So You're Coming to Montréal's Magicfest!
Welcome to La Belle Province! Montreal's CommandFest is July 15th to the 17th, Friday to Sunday. It's presented by GameKeeper and is being held at Palais des Congrès at 1001 Pl. Jean-Paul-Riopelle, H2Z 1H5.
The venue is smack in between Place D'armes and Square Victoria - OACI metro stations on the Orange line, which means it's just at the edge of Montreal's beautiful Old Montreal district. Before the Fest, head down to the Old Port and look out at the St. Laurent river. Get a beaver tail and coffee while you're at it.
The venue is also just a stone's throw away from Chinatown where you can get so many treats and all the noodles your heart can desire. Want something else? Up the street, about a 10-15 minute walk north, you're at Place-Des-Arts and wherever you turn, there's something new to experience.
A Roof Over Your Head
Hotels get crowded in July. There are so many festivals and events like the Just For Laughs Festival's French counterpart Juste Pour Rire, the Jazz Festival, Quebec Music Fest, etc. If you're traveling in looking to stay close, I would book the hotel as soon as possible.
That said, they can be pricey. If you're traveling with pals? Sharing a room can keep costs down. I don't stay in hotels in my own city, so I'll check Expedia and Google for a quick gander, but I recommend calling hotels directly.
There are a bunch of hotels in the vicinity that can range from $225 - $550, but a lot more closer to $225 - $350 a night. You've got chain hotels like Holiday Inn, Travelodge Hotels, Best Western, and Embassy Suites that are very solid in terms of proximity. Hotel Zero 1 is a non-chain hotel that boasts lower prices and smaller rooms from what I could gather, but every single one of the recommendations is within walking distance with the Best Western being furthest. Even then, Montreal is a surprisingly small city and very walkable.
Good Eats, Great Drinks
Look, you can't talk about Quebec without talking about poutine and steamed hot dogs. La Belle Province at 1 Ste-Catherine Est right at the corner of the Main (St-Laurent Blvd) is where you get the authentic and classic experience of a night out for poutine and hot dogs. Do they do the best poutine? No, but they do a damn good one. Trust me when I say you want your hot dog bun steamed. Try it. At least once. They do a bunch of other stuff, too.
It's tough to talk about what restaurants to recommend in the Old Port because they tend to be expensive and a little up their own butts. I think there are way more interesting options a little closer to Place-des-Arts which is a 10 minute walk north of the venue.
I know I recommended Belle Pro (that's what we call La Belle Province out here) for hot dogs, but at Place-Des-Arts, corner Ste-Catherine Ouest and Jeanne-Mance, you'll find a combination Lafleur's and Dairy Queen. Lafleur's gets a little more adventurous with the hot dogs, toasted ones are fine, but they've got dogs with cheese curds, etc. A little further east, there's a great ramen place called Sansotei Ramen that is fantastic. There's a Krispy Kreme across the street if you need dessert right after.
A bar I really like in the area is Midway on St. Laurent between Ste. Catherine and Rene-Levesque. Very cool spot, but I'll tell ya what - get your drinks from an SAQ or dépanneur (convenience store) and enjoy the summer air and have a drink at the Place-Des-Arts grounds which are pedestrian only and have plenty of space to hang in. Some of my favourite nights have been spent hanging out with comedians during the Just For Laughs festival outside at the PDA steps hanging out until the early morning hours.
Local Gaming Shops and Attractions
The closest Local Game Store is Three Kings Loot (1118 Rue Sainte-Caterine Ouest #204) which is a charming spot I enjoy playing at just by Peel metro station. If you're looking for Gamekeeper and Face to Face Games, you'll need to head to Verdun at De L'Eglise metro station. Luckily, vendors at the CommandFest grounds should have you covered and I'd recommend visiting Three Kings Loot anyway.
Montreal has a wonderful comedy club at Atwater metro station called the Comedy Nest - my home club! I perform there all the time! As of writing, the headliner is not announced, but every weekend, they have headliners and local features that'll knock your socks off.
Taking a stroll in Old Montreal and the Old Port is scenic as heck and I recommend you take it in and enjoy what makes people call Montreal a little European style city.
I've mentioned Place-Des-Arts plenty and I will again. That's because the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal (MACM) is the centrepiece of the plaza. If you'd rather venture further west, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is one of my favourite museums in town.
Head down to Mont Royal and enjoy the fun stoner vibes of folks hanging out on the hill and some joining a drum circle. Then walk the way down to Chinatown near the CommandFest venue on St. Laurent boulevard and take in the newly finished murals thanks to Montreal's Mural Festival just wrapping up.
Montreal is an artsy city with a lot going on. It's also very walkable so bring a good pair of shoes for your adventuring. Knowing that CommandFest attendees will spend tons of time around the venue grounds, I recommend taking breaks and walking outside. July is beautiful and humid. Wear breathable fabrics and bring some shorts!
Please say hi.
I would love to meet and hang out with you. I've got my CommandFest three-day pass order in and I am ready to play all the decks I don't shut up about.
Most importantly, be kind and have fun.
See you soon!