Osheaga Survival Guide 2023 : What to Wear, Where to Stay, What to Do, Who to See, and How to Party
Get ready to savour the sounds, the sights, the movement, the food, the sweat, the fun! Osheaga is Montreal’s premiere music festival, bringing together three days and nights of music and art and beautiful people on the island just off the island, aka Parc Jean Drapeau. On August 4 – 6 2023, sweets sounds will emanate over the river.
Every year, we update our survival guide for the festival. We’ve got info on getting tickets, where to stay, how to get there, what to wear, and which bands to see.
Osheaga has a website to purchase passes. The most popular three-day admission pass is $385 (CDN) and offers general admission to the event. A single day pass is $155 CDN (with upgraded options available). The Gold passes ($710 3-day and $290 1-day CDN all taxes and fees included) add on private bars, special viewing platforms with premium views of the stage, exclusive food and beverage stands, fast-lane entry to the festival, and access to private washrooms. If you can afford these passes, they give you a bit of space in the crowd, a good view of the stage, and shorter toilet lines. These amenities, although not necessary, are appreciated by those who have them (affectionately they’ve been called the ITOTS passes — I’m Too Old for This Shit passes). And, for those who want a premium experience, complete with makeup artists, massage areas, a concierge, a backstage tour, private lockers, access to the front pit viewing area, and a special Platinum terrace, go for the Platinum pass ($1550 for 3-day and $625 for 1-day CDN, all taxes and fees included).
Admission is open to all, and children under age 10 can go for free if they are accompanied by an adult. Admission is handled digitally and assuming you get a 3-day pass, there will be a separate pass for each day of the festival. Don’t forget to bring a phone with your pass on it!
How do you get your passes? Online. Not to be a debbie downer, but there are always incidents of fake passes being sold. Be very careful if you purchase your pass from someone other than the Osheaga website. It happened to a friend of a friend kind of thing.
You could potentially win a contest as well. There are contests all over for Osheaga. Feel free to add any that you know about in the comments below.
Where to Stay
If you’re coming from out of town, you’ll need a place to stay. There’s no camping on Parc Jean Drapeau, but, woot woot, Osheaga is offering packages at the McGill Residences.
The McGill Residences are at 475 Sherbrooke Street West and offer either one queen sized bed or two single beds. There is private bathroom, internet, and AC, but no parking. A three night stay minimum ($239 CAD per night plust taxes) is required and you must be over 18. Getting a room at McGill Residence does not come w
Another offer through Osheaga itself is to book a space via Stay22, which works in conjunction with Booking.com and Vrbo.
If those two options don’t work, don’t fret. Hotels are plentiful in Montreal, especially in Centre Ville (Downtown) and the Vieux Port (Old Port) area. Some are very chic and high end. Some scare away bed bugs. Check out reviews before you commit. Sometimes staying at a less obvious hotel might be a great option. For example, the Hilton Garden Inn Midtown on the Decarie Expressway is brand new and five minutes walk to Narmur metro station — about a 30 minute metro ride to the festival. It’s about 1/3 the price of a downtown hotel. You can also rent on Airbnb .
You can also try staying at a hostel. These are more affordable options, starting at $20 a night in a dorm room. The green key certified Hotel M Hostel (1245 Rue St-Andre) is well-regarded as the best (our article is HERE and it looked pretty awesome), but there are many others of all sizes. The SaintLo is also extremely popular, but probably booked up already.
Summer prices can be high in Montreal, so you might want to look into options that aren’t necessarily within the popular neighbourhoods (popular neighbourhoods Mile End, Old Port, Centre Ville, Plateau, Latin Quarter, Guy-Concordia, the Village, St Henri; less popular neighbourhoods: NDG/CDN, Griffintown, Hochelaga, St Marie, LaSalle, Verdun, Rosemont, Outremont, Westmount, Villeray) and use a combination of bus, metro, and foot to reach the Osheaga site. Of course, the popular neighbourhoods are popular for a reason. They’re full of restaurants and boutiques and quirky things to do, so if you want a Montreal experience as well as the Osheaga one, those are good choices.
Montreal’s metro is easy to use with only four lines. Once you’re on it, unless there is a delay, it’s fast. That means that almost any option you pick within walking distance of a metro station is a fine choice. With Bixi bikes and the bus system, you can even extend the range of potential places even further. You can even park Bixi bikes near the festival.
How to Get To The Site and Around Montreal
Take a bike or ride the metro to Parc Jean Drapeau on the yellow line (accessible from either the orange or green lines at Berri-UQAM station). During the Osheaga festival, you’ll easily spot where to go because hundreds of other Osheagites will be in the metro with you. The metro in Montreal is clean, safe, and runs regularly while open, save for the occasional service interruption. The downside of the metro is that it only runs until 1 a.m. weekdays and Sundays, and until 1:30 a.m. on Saturday night (technically Sunday morning). From one end of the orange line to the other (Montmorency to Cote Vertu), the trip is around 45 minutes. From one end of the green line to the other (Angrignon to Henri Bourassa), the trip is around 36 minutes. The subway is clean, quiet, safe.
One point that a few Osheagites make is that getting on the subway at the end of the night to leave the site can be intense. If you need to bail before the headliners finish to avoid the crowd, you won’t be the only one doing it. If you stay to the end, though, everyone will likely be singing on the subway, at least until you get to Berri-UQAM. It is kind of a fun last moment at the festival.
You can purchase subway tickets inside subway stations. Use the machines (sometimes there are lines) and pay with debit or credit card. You can choose to see the menu in English, which will help if you are unfamiliar with French.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of fare you can purchase (see HERE). The STM, Montreal’s transit authority, is raising prices July 1, 2023 and costs posted below reflect these new prices. The STM divides the city and places around it into zones. Chances are, unless you’ve decided to stay on the south or north shore, you’ll be in Zone A the entire time you are in Montreal. Zone A fares include buses, commuter trains, and metro/subway, and allow for one way transfers along the route up to 120 minutes, though you can’t exactly back track. A single trip costs $3.75, a 2 trip ticket is $7, 10 trips cost $32.50, a 24- hour pass is $11, a three-day pass costs $21.25, and an unlimited zone A,B,C, D weekend pass is $15.25 (valid Friday 4 p.m. until Monday 5 a.m.). Trips to and from the airport via the 747 bus cost $11. Sadly, the REM (Réseau express métropolitain) is not yet working, but should be one of these days. Other fare packages by the STM are available.
The single trip fare allows transfers between bus and metro for 120 minutes once activated by use, with some restrictions on transfers (you can’t use the same station twice for example). The three-day metro pass begins once it is activated. Ride your heart out. You can also purchase a week-long pass which starts on a Monday and ends on a Sunday, regardless of when in the week it is purchased. Most locals have an OPUS card, which costs $6 and can be recharged to carry different types of metro fares. If you don’t have an OPUS card, you get a cardboard ticket to carry around with you that you take when you pay at one of the station ticket machines. You tap the ticket (or OPUS card) once before passing through the turn-styles to enter the metro system — you don’t need to tap it to exit. Occasionally there are cops checking for tickets. Metro tickets can be purchased using credit or debit cards using one of the machines in the subway system. If the French is confusing, press the button for EN (English).
Finally, one super generous thing the city did in 2022 was make Metro access free at certain stations on the weekends. These are available Saturday and Sunday: Peel, McGill, Place-des-Arts, Saint-Laurent, Berri-UQAM, Champ-de-Mars and Place-d’Armes. It is uncertain if the city will revive this initiative in 2023.
Airline and the 747 Bus
If you come by airplane, the 747 Shuttle Bus to and from the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport does not run on regular one-way metro tickets. Your fare is $11, which provides you with a 24-hour pass to the STM system. Three-day tickets and the weekend tickets also cover your fare to/from the airport. If you need to buy a 747 ticket, you can pick them up inside the airport at a ticketing machine, just like regular metro tickets. The 747 bus runs 24 hours a day, though in the wee hours of the night, it runs infrequently (schedule from airport, schedule to airport). The good news is that once you purchase the all-day pass, you can use it all day on the subway and bus system — useful if you’re coming into the city, less useful if you’re heading to the airport.
Bixi Bikes and Your Own Bike
If staying out late, you might want to combine your metro pass with a Bixi bike late at night. Bixi bikes are a great way to get around the city and there are three Bixi stations set up at Parc Jean Drapeau during the summer — one near the metro stop, another near La Ronde, and a third near the beach. At Osheaga, there is usually a place to deposit a Bixi. The cost of Bixi is very affordable. $1.25 to unlock a bike and $.15 a minute for a regular Bixi and $.30 a minute for an electric Bixi. These prices are cheaper with a seasonal membership. Keep abreast of the news from Bixi HERE. Incidentally, normal Bixi bikes are rather heavy and slow — they’re not exactly luxurious rides, but they do get you around. The electric Bixis, provided they’re running well, are fun. You should wear a helmet on the electric Bixi (by law) and on the regular ones… but you will see a lot of people without helmets anyway. One last warning… the Montreal police fine people, including those who ride with headphones or earbuds in (I speak from experience), so take them out of your ears — even if you’re using them for directions — when riding.
If you have your own bike, there is a Terminus at Osheaga where you can valet park your bike for the day.
There is parking at Parc Jean Drapeau for $30.74 per day in the island’s 15 lots during special events. If you purchase the day parking, buy the ticket and put it inside your windshield so it is visible. Exact change in coins, Apple pay, credit cards, and debit are all ways to pay. Osheaga emphasizes the use of bikes or metro rather than driving.
Incidentally, driving in Montreal can be frustrating so come pack some extra patience if this is your transport of choice. You can expect traffic during rush hours, complicated parking signs that seem to contradict one another, but the main frustration is the endless construction. Orange cones have become Montreal’s unofficial mascot. Streets are frequently closed and Google Maps hasn’t always gotten the memo. Also, when it comes to filling potholes… even on the highways… well, just pay attention not to hit any too hard.
What to wear
Osheaga happens rain or shine, so begin by checking the weather. Then, check the weather AGAIN. July-August is generally hot and sunny in Montreal, but things can and do change. Be prepared for sun, rain, heat, or cold, and quite possibly all four. You could pick up an Osheaga sweatshirt as your take home swag. But in general, you don’t want to be running out to buy needed clothing during the festival, unless shopping was part of your trip. For that, Simons is kind of the local favourite department store and has lots of festival appropriate clothing. A poncho or raincoat if useful if rainy weather threatens or to sit on. At night, you will be glad if you have a warm hoodie once the sun is down and the weather cools.
Whatever your outfit, be sure that you will be comfortable for the day, especially your SHOES/SNEAKERS. You’ll be doing a lot of standing and this will probably be in close proximity to other people. Another point to consider is that the stages at Osheaga are spread far apart – and if you want to run from stage to stage, pick shoes that will get you there. The most important thing to consider about your outfit is which shoes to wear. The Osheaga ground gets muddy and grimy. REPEAT: THE OSHEAGA GROUND GETS MUDDY AND GRIMY AND DUSTY. Closed-toe shoes beat open-toe ones. There’s also a good chance your feet will get stepped on. Our tip: avoid sandals and flip flops. Go for sneakers that are comfortable and you don’t mind getting filthy.
You can dress as you like (I’ve not seen all out nudity, but you never know), short shorts or pants with the crotch between your knees, but generally a pair of sunglasses and/or a hat is needed. Listen to your momma and slather on the sunblock and drink lots of water.
Finally, consider what kind of bag you want to bring. You’ll want to bring something that will get through bag check quickly and can hold essentials like your hoodie, your phone and wallet, a phone charger, a water bottle (a plastic water bottle or container is allowed), sun screen, and a snack or three. A beach towel or blanket is also very useful for sitting on the grass. People recommend bringing those $.99 ponchos in case of rain or just to sit on. Some swear by wet wipes — it gets grimy. Also, consider bringing a mask for where it gets dusty (generally near the foot bridge between the two stage locations). For a reasonable fee, Osheaga previously offered storage lockers with a phone charger with all-day access. Presumably they will be available again. Toilets? Expect port-a-potties and long lines.
Yes, you can bring one water bottle, but there’s lots of stuff you can’t bring. Things you can’t bring — selfie sticks, animals (except guide dogs), items to sell, flags, banners, beach balls, frisbees, professional audio/video recording equipment (so your little point and shoot digital camera is fine, but the one with six different lenses might get stopped at the gate), drones, skateboards, musical instruments, hard coolers, tents, totems, hard sided coolers, glass bottles and cans. Osheaga has a policy against wearing the Indian/First Nations headdress and you don’t want to be the insensitive culture-offending douche bag anyway. See here for a full list.
There are charging zones for your devices. Having tried to use those charging zones… they’re awful. I don’t think I’ve successfully charged a device at Osheaga. Bring your own batteries. There’s also a lost and found.
There is medical staff on site for those in need. For those who are concerned about overdosing (or fentanyl), GRIP offered its services in 2022 and will hopefully be back in 2023. Finally, if you face sexual harassment or aggression, Les Hirondelles got you covered. Osheaga also provides places to chill out away from noise and they won’t judge you, honest.
Water refill stations are available at the site, so you can bring your own empty plastic water bottle to refill. Drink, drink, drink water. Drink more water. You can bring your own snacks, and there is plenty to purchase at food trucks and kiosks. There is delicious, gourmet-ish variety at around $10-30 for a good-sized meal. Gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options are available.
Getting Into and Around the Site
The line up to get into Osheaga will be long. It moves pretty quickly, but never quickly enough. Most people arrive via metro and queue up. It can be a little confusing which line to follow, but if you have a regular pass, it’s the long one. Those with gold or platinum passes have their own check in lines that are faster, so follow instructions or ask someone wearing an official Osheaga shirt. The site opens at 1 p.m., and acts start at 2 p.m., so if you don’t want to miss the earliest acts, arrive early. Expect to have your bag searched and to pass through a metal detector. Make sure you have access to your ticket on your phone!
The stages are spread out and it is about a 5-10 minute walk between the main stages and the other stages using a metal bridge. This walk can be dusty and muddy (usually both). There are little paths through the woods as well with art exhibits and chill out spaces. If you have a group of friends, pick a meeting point and a time to meet if you want to find each other again easily. Cell service in Osheaga can be kind of spotty. Expect your texts and messages to be delayed. Consider time stamping them before you send them.
If you want to avoid large crowds of people packing into the metro at the end of the night, leave before the headliners finish their encores. Otherwise, just be ready to wait. It’s not bad.
Alcohol, Marijuana, Drugs, and Sex
Osheaga has many on-site bars and alcoholic beverages are available for those who are 18+, but you can’t bring your own in. Bring two pieces of ID to purchase alcohol.
Yes, you can smoke pot at Osheaga. It has to be in the sealed SQDC packaging and under 30 grams. There are stores that sell marijuana products in many locations in Montreal. Selling marijuana at Osheaga is prohibited.
You’re not allowed to bring illegal drugs or outside alcohol to Osheaga. The festival checks bags for drugs and alcohol at entry. But, to be honest, in many, many years of going to Osheaga, it’s clear that those who want to manage to do so anyway. Security check is thorough, but not that thorough. In the past, the festival has offered chill-out spaces for those whose trip has gone awry as well as on-site medical volunteers.
GRIP provided services in 2022 to let those who choose to use use in an informed way. At their kiosk, they:
- Share information about the law of effect, the effects and risks of drug use and safer practices;
- Provide access to the most neutral, evidence-based information possible on a variety of psychoactive substances;
- Distribute clean or sterile drug use supplies and sexual health supplies (internal/external condoms, information, lubricants);
- Distribute naloxone and fentanyl test strips;
- Encourage people to take care of themselves before, during and after substance use and help them determine how to do it in their own way.
Osheaga also offers the services of Les Hirondelles, a first-responder and intervention group for women and vulnerable people who experience acts of sexual harassment and aggression at festivals and other events. They will listen and provide support to those in need. Les Hirondelles can be spotted by their pink shirts, or you can ask a security guard to direct you to one if you require their services.
Which Bands to See
The festival line up is announced with performers starting at around 2 p.m. and continuing to 11 p.m. The headliners generally take the stage between 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. Most artists perform between 30 minute and 90 minute sets. Osheaga has a solid app (the 2022 app: itunes, android) that will guide you towards what/who/when, so download for your phone ahead of time. It is super useful!
There are many great acts performing at this year’s festival, so it can be very hard to choose who to see. This is made even more difficult when two artists you like equally are playing at the same time. One way I decide is I consider the location of the stage and the performance I want to see afterwards. There are six different stages, with between three or four playing concurrently. The Bell River Stage and Coors Light Mountain Stage sit side by side, so the evening headliners start on one stage, and then the next stage features the second evening headliner. Usually you end up with a good view of one headliner and a bad view of the other. Pick the one you want to see well. If you want to get up as close as possible, arrive early and approach via the side rather than through the middle. Most people prefer to stay back and watch from the grass. If you just want to dance your face off, the Coca-Cola Island stage is where to go for continuous EDM and electronic variants from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.
While you are probably familiar with most of the headliners, it’s quite possible you haven’t heard too many songs, if any songs at all, from the other acts. Osheaga is a great opportunity to expand your musical horizons and discover something new. Listen to an Osheaga playlist ahead of time (this one on Spotify for example) and familiarize yourself with some of the upcoming artists. Or, just wander around and let fate decide who your new favourite find is.
For a few picks from us based on the most recent list.
For Friday: Rüfüs Du Sol, Two Feet, Soccer Mommy, Flaming Lips, Sarahmée, BBNO$
For Saturday: Billie Eilish, Alicia Moffet, Carly Rae Jepsen, Sofi Tukker, The National
For Sunday: Kendrick Lamar, Beabadoobee, Julia Jacklin, Cigarettes After Sex
What Else to Do During the Day
There is no one right way to Osheaga, but pace yourself is generally good advice (unless you prefer excess). There is so much going on from the moment the gates open until when they shut at 11 p.m. Take breaks by checking out Osheaga’s art exhibitions or sitting in the grass. Enjoy the view over the river.
Art exhibits are always a major part of Osheaga. You can watch art being made or participate in making art yourself.
There are different tents and stands for those who want to buy swag. Aside from t-shirts, bucket hats, and hoodies, giant fans have been extremely popular.
Osheaga generally has sponsors that set up booths where you can try your best at karaoke, get a make over, or get sparkled. The makeover tent has a long line, so show up early, but you will leave looking amazing.
You can ride the rides. There’s a ferris wheel in the park. The line is always long.
Many people just like to splash around in the fountains. Or, take a moment to lie around in the hammocks or lying in the grass.
Map and Getting Around
Until Osheaga officially publishes info on it 2023 site, here’s how things looked in 2022.
The Mountain and River stages (the Coors Light and Bell stags) sit side by side. The biggest acts play here, alternating from one stage to the next. When it comes to the big headliners, choose which act you’d rather see and position yourself for a view of that stage.
The Coca Cola stage (Scene de L’Ile stage) is where the EDM happens. If you go there, it’s writhing bodies, lots of dancing, omg, so fun. It’s pretty tight and only shady in a few spots.
In trying to navigate from the Mountain and River stages to the Green and Valley stages, and even the Arbres stage (Chevy, stage, the unnamed stage, and the Sirius stage), there is often a major bottleneck on the bridge over the road. There’s many steps up and many steps down. Lots of cool art and booths with samples and swag are in this area of the park. If you want to try and avoid that, assuming the road is accessible, going around the aquatic complex and over the road to the area near the Sirius XM stage is usually a quieter, but longer path.
Food is generally between the main entrance along the route down towards the statue of the Trois Disques. It’s a nice chill out space near the Trois Disques with a good view of the city.
How to Pre and After Party
During the festival, there are After Parties sponsored by Osheaga (again, DJ nights, usually with bands playing at the festival). Osheaga usually has three or four official afterparties each night, and there are sure to be plenty of unofficial ones if you follow clubs and twitter feeds and what not. The good thing about After Parties is they often feature bands playing at Osheaga at rather inconvenient times (early during the day) during the festival — so this is a chance to catch what you’ve missed.
Osheaga is fun with friends, but don’t worry if you show up alone. Chances are if you bravely strike up a conversation and say you’re at the festival alone, you’ll go home with many new friends who will join you at future Osheagas. Some places to look for friends for Osheaga before the festival include the reddit. Here are some favourite conversation starters:
- Where did you get your bag/hat/shoes/sunglasses/fan?
- Who did your hair/glitter/make up?
- Which stage are you going to stand in front of for tonight’s headliner, the Mountain Stage or the River Stage?
- Is there a song that you’re waiting to hear performed?
- Have you seen the Trois disques sculpture?
- Is there anything else you want to do while you’re in Montreal? Is there anything you recommend doing while I’m in Montreal?
- Are there any other music festivals you’re planning to go to this summer?
Reduced Mobility and Accessibility
Osheaga is a big site, but the festival organizers do quite a bit to ensure that it is accessible for those with reduced mobility and disabilities. In particular, there are dedicated parking spaces, a paratransit shuttle to the site, and user friendly platforms and washrooms for those with reduced mobility and disabilities. Of course guide dogs are welcome on site.
Top Tips From Redditers
- Designate a meet spot in case y’all get lost, and the cell tower congestion does not allow you to call or text — Breaking_Bread4650
- Pre-downloading your ticket or printing it out — Breaking_Bread4650
- Use timestamps in the text of your sent messages in case there are delays with the cellular network getting messages through — MDCMphD
- Use the app What3Words for locating ppl — medikB
- Go to the Port-a-Potties in the back. They’re almost always free, and considerably cleaner — blanche2027
- Get the metro pass – lacontrolfreak
- Rent a locker — devries6276
- Water is underrated, bring a collapsible bottle or bag with a water bladder — devries6276
- Wear shoes you would be okay with throwing away after the weekend — devries6276
- Listen to as much of the lineup as possible beforehand, see as many artists as possible that you are most interested in — devries6276
- Bring food and water — bigshah
- Always bring a phone charger, especially this year with digital tickets — lostbutfound101
- For quick movement, prioritize working your way towards the edges/sides of a crowd and then moving outwards from there — russianbear28
- Definitely bring a mask and wear it whenever it gets dusty. Your lungs and throat will thank you. — russianbear28
- Find a proper after party — cabsmell
- Bring wet wipes and tissues! You will be blowing out dark snot from all the dirt – Manic_Pixiie
If you have any Osheaga tips or pictures, please leave them in the comments below. We love your input and pictures! you can tag them #mtrlrampage or send them to us at [email protected]
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