Oh, Quebec. Je t’aime.
Both the province of Quebec — and Quebec City, in particular — will always have a special place in my heart. It was the site of my first-ever international trip in high school, and where my paternal grandmother grew up on a rural farm without electricity many, many decades ago.
The simple charm, the soft French accents, and the endless idyllic countryside all feel worlds away from anywhere in the States. For many Americans, it’s the closest we can get to Europe without a transatlantic flight. All of which makes it the perfect place to get away — and feel far, far away — for a bit of adventure.
Chill at Hôtel de Glace
Quebec’s Hôtel de Glace may no longer be the world’s only ice hotel, but it’s certainly the most famous. Every winter, the entire hotel is built from scratch with a different theme, a unique layout, and all-new amenities. The grounds most often include an ice-based movie theater and an intimate wedding chapel (who wouldn’t want to get married in a giant igloo?). Ideally, you’ll want to overnight here in one of its surprisingly luxurious suites. But, if your schedule or budget won’t allow it, it’s still worth stopping by for a day trip that includes taking a tour and lingering for a few hours at the Ice Bar where everything from the walls to the sculptures to the cocktail glasses is carved from ice. Opt for the Snow & Ice Tour to add-on a host of bonus outdoor winter excursions — snow rafting, ice skating, and snow sliding — in the nearby Valcartier Vacation Village Winter Playground.
Bike to Montmorency Falls
Situated just eight miles (roughly 12 kilometers) from the heart of Old Quebec City, Montmorency Falls is arguably the province’s most stunning waterfall. At nearly 275 feet tall, it’s 100 feet taller than Niagara Falls. Tours Voir Quebec offers half-day bike tours that depart from the city and loop more than 15 miles (25 kilometers) to and around the falls. The guided tour rides past Beauport Bay and some of the most beautiful stretches of the Saint Lawrence River. Stopping at the base of the falls, tour-goers can also hop the cable car for a ride to the top of the falls which offers panoramic river views.
Explore the Plaines d’Abraham
There is no park more at the heart of Quebec City — historically, ecologically, and literally — than the Plaines d’Abraham. It’s as vital to the city as Central Park is to Manhattan. The lush, beautiful expanse of flower-covered fields, grassy plains, and woodsy valleys all serve as the literal “lungs” of Quebec City. The 1759 battle (aptly known as the Battle of the Plains of Abraham) that took place here was fought by less than 10,000 troops, but would become a pivotal moment in the fight between Britain and France over the future of New France, and eventually in the creation of the whole of Canada. Today, it’s best explored on foot or bike in the summer; when the city’s long winter sits in, it’s an ideal spot to snowshoe or winter hike. It’s also the city’s premier outdoor venue for concerts and numerous events during Quebec’s annual Winter Carnival.