Welcome back, wedding season! We missed you. It has been a while. The last wedding I attended was back in October but now that Montréal (and most of Canada) is out of its deep freeze, here we go again.
Most couples may have already finished their last minute touches on their wedding planning, but often at this time the onus of wedding celebration planning now falls on the wedding party. This might mean bridal showers, Jack n Jill-style parties, and of course, bachelor and bachelorette parties need to be planned. So if you are attached to a wedding celebration with traditional aspects and especially if you are part of the wedding party, you are probably scrambling to figure out what on earth to do for your best friend or sibling’s epic night out.
I do understand though that not all bachelor or bachelorette parties are going to be “wild” ending with salacious photos posted on Facebook (yep, that is going to happen). I know this as someone who has not only attended quite a few bachelorette parties — and a handful of bachelor parties — but also as one of the planners of these events on multiple occasions. Sometimes your friend wants to have a in-night of drinking and card games, others go the moderate route of a bar hopping sans any naughty behaviour, and others want…well, this is when those incriminating photos might come into play. It is important to figure out exactly what kind of party you would like to plan first, which often means that you should straight up ask your soon-to-be hitched buddy what they are comfortable with.
And if you are living in central or eastern Canada, or an American wanting to an alternative to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, you may be heading to this lovely city of Montréal for your party weekend. And I will spell it out why this often is the case: the strip clubs, legal drinking age of 18, great gastronomy, bring-your-own-wine restaurants, and the exotic nature of the Québécois/European culture in North America. Specifically regarding the strip clubs: full-contact (above the belt) dances are legal. And there are options for both men and women in the city.
I personally am not a fan of strip clubs but I do recognize that this happens often in bachelor and bachelorette parties. But minus the sexually liberal culture of Montréal, there are still many great things about the city that makes it a great party town. Not to mention that very good looking men and women swarm the city. And in Montréal unlike the rest of the province, you can get away with speaking English for the most parts of town and services, though it is definite a bonus if you are able to at least read French (some of the restaurant menus come in French only).
So because I have been living in this great town for a few years now, I always receive a few queries about bachelor/bachelorette party planning. I even planned one in the city last year, so I thought flashbracket could offer some useful tips, especially for non-locals. I figure this blog post will be much better than some seedy or cheesy bachelor party planning information out on the Net.
This will be a series of posts since I will be covering specific queries such as restaurants for dinner, brunch restaurants, bars and clubs, and hotels. I definitely cannot plan all elements of the party for you but I can give some pointers of some good places to visit in the city and some events to consider.
My first tip: Plan early. That means book things as early as possible, including transportion, lodging, and restaurants. Some of the restaurants in the city, specifically the very famous ones (there are quite a few that get Food Network attention — more on that in the next post), book months early. As a local I have had to sometimes book a restaurant two months in advance so party planning in this city requires some forethought.
Above: Airbnb search in Montréal
CHEAP LODGING OPTIONS
Hotels are expensive. Being in a wedding party? Expensive too! How much you may be willing to pay for lodgings may also depend on what level of comfort you are willing to be comfortable with. There are tons of bed and breakfasts, and hostels in the city, which are the cheapest option. Another option? Airbnb. This website connects home owners in various cities around the world with visitors planning stays that are one night or longer. Obviously the market offerings vary and changes often, so check back frequently and find some great deals such as a whole apartment for $300 CDN a night, which works out to $50 per person for a group of six.
Update: The province of Québec is cracking down on Airbnb in the city. Check the news to keep yourself informed.
MODERATELY-PRICED LODGING OPTIONS
Airbnb also can fit into this category, depending on your price disutility. Otherwise, other than the usual Holiday Inn, on the moderate-to-high end I recommend Hotel Nelligan in the Old Port. This boutique hotel smells like flowers when you walk in — seriously it does, it is delicious — and sports exposed brick and stone walls, high ceilings, and a bar and restaurant in the lobby. I have had various friends stay in this hotel and they have all really loved it. Rates can be approximately $240 for two people in May (rates are subject to change). Plus, even if you do not spend a lot of time in the Old Port, it is a good place to keep base because it is just a really beautiful neighbourhood — albeit a bit touristy — and not too far from downtown or the Plateau, the main neighbourhoods for bars and restaurants.
Another option is Fairmont Queen Elizabeth which is right downtown above the train station. This is where John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged their famous bed-in in 1969. Rates can go from around $160 with a sale price in May, though it usually starts from about $189 per night. You can also visit their famous Montréalais Bistrot-Bar for Sunday brunch buffet and afternoon tea service.
HIGH-END LODGING OPTIONS
You have cash to burn? Good for you — help the Montréal economy! In this case, there are two strong choices: Ritz-Carlton Montréal and Sofitel. Both are located very near to each other in the downtown core, specifically in the fancy area of town appropriately called “The Mink Mile” (adjacent to McGill University).
The Ritz-Carlton recently underwent a $200-million CDN renovation finished last year, transforming part of the hotel into condo units. Price start at approximately $400 in May.
The Sofitel is also another fancy option with rates starting at approximately $216 in May and up to $2,800 for the Opera Suite. The hotel is glamorous and trendy as per the Sofitel brand, though if you are a bathtub snob make sure your room offers one as I know it is not an option for all room bookings.
Article on Québec strip club culture by The Toronto Star
Airbnb: Short-term lodging options
Hotel Nelligan in the Old Port
Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, downtown
Ritz-Carlton Montréal, downtown (Mink Mile)
Sofitel Montréal, downtown (Mink Mile)
Note: All hotel prices quoted were prices researched for May 2013 for two nights for two adults in Canadian currency. Prices are subject to change.
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Published Posts in the Series:
The Montréal Bachelor(ette) Party Planning: Introduction and Hotels
The Montréal Bachelor(ette) Party Planning Guide: Restaurants, Part One
The Montréal Bachelor(ette) Party Planning Guide: Restaurants, Part Two
The Montréal Bachelor(ette) Party Planning Guide: Activities