You'll find tourists in Montreal's churches, walking up Mont Royal, and aimlessly wandering St. Catherine as they try to get the "Montreal experience." While eating bagels and going to the Biosphere are definitely to-dos on the Montreal checklist, there are many more "non-touristy" activities in the city that offer a much more authentic cultural experience.
Unless they've got an in/friend in the city, you won't be seeing tourists doing most of this stuff in Montreal. Hopefully were not mucking that up with this post, but even if we do, tourists deserve to see Montreal beyond the superficial sites listed on tour guide maps.
1. 2$ Chow Mein
Greasy, sloppy, and grossly delicious, you're only eating toonie-chow at 3am on St. Laurent if you know where and what the hell it is. Most visitors will be turned away by the idea of re-fried chow mein noodles drenched in an only-peanut butter sauce. Montrealers know better, or have just built a tolerance to OD-ing on PB and grease.
2. Drinking Cheap Wine/Beer in a Park
Elsewhere in North America, drinking in public parks is frowned upon, or straight up prohibited. In Montreal, drinking dep wine and beer in the park during the summer is a way of life. The picnic law is technically always in force...not that anyone enforces it anyway. A bottle of Wallaroo Trail counts as a meal, right?
3. Getting Smoked Meat Somewhere Other Than Schwartz's
It truly pains me to see the horde of tourists who line up for Schwartz's smoked meat sandwiches. Yes, they're good, but no smoked meat is worth that wait, especially when the arguably superior Main Deli is a stone's throw away. Lester's Deli, Rueben's, Jarry Smoked Meat, and are all similarly superior spots you'll find many a Montrealer, and rarely a tourist.
4. Disobeying Traffic Lights
When you're at an intersection with a red light staring at you, yet no cars are in sight, what do you do? You walk right through, of course. Tourists, on the other hand, have the strange problem of always obeying traffic signals, even when there's no point to. You can always tell who lives in Montreal from who does/doesn't blindly follow the ol' red, green, and yellows.
5. Going to an Outdoor Market
Atwater Market and Jean Talon are no doubt featured on many tourist pamphlets (because they're both amazing), but how many tourists actually check them out? The appeal of a farmer's market drops drastically when you don't have your own kitchen to prepare all the produce, meats, and other fine edibles to be purchased.
6. Not Being Awkward When Ordering in English
Bless their hearts, tourists always try to order or talk to strangers in French (save maybe Americans) even though they butcher the language. Natives to Montreal know the predominantly Anglophone and Francophone areas, and also know that almost everyone is functionally bilingual, especially anyone working a service job. If you see a person in a restaurant getting all flustered while looking at their menu and mouthing a prepared speech in French, chances are they're a tourist.
7. Tam Tams
Tourism companies probably don't advertise Tams for a reason, given the mass amounts of weed smoking and eclectic cast of characters. Tams is pretty hard to miss on a sunny Sunday, but even if tourists do stroll through, they're probably not truly having a Tams experience, which includes at least one joint, a blanket, 4+ hours in the sun, and a conversation with a crazy homeless person/hippie/struggling musician.
8. Getting a Dic Ann's Burger
Outside of Montreal and Quebec, Dic Ann's isn't a well known burger joint, which makes a lot of sense since it's a Montreal chain. Bagels and smoked meat get Montreal's food-focus, while Dic Ann's unique flat-bun burgers are left only for the locals to enjoy. Works out well enough.
9. Going to Cinema Du Parc
Underground and an indy theater, Cinema Du Parc is a cultural hole in the wall glossed over by many a visitor to Montreal, and probably some residents as well. Truly a shame, as CDP is one of the few remaining truly intimate and affordable theaters that screens more than just crappy Hollywood blockbusters. Seeing a tourist here is incredibly unlikely, unless they're a film buff.
10. Smoking a Joint on Saint Catherine Street
The idea of lighting up on a busy downtown street like St. Cats seems like the cause for instant incarceration to a tourist, even those from nearby cities like Toronto. St. Cats isn't the ideal spot to smoke a jay, but it does point to how tourists don't really understand Montreal's laissez faire attitude towards cannabis. If you see a bloke taking a toke on St. Cats, chances are he/she has done it many times before during their residency in Montreal.
Bonus: Avoiding Crescent Like the Plague
Tourists flock to Crescent, probably because every brochure tells them it's the nightlife hub of the city...which it isn't, unless you're a bro over 35. Sorry to anyone who actually goes on on Crescent, but even if you do, you'll know the street is always packed with visitors to Montreal, who are usually too wasted to form coherent sentences. Those of us that live in the city know better than to head out to Crescent, and tend to avoid the street as much as possible.
What are your non-touristy Montreal activities?
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