The premiere destination on the North American map that delivers the romantic feel of European language and culture without having to leave the continent is the city of Montreal. It's amazing to think that a metropolitan population of just under four million francophones exists a mere hour's drive from the New York State border, living and breathing hockey, chowing down on poutine, and exhibiting a sense of history that is altogether French, Canadian, and singularly its own. One of the best places to visit in Canada for livability, culture, entertainment, and (the deal breaker!) nightlife, travelers could veritably find themselves scratching their every possible itch here.
Although other regions of Canada will provide you with a greater variety and extent of natural adventure (British Columbia, for one), Montreal is still within a day trip of numerous high-end ski resorts and national park excursions. Mont-Tremblant is the king of skiing in the Quebec, but you'd be surprised at the number of smaller resorts that are available in the province, as well as the possibilities just across the border with the U.S. (Jay Peak in Vermont is a big draw). Also, getting away for a taste of the outdoors is easier than you think: Mont Megantic National Park is a collection of trails and an observatory that are far enough away from civilization to have earned dark-sky status, while La Mauricie National Park is the prototypical Canadian wilderness of pristine lakes and wildlife. Also, there are some essential parks within the city, whether you are catching views of downtown from Mount Royal or watching Formula One, playing poker, riding roller coasters, and browsing outdoor art at Parc Jean-Drapeau on the St. Lawrence River.
There are two essential areas to experience in Montreal, although a keen-eyed adventurer can drudge up a good time or dive bar anywhere in the city. Old Montreal, on the site of the city's original settlement, is where you'll stroll cobblestoned boulevards, peruse top North American museums, and get an eyeful of 19th century chateaus, vintage boutiques, and historic chapels. This is also where you'll find plenty of quality restaurants and nightlife, right down to the old port on the St. Lawrence. The other area is downtown, where it is easiest to orient yourself by Mont Royal to the north and the river to the south when seeking out your destinations. Your two most significant streets for food, entertainment, and excess are Saint-Laurent and Sainte-Catherine, which run perpendicular to each other. Here you will find the best clubs, cheap dives, trendy cafes, strip clubs, cabarets, and other establishments that draw travelers like firelight in the wintry Canadian tundra. You can't miss with the nightlife in Montreal.
If you're looking to chow down on an international array of foods, then you'll probably never have to leave the street where you're staying, because Montreal has the largest number of eating establishments per person in North America. This doesn't mean, however, that you should forgo your obligatory stop at the Jeal Talon or Atwater Markets or seek out staples of Montreal like poutine or smoked-meat sandwiches. You're an embark traveler; we know you live to seek out the facets of a city that make it unique.
With a safe and convenient metro system that includes the sprawling mall complex known as the Underground City, a well-maintained old city, an always-happening downtown, a handful of excellent parks, and a truly unique opportunity to hear French spoken more than in any city other than Paris, Montreal is a pretty obvious choice for a big adventure. There is no bad time to visit (unless you are truly averse to snow in winter), and there are numerous festivals spread out through the year that really keep up the city's vital energy. Check out our adventure, culture, and cuisine pages for more information on what Montreal can do for you.