who knows? Maybe your kid is meant to be the next great jazz legend, and the rest will be history.

Will you attend Montreal’s International Jazz Festival? What are other hip happenings you’re looking forward to this year? Share with us!

Cover image via

Tags : hip happenings   music festivals   montreal   canada   

No Comments.