Traveling with Kids | Quebec City
For this Traveling With Kids post I thought I’d talk a bit about one of my favourite places in North America, Quebec City. If you can’t manage to hop on a plane and jet over to Europe, Quebec City is the closest you’ll come to experiencing European culture in North America. It’s really the most romantic city in Canada.
Quebec City is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec and has a population of about 510,000. It lays on the Saint Lawrence River and is very close to the Laurentian Mountains. Quebec has a very rich and colourful history and was named a UNESCO world heritage site (it’s the only city with remaining fortified city walls in North America). And seeing as it’s a francophone city it’s a great place to practice that French you studied way back when.
I actually lived and went to university in Quebec City many years ago (oh and I found myself a husband there as well!). It was such a fun city to live in. So when our kids were a bit older we decided it was time to show them our favourite place in Canada and let them see where their Mama and Papa fell in love (insert gagging noises from kids here). The kids loved Quebec City but were pretty bored at seeing where we had our first date, where we lived and our university campus (the nerve!).
We arrived in Montreal (from Italy) and picked up our rental car and drove directly to Quebec City (about 3 hours). It was July and very hot so we booked a hotel with swimming pool on the outskirts of the city. This made it much more affordable than staying in the centre of the city, but I have a dream to go stay in the Chateau Frontenac one of these days.
While we were visiting there was the Festival d’été which is a fantastic music festival that boasts some of the hottest acts around—Arcade Fire was playing the year we were there. The festival is located on the famous Plaines d’Abraham and attracts thousands and thousands of spectators from around the world.
Our first morning in Quebec City was an early one (thanks to jet lag). We were all up and ready to start the day at 4:30am. We headed out with our rental car and drove to the famous Chute Montmorency waterfalls which are located about 15 minutes outside the city. It’s a beautiful spot with wonderful little trails through the woods, a walking bridge that goes over the falls and gorgeous views over the Saint Lawrence River. In winter the falls freeze which make it even more spectacular. On summer evenings you can enjoy the International Fireworks competitions here as well.
One of the kid’s favourite places in Quebec City was the Plaines d’Abraham. They loved hearing about the history behind the vast park (in short they were the battlegrounds for the famous Battle of the Plaines between the French and the English in 1759). We spent hours wandering around the enormous grounds that overlook the Saint Lawrence River and settled down for a picnic and afternoon rest (jet lag!).
Close to the Plaines d’Abraham is the famous Musée du Québec which holds many important pieces of French Canadian artwork as well as offers many temporary exhibits.
Another kid friendly activity we did was to take the ferry from the port over to the small city of Levi on the other side of the Saint Lawrence River. This ferry ride is great for the kids and gives you an absolutely stunning view of Quebec City and the impressive Chateau Frontenac (photo op!).
We also spent a lot of time strolling through the old city and admiring all the traditional houses and typical Quebec architecture. From the famous Chateau Frontenac Hotel you can take a funicular down to the old lower city where there are many little bistros and shops to browse around in and my all-time favourite museum Musée de la Civilisation which offers exhibits on everything from art, history, science and culture.
While there we made sure to eat in a typical crepe restaurant and order some world famous poutine—French fries with gravy and cheese curds … life changing really. Oh and if any of you make it to Old Quebec you must go to Wong’s Chinese Restaurant for some delicious Cantonese food and say hi from me; I worked there for 3 years and adore the family.
If you decide to go in the colder months you’ll find a winter wonderland. Quebec has a frigid climate and gets an incredible amount of snow and is a short drive to some beautiful ski hills (Mont Sainte Anne being one of the most popular). In February, the Québecois celebrate Carnaval, which is the largest winter carnival in the world. There are concerts, ice sculpture competitions, canoe races among the ice flows in the Saint Lawrence and dog-sled races through the old city. It’s an experience to say the least. And it’s COLD. I’d suggest bringing lots of wool and fur.
After visiting Quebec City we drove up the coast of the Saint Lawrence River and stayed near the town of Tadoussac where we booked some whale watching tours. An absolutely incredible experience. We saw whales of every kind and size and even had a school of Belugas swim under our boat.
So now you can start to plan your summer vacation for 2013. This really would be the perfect trip for a family of any kind and with kids of every age. There really is something for everyone.
Have you ever been to Quebec City? If so, what were your favourite places to visit? If not, would you ever think of visiting the “Europe” of North America?