Something for everyone: McGill outside the classroom

From shrunken heads and dinosaur bones to stargazing and kayaking, McGill offers a myriad of unique recreational, cultural and educational opportunities for just about everyone

Not even a week into the new academic year and many of us – students, staff and faculty alike – are scrambling to keep pace. Sometimes, in the blur of the new semester, it is easy to lose sight of some of the unique opportunities – educational, cultural and recreational – McGill offers outside the classroom. Music masterclasses, thought-provoking seminars, outstanding museum collections and library holdings and the annual Indigenous Awareness Weeks are just a small sample of the activities and attractions available to the public and members of the McGill community.

We’ve compiled a starters kit of some of the activities offered at McGill this fall. Please note, this list is far from exhaustive. If we’ve overlooked something that you feel should be highlighted, contact

Concerts, collections and other cool stuff

  • Macdonald Campus
    Macdonald Campus has a full slate of activities this semester, from a town hall presentation on Artificial Intelligence and its role in humanity and identity to Macdonald Homecoming to World Food Day celebrations. Check out the Mac schedule online.
  • Redpath Museum
    Kids and adults alike adore the Redpath Museum – and what’s not to love? The Museum’s large collection of ancient and modern artifacts and specimens include dinosaur skeletons, mummies, a real shrunken head and one of the world’s most extensive, and beautiful, collection of shells. The Redpath’s extensive outreach program includes weekend family workshops, a documentary film series and free public lectures in which McGill scientists and researchers examine the myths, realities and misconceptions surrounding science issues, concepts or phenomena.
  • McGill Library
    The University’s libraries offer access to over 5 million print volumes and journals, 2.3 million e-books, e-theses and e-journals, and hundreds of thousands of sound and video recordings, musical scores, microforms and maps. Included among the extensive holdings are the Rare Books & Special Collections,  early maps of the Canadian Fur Trade, the digitized McGill University Napoleon Collection and original versions of medieval European manuscripts. The Library also hosts a series of events and lectures and thought-provoking exhibitions throughout the year.
  • Schulich School of Music
    The Schulich School of Music has launched its 2019-2020 Season, and it offers something for everyone. This season, Schulich will present over 600 public events at a variety of venues within the School, throughout the City of Montreal and elsewhere. From classical, baroque and contemporary music, to opera, choral and jazz concerts – the year will be jam-packed with performances by students, faculty and visiting artists. For more information, visit their online events calendar or check our their online brochure.
  • The Lyman Entomological Museum
    If you’re buggy for all things creepy crawly, you’ll be abuzz over the Lyman Entomological Museum. The collection houses 2.8 million specimens of insects and other arthropods, making it the second-largest insect collection in Canada, and the largest university insect collection in the country.
  • The McGill University Herbarium 
    The McGill University Herbarium is the oldest research museum of dried plant specimens in Canada. Subarctic orchids, lilies from Ecuador, and medicinal plants gathered from olden day Montreal are but some of the 140,000 botanical treasures showcased at the collection.

Let’s get physical

  • Athletics
    Looking for the high drama of high performance sports without the high cost? Be part of the excitement by cheering on McGill’s varsity teams and sports clubs, from field hockey and football to lacrosse and lumberjacking to soccer and synchronized swimming. Get more information, including the schedule of upcoming games and events online.
  • Working out and having fun
    If you’re looking to work up a sweat yourself, check out McGill’s fitness and recreation options for downtown and Macdonald Campus, including Paddle Mac, which rents kayaks, paddle boards and canoes.

Open Spaces

With over 3,700 acres of public green space, McGill is your gateway to the great outdoors

  • The Morgan Arboretum
    The Morgan Arboretum is a 245-hectare forested reserve, situated on Macdonald Campus in Ste. Anne de Bellevue on the western tip of the island of Montreal. The Arboretum is open daily throughout the year from 9 am to 4 pm for visitors who want to walk, snowshoe and ski its trails in season. On top of a series of beautiful trails, the Arboretum offers a series of events, including nature walks guided by resident naturalists and stargazing.
  • Gault Nature Reserve
    Hikers, skiers, snowshoe enthusiasts and nature lovers should pay a visit the McGill’s Gault Nature Reserve. Boasting more than 1,000 hectares on Mont-Sainte-Hilaire, the Reserve has a series of trails from very short (10 minutes) to more demanding (an hour and 40 minutes). Staff at the Visitors Pavilion can suggest which route may be best for you. Onsite equipment rental includes walking poles, snowshoes and baby carriers.

Lectures, seminars, workshops and other learning opportunities

McGill hosts a plethora of seminars and lectures each year. Some of the popular ones include:

  • The Trottier Public Science Symposium (Oct. 22-23), this year focussing on the theme Longing for Longevity
  • AstroMcGill, the public outreach branch of the McGill Space Institute, hosts regular public lectures, sky viewings and the ever-popular Public Astro Nights.
  • The Physics Matters outreach group presents the Physics Matters public lecture series! These lectures are aimed at anyone who wants to learn more about current physics topics – no science background is necessary.
  • The Food for Thought lecture series held at Macdonald Campus throughout the Fall semester. This year, the series will focus upon the fast-growing and fascinating world of artificial intelligence.
  • The McGill Public Conservatory provides quality musical education to Montreal community members of all ages and abilities. The Conservatory offers courses, camps, concerts and workshops both downtown and at Macdonald campus.
  • myInvolvement Events Calendar has upcoming skills-building workshops offered around McGill. Search by theme or by date, register and have your participation recognized on your McGill Co-Curricular Record.


Once again, McGill’s full calendar of events offers something for just about everyone. This year, save the date for some of the following:

  • Science Literacy Week (Sept. 16-22)
    For the fifth year running, McGill Library has planned a wide range of activities across both of McGill’s campuses, including a tour of the newly renovated Maude Abbott Medical Museum, and an event featuring treasures from the history of science collection in Rare Books and Special Collections.
  • Indigenous Awareness Weeks (Sept 16-27)
    Come out and help celebrate in solidarity and support of the beautiful community of Indigenous folks across Turtle Island.
  • 19th Annual Pow Wow (Sept. 20)
    Join us under the big tent to catch the Grand Entry at 11 am on McGill’s Lower Field. It will be a full day of traditional dancing and drumming.
  • The McGill Book Fair (Oct. 29-31)
    The McGill Book Fair, held each autumn in Redpath Hall, offers buyers tens of thousands of used books, French and English, in categories ranging from architecture to zoology. In addition to volumes old and new, the Book Fair also offers vinyl, CDs, DVDs and sheet music. One room is devoted exclusively to art and architecture; another to old and rare volumes and nostalgia.
  • McGill Farmers’ Market (every Thursday from 11 am to 5 pm, on the path between the Redpath Museum and the Y-intersection on the downtown campus)
    The McGill Farmers’ Market is a weekly fall market and a gathering spot for students, faculty, and community members to discover healthy, local and sustainably produced foods, including organic produce, homemade preserves, baked goods and breads, honey, fair-trade coffee and teas, eggs, maple products and more.
  • Public Art at McGill weekly tour (45-minute tour of public art on campus, every Wednesday at noon)
    This tour is designed for members of the McGill and Montreal community and includes highlights such as the Three Bares, the James Sculpture Garden, the sculpture on Lower Campus, and the Lichtenstein Tapestry.
  • The Redpath Museum’s series of nature walks and tours, including its ongoing outdoor survival workshops.