Quebec City - Old World Charm and Outdoor Adventures
Old Quebec City
Rich in History
Step into history as you walk through the cobblestone streets, admiring the facades of old buildings, and experiencing life in a city that is full of life.
The most historic place in the city is called Place Royal, the place of Canada's first permanent European settlement.
The first permanent European settlement was built at this location after Samuel de Champlain's arrival to the continent in 1608. The outline of the original settlement building is marked in stone in front of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires-Church.
Steps away from Place Royal, the Museum of Civilization recounts the history of the location and brings in travelling world famous exhibits.
The historic fortified city is a UNESCO world heritage site and the only city north of Mexico that is surrounded by stone walls. While sites such as the Plains of Abraham and the Chateau Frontenac are set in history, the city streets are alive with modern art, contemporary cuisine and the performing arts. As you walk around and loose yourself in the narrow cobblestone streets you will encounter buskers, small art galleries selling modern art, and acclaimed restaurants that serve modern cuisine in ancient buildings.
What to Do
Quebec is also a very important modern-day hub of activity. The city hosts a long-list of music festivals and performing arts festivals. Most notably the Festival d'été de Quebec, Canada's largest outdoor music festival event, which takes place in early July. Hundreds of performers entice audiences in open air concerts on the planes of Abraham and in front of the National Assembly and a host of other indoor and outdoor venues over the course of 10 days.
In early August you can relive Old Europe in the festivities of the Fetes de la Nouvelle-France (Festival of New-France, the historical colonial name of the region). Actors in period costumes stroll through the cobblestone streets and perform short plays and musicians perform in the streets.
The famous Winter Carnival takes place in the first two weeks of February. The largest winter carnival in the world make people anticipate winter. Activities include snow slides near the Chateau Frontenac, skating, ice and snow sculptures, ice canoe races and giant foosball.
But you don't have to wait for one of these festivals to enjoy the city. There's something for everyone year round. The region hosts a variety of activities.
Art is everywhere in Quebec. Beautiful doors, front entrances, window boxes, archways and tiny allies. The entire old city is a picture perfect surrounding and feels like stepping into a painting. Among the cobblestone streets you'll find art galleries selling modern art, native Canadian sculptures and landscapes of the old city. Take a stroll down Rue Sainte-Anne, a block away from the Chateau Frontenac, to admire and buy works of art from local artists, water colours, sketches and ceramics and glass works. On rue Saint-Louis Galerie Art Inuit Brousseau displays an impressive collection of stone sculptures from Inuit artists.
Where to Stay
Check out quebecoriginal.com for a bilingual site offering last minute deals on accommodation and online booking at any time . You can search by region, price range, types such as Bed and Breakfasts, hotels, camping adventure outfitters and youth hostels. In Quebec City, look for accommodations that offer complimentary breakfast and on-site parking. Parking is probably more important than the breakfast. Parking is in short supply in the old city. And once you park your car you won't need it to explore the downtown. Small hotels such as Hotel Acadia, provide valet parking in the courtyard behind the hotel. The valet parking is absolutely necessary, unless you are a very good driver or have a tiny car. The incredibly narrow entrance to the courtyard is difficult to manoeuvre, so take advantage of the valet parking.
Many hotels also offer transportation to the ski resorts and storage for ski and snowboard equipment.
Where to Eat
Restaurants and bars – are for every fancy. On Rue Champlain the street is lined with patios with all sorts of bars and restaurants. Throughout the city you will find a variety of establishments offering a diverse range of cuisines and varying price points. Local specialities include crepes, onion soup, maple syrup and of course poutine.
This 83 metre tall waterfall is a sight not to miss. Parc des Chute Montmorency is a few minutes drive from the Old Quebec City. Take the cable car up to the Manoir Montmorency to admire the scenery and the immense power of the falls. These falls are 30 metres taller than Niagara falls, though not as wide. At the top a long wooden boardwalk takes you to the suspension bridge positioned over the summit of the falls. When the winds are mild the bridge feels very stable but a challenge to cross for anyone with vertigo. Sightseers linger on the bridge taking photos of the falls and the surrounding area.
Across the bridge there is a large park and a perfect setting for a picnic. You'll find a vast open view of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Quebec City. In the park there is a playground and picnic area and an apple orchard. You will also find a few viewpoints to admire the falls and a extremely long wooden staircase to take you to the misty foot of the falls.
Adventure seekers who would like a closer view of the falls can take a guided walk along the side of the cliff near the falls. Participants wear climbing harnesses and are tethered for safety, no prior knowledge of rock climbing is necessary.
The new double zip-line opened at the end of the summer in 2015 allowing two people to cross the cove of the falls simultaneously with your feet dangling in the air.
The park is open year-round. In the dead of winter ice-climbers brave the frozen falls and droves of people hike in snowshoes.
In the evenings the falls are illuminated in a variety of colours but the most spectacular light displays are when the fireworks competitions take place at the base of the falls.
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier
The provincial park, situated 40 km north of the city, is named after the French explorer who came to Canada in 1534. The river that runs through the valley also bears that name. The park attract rafters and kayakers as the ranges from calm to turbulent. Several guided tours appeal to varying levels of skills: including family floats down the river to adventure seeking white-water rafting excursions. You can find pricing and more details about guided tours and rentals at the Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier website.
You can also view the park's scenic landscape through the 100 kilometres of hiking trails. The trail called Les Loups will lead you to scenic view points at the halfway mark and a the summit.
After a long day of activity you can relax in a cabin in the woods, a yurt or at one of many campsites. These rustic accommodations are quite popular, so it's best to book early.
If the park campground is full you can book campgrounds in the surrounding area through http://www.campingquebec.com/
Aquarium du Quebec
A popular attraction for families, featured activities include indoor and outdoor displays. In a large outdoor aquarium the three resident walruses swim, do flips and tricks. A small amphitheatre faces the large aquarium glass so spectators can see the large animals swim underwater. The two ton animals swim right up to the glass. Children giggle with delight as they place their hands on the glass and a walrus swims grazing the other side of the glass.
The polar bear feeding time is also a popular show, giving people a rare glimpse of these beautiful, strong and vulnerable animals. The Aquarium's mission is to protect and conserve vulnerable species.
Inside Aquarium du Quebec at the Coastal Zone exhibit you can reach out and touch live sea cucumbers, sea urchins and starfish. The creatures live in shallow basins. Visitors are asked to wash their hands before and after touching the creatures. The textures of their skin is often different than what people imagine. Which such experiences come multitudes of questions: what do they eat, why are they so slimy, why are they a certain shape. Aquarium staff are available to answer questions about the animals.
At the centre of the building is a 350,000 litre salt water aquarium. On the lower level you can walk through a tunnel and look up and around at the multitude of fish and sea life. Their vibrant colours dazzle against the dark blue sea water. Resident divers swim amongst the sea creatures while interpreters describe the animals and their behaviour.
A family day pass to the Aquarium is $54 Cdn, but coupons for as much as 20 per cent are available online.
What would attract you to the Quebec City area?
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