Sophisticated and possessing an abundance of European charm, Quebec City is an ideal Canadian destination in any season. Celebrate winter, snow and ice at Carnaval de Quebec. Spring and summer bring sunshine, flowers, and festivals celebrating history and music. Autumn has its own beauty, as trees don their cloaks of warm colors. No matter which season you choose, our Globetrotting Grandmom says there are plenty of unique Quebec City experiences waiting for you and your family.
It’s hard not to fall in love with Quebec City
Quebec City brings a touch of France to North America with its historic fortification walls, alluring streets, and intriguing architecture. Residents of this Canadian charmer celebrate every season. In the snowy winter months, Carnaval de Quebec brings the lovable snowman, Bonhomme, to the city along with dazzling snow sculptures. In the spring and summer months, music and history festivals take the stage. There are so many unique things to do in Quebec City you’ll want to return again and again. Here are five not-to-be-missed experiences for your Quebec City family vacation.
Walk through history throughout the city
Explore Quebec City on foot for an up-close look at the city’s history. The French influence is everywhere as you stroll amid the cafes, boutiques and restaurants on Rue du Petit-Champlain, the oldest street in North America. A funicular links Lower Town to the Dufferin Terrace and offers spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River. You can also take the oldest staircase in the city, the Breakneck Stairs (Escalier Casse-Cou). But hold onto the handrail; these stairs have earned their name!
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Quebec City has the only remaining fortified city walls in North America north of Mexico. Walking atop the wall affords a glimpse into the city’s military history.
Become part of history at the New France Festival
It was 1608 in Québec City that the whole adventure of New France began. Celebrate the arrival of the first Europeans on American soil every summer at Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France (New France Festival). At the heart of the festival is Old Quebec (Vieux-Quebec) where 17th and 18th-century homes line narrow cobblestone streets. Here you’ll find Place Royale, the site of the first permanent French settlement in North America. Place Royale is also home to Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, the oldest stone church in North America, built in 1688.
The festival’s five-day program is all about costumed fun. Demonstrations of canoe making techniques from the 17th-century are followed by wheelbarrow races, parades, dances, entertaining shows and plenty of street entertainment. Costume tip: Opting for the cooler wardrobe, I volunteered to be a peasant. The bourgeois and nobles in my group were envious as the summer temperatures rose.
Venture into the Plains of Abraham
An oasis of greenery at the city’s heart and the scene of many historic milestones over the centuries, the Plains of Abraham affords more than 242 acres for walks, sports and family picnics. Canada’s first national historic park, Battlefields Park, which includes the Plains of Abraham, was created in 1908 to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of Québec. At the edge of the park, the Joan of Arc Garden has more than 150 varieties of seasonal plants and flowers surrounding a statue of the park’s namesake. If you visit in October, you’ll find tombstone replicas throughout the park just in time for Halloween.
Bundle up and celebrate winter at Carnaval de Quebec
Winter brings a brilliant white blanket of snow along with chilly temperatures. But, that doesn’t dampen the spirit of the city. Carnaval de Quebec—the world’s largest outdoor winter festival—turns the chill of the Canadian winter into a party of snow and ice.
Held over three weekends in late January until mid-February, Carnaval de Quebec is a magical wonderland experience. Join in a huge snowball fight. Cheer for your favorite team at the ice canoe races. Or marvel at magnificent works of art sculpted from dazzling white snow at the national and international snow sculpture competitions. The lovable larger-than-life snowman, Bonhomme, steals the show. Sporting a brightly colored arrowhead sash, Bonhomme lives in a massive ice palace complete with an ice shower, ice kitchen and ice bed.
For the grown-ups, find your Zen in any season
If you’re heading to Quebec City with your girlfriends or significant other, add the Monastère des Augustinesm to your must-do list. For nearly four centuries, the Augustine Sisters have dedicated their lives to caring for the body and soul at this special place. Recently renovated, the former cloistered monastery has opened to the public, serving as an urban sanctuary amid bustling Quebec City.
Numerous activities in programs of holistic health are available including yoga, meditation, and private nutrition counseling. The onsite restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Choose from a menu based on the available locally sourced produce, fish, and meats. A meditative spirit permeates the resort. Breakfast is served and eaten in silence. Speaking of silence, guests are urged to leave smartphones with reception. Your Zen isn’t going to send you a text, so give it a try—if you can handle it.
Whenever you choose to visit Quebec City, you’ll find unique unforgettable experiences.