Jean Drapeau Park: Montreal's courtyard
The island is still known as Île Sainte Hélène, the name given to it by no other than the explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1611, after the name of her young wife. Most of the island, however, is now designated after the former mayor who was the driving force behind Expo 67. Jean Drapeau Park is not only a well-preserved natural area just a few minutes from downtown Montreal. It is also a place where the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada is held every year, the site of a beautiful (although this year closed) swimming pool complex, the stage for many concerts, and the location of an artificial beach.
These multiple vocations of the park were celebrated this past Tuesday when Danièle Henkel, Chair of the Board of Directors, and Ronald Cyr, Director General of the Société du parc Jean-Drapeau, unveiled the list of activities programmed to celebrate what is also the 50th anniversary of the park. This press conference was also the occasion to launch "Two Islands, One Park, One City", a book designed in the form of a visual album that covers the history of the island since the times of Iroquoian settling, to the French colonization, the British takeover, and the period after the founding of Canada. The book was produced by Manuela Ferron, Linda Pimparé, and the manuscript by Diane Gervais, with Manuela Ferron and Hélène Gautry.
Neighbouring the Park on the southern tip of the island, is La Ronde, the site of a new edition of the Fireworks Competition (from July 1 to August 5), one of the most popular summer events. Back at the Jean Drapeau Park, the Weekends du Monde, a multicultural festival featuring dance, music, and gastronomy from Jamaica, the Maghreb countries, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia and Tunisia will run July 8-9 and then July 15-16.
For those looking for action and sports, the MTL Challenge – Bateau Dragon is scheduled for July 8 and 9, the Montreal Spirit Triathlon is set for September 9 and 10, and the 24 hrs Roller Montreal for September 16 and 17.
The park is also home to outstanding concerts and music festivals: Metallica will be performing on July 19.The Osheaga Festival of Music and Arts is scheduled for August 4 to 6. The festival Ilesoniq takes place on August 11 and 12, Guns-n-Roses will be at the park on August 19. Piknik Electronik will be on weekends until September 24.
Other places of interest located on the island are the Biosphere, an environment museum; the Stewart Museum, and of course, the ever-popular amusement park La Ronde and the Montreal Casino. This year, being the 50th anniversary of Expo 67 has also provided the opportunity to present a photo exhibition at the Biosphere celebrating that unique moment in the history of Montreal and Canada.
Jean Drapeau Park is accessible by metro (yellow line, from the BerriUQAM station), by bixi, and by boat from the Old Port and Longueuil. I would strongly recommend public transit over the car: traffic jams, especially the days of fireworks shows or concerts, are of exasperating proportions. For detailed information about activities and fees for some of them, visit
Aerial view of Jean Drapeau Park in the present, from "Two Islands, One Park, One City"