JANUARY - FEBRUARY
Montreal's Snow Festival
Grand Prix Ski-Doo, Valcourt
Montreal en Lumiere
Québec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament, Québec City
Snow Pentathlon, Quebec City
Snowboard Jamboree, FIS Snowboard World Cup, Quebec City
Saguenay Jazz & Blues Festival
Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix Montreal
Feestival Lanaudiere, Joliette
International Fireworks Festival, Montreal
Just for Laughs Festival, Montreal
Montreal Cirque Festival
Montreal Highland Games and Festival
Montreal International Jazz Festival
Oshega Music and Arts Festival, Montreal
Quebec City Summer Festival
New France Festival, Québec City
Mont-Laurier International Theatre
Quebec Intercultural Storytelling Festival, Montreal
The Festival of Fright, Montreal
Writer: Josephine Matyas
What you can say about Québec is that it always leaves you wanting more.There’s a little something for everyone—for the well-heeled culture divas as well as those who prefer laced-up hiking boots and a crackling campfire at the end of the day. The uniqueness of these experiences is found in five-star resorts and campgrounds, the joie de vivre of Québécois festivals—many rich in song and music—as well as on the dinner plate, along tasting trails and in craft breweries.
Canada’s largest province, la belle province is known for its deep traditions rooted in centuries of French history and culture. The heart-warming traditions of the people and communities are found in their warm smiles and pride of place and history.
That famous Québec passion is in the air. Visitors find themselves immersed in an irresistible tableau of experiences, sights and emotions that spark the beginning of a love affair with the province. Visit, share and open yourself to becoming wrapped in the heart of it all.
FOUR SEASON ADVENTURES
Québec is a landscape of superlatives easily explored throughout the entire year. There’s warmth, plus an energy and glow that blanket the province. Québecers love to celebrate by filling their months with special events and festivals. It’s their way to mark dignity and joy in their vibrant heritage and, happily, doors are wide open to visitors.
Everywhere, Québec’s National Holiday is celebrated on June 24th with shows, parades, bonfires and fireworks. When the sun shines and the air is warm, there are music festivals—Montréal International Jazz Festival (Festival International de Jazz de Montréal), Québec City Summer Festival (Festival d’été de Québec) and many others—as well as cultural festivals, including the Just for Laughs Festival (Juste pour rire).
Summertime is glorious in both the cities and the countryside. It is the perfect time to visit pick-your-own farms, follow the province’s food trails, or become immersed in the unspoiled wilderness by hiking, climbing and paddling. There is something for everyone who is drawn to the outdoors.
As the seasons peak, autumn brings a dramatic splash of colour to the hardwood forests, and springtime follows with the sweetness of maple syrup. A large percent of the world’s maple syrup is produced in Québec, making its many sugar shacks a popular springtime destination for samples of just-boiled syrup and treats like traditional maple syrup taffy.
When snowflakes fall, the people of Québec embrace the natural wonder of wintertime. Snowmobiling, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating and dogsledding are just the tip of the iceberg. Québecers celebrate hockey like no other spot on earth—the Montréal Canadiens are the oldest hockey team in the world that has played without interruption.
The Québec Winter Carnival—the world’s largest—anchors the wintertime with its snow slides, ice sculptures and canoe race on the frozen St. Lawrence River. Across the province, they pay homage to the cooler seasons—from Polar Nights (Les Nuits Polaires) in Trois-Rivières to the fall Oktobierfest in Sainte-Adèle, and all points between.
HISTORY IS A PART OF THE CULTURAL FABRIC
History is not forgotten in Québec. Rather than being relics that are swept aside, history and heritage are embraced and celebrated. Locals and visitors dress up in period costume at the New France Festival (Les Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France) in Québec City, a place that knows how to show off its roots. Canada’s most “European” city, Québec City, is known for heritage buildings that harken back to the days of New France, narrow cobblestone streets and excellent cuisine.
The Old Port of Montréal stretches for two km (1.24 mi.) along the St. Lawrence River. An historic clock tower marks the entrance to the port, a pedestrian-friendly area of boutiques, bistros, small markets and street entertainment.
In Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, the Site of New France (Site de la Nouvelle-France) recreates the daily life of the colony of Quebéc in the 17th century. Nearby, the historical village of Val-Jalbert is a way to experience company town life in the 1920s, complete with 40 or so original period buildings.
FOLLOW YOUR TASTEBUDS
There’s a deep connection between land and people—from the soil that produces a breadbasket of crops and the dedicated farmers who create this culinary magic. Québec’s gastronomic trails link the harvest of the countryside with the markets of the cities. The trails are known for artisanal cheese producers, small production vintners, local growers and specialty producers. Exploring the trails is a way to meet the people who create the province’s signature products, from foie gras to springtime maple syrup.
The Farmlands Route (Chemin du Terroir) loops through the Laurentians countryside, with stops at producers of wines and ciders, maple goods, fresh-picked apples and Québec’s famous fromageries.
The Gourmet Route (Le Parcours gourmand) links restaurants and craft producers in the greater Québec City area, including those on historic Île d’Orléans, famous for pick-your-own berries in the height of summer.
Charlevoix’s Flavour Trail (La Route des Saveurs) links more than 40 local growers, producers and restaurateurs who produce and serve regional products such as ciders, artisanal beers, pâtés, cheeses, spices and fine chocolates.
Grape growers and vintners—and many bistros and restaurants—are a part of Québec’s Wine Route (La Route des vins). The winemakers in five distinct regions have created an on-line tool to help visitors design customized routes (www.vinsduquebec.com/en/route-des-vins).
THERE'S ALWAYS ROOM
Whether in the big city or the small villages, the people in Québec know how to open their doors and make visitors feel welcome.
It could be quirky and fun, like Zoobox, an innovative solar-wind-powered loft where everything is flexible—even beds and the bathtub can be moved outside! Or Parc Aventures Cap Jaseux’s tree houses, suspended spheres and rustic log cabins. In the Québec Maritime region, the lighthouse at Brandy Pot is run as a B&B that retains its historical charm. In Charlevoix, Maison du Bootlegger is a colourful house with hidden doors and secret passages that date back to the era of Prohibition.
Of course, there are the resorts and historic properties that the province is famous for: the much-loved Le Château Frontenac perched on a bluff in Québec City; the boutique Auberge Saint-Antoine; and, in Montréal, the luxurious Hôtel Le St-James; The Queen Elizabeth (undergoing renovations and reopening mid-year); and Le Saint Sulpice.
The new Pierre Lassonde Pavilion at Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ) is an architectural gem—the four museum galleries cover every facet of Québec’s art history.
Those looking for an adrenaline rush can brave the new 300-m (984-ft.) double zip-line crossing spectacular Montmorency Falls. The trip can be done duo or solo (www.sepaq.com/ct/pcm/?language_id=1).
Valcartier Vacation Village completed the addition of a major indoor recreation and tourism complex to complement the seasonal outdoor waterpark. It features an indoor waterpark and four-star hotel. The site has also acquired the unique Hôtel du Glace—Ice Hotel—with its 44 rooms, huge snow vaults and crystalline ice sculptures (www.valcartier.com).
Visitors to Carnaval de Québec can now participate in an ice canoe race experience. The challenging activity includes equipment, instruction, guide and even a warm-up hot chocolate on the ice (www.quebecicecanoeing.com).
Ulittaniujalik National Park is a new park in Nunavik, Québec’s far north region. As Québec’s second largest park, it provides a sanctuary for caribou calving grounds on the expansive George River Plateau.
Winter 2016/17 was the first season for a new wintertime experience package at Tursujuq National Park, located near the shores of Hudson Bay. Nine-day excursions to explore the Inuit way of life include snowmobiling, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, guided excursions and camping (www.nunavikparks.ca/en/parks/tursujuq).
The National Hockey League (NHL) will be celebrating its 100th anniversary and Montréal will be hosting some of the activities, joined by Wayne Gretzky, the centenary’s official ambassador (www.nhl.com).
Nova Lumina is a new 1.5-km (0.9-mi.) multimedia nighttime walk under the starry skies at Chandler in the Gaspésie, where the land meets the sky (www.novalumina.com).
Îles de la Madeleine has added two new flavour trails — the Food Trail and the Tour of Typical Dishes—with stops at local food producers, growers and artisans, and samplings of authentic Island dishes served in local restaurants (www.tourismeilesdelamadeleine.com).
Want to stay in a shelter resembling giant bird nesting boxes? The unusual glamping experience is found at Parc Nature de Pointe-aux-Outardes on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. Tucked into an old-growth pine forest, a “nest” stay includes sleeping bags, propane stove, cooler, dishes and utensils (www.quebecmaritime.ca/parcoutardes).
Anima Lumina is a multimedia nighttime forest walk recently opened at the Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien (www.zoosauvage.org/en/anima-lumina).
A new seven-day, hop-on/hop-off pass is now available on the Saguenay Fjord marine shuttle. The pass allows travellers to create their own cruise on the fjord by hopping on and off at the five stops between La Baie and Tadoussac, from July 1 to September 4 (www.croisieresdufjord.com).
2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Festival d’été de Québec (July 6-16). Ten stages on the Plains of Abraham and in the Old Town showcase world music.
The province’s unique European sensibility flavours the intersection of art, culture and history. This is a big part of the city centres—Montréal and Québec City—with their wealth of museums, galleries and special exhibits.
In Québec City, small music clubs, funky bars, boîtes à chansons (intimate venues for the province’s singer/songwriters) and music festivals like the Québec City Summer Festival (Festival d’été de Québec), one of Canada’s biggest music festivals (www.infofestival.com), contribute to a vibrant arts scene.
Cosmopolitan Montréal sits at a cultural crossroads, rooted in both Anglo and francophone heritage. This year, Montréal celebrates this diversity as a part of its 375th anniversary. The city has put together itineraries to help inspire visitors (www.tourisme-montreal.org/blog).
Montréal abounds with theatre and dance, music and circus arts, and museums and art galleries showcasing everything from cutting-edge works to timeless classics. An underground system of pedestrian passageways, RÉSO, connects Métro stations and corridors filled with boutiques and small shops.
Montréal is renowned for its lively summer gatherings—from jamming sessions to dance fests. In cool contrast, take in a concert at Old Montréal’s Notre-Dame Basilica, a neo-Gothic masterpiece with marvellous acoustics (www.basiliquenddm.org/en). Or visit the quays of the Old Port on foot or by Segway, where performances range from reggae to harbour symphonies created with ships’ horns.
Year-round, chic prevails in Old Montréal’s clubs, trendy bistros and the free-spirited Latin Quarter’s cocktail bars. The city teems with bars, discos, microbreweries, cigar lounges, cafés and outdoor terraces.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Outdoor enthusiasts can soak up Québec’s untamed wilderness by visiting the province’s numerous parks. With thousands of crystal-clear lakes and an impressive range of wildlife, they are idyllic for camping, canoeing, fishing, cycling, mountain biking and hiking. In winter, the guarantee of snow creates a paradise for downhill and cross-country skiing, dogsledding and snowshoeing (www.sepaq.com).
Every August the sky becomes a canvas for the shooting stars of the Perseid meteor showers, and in Tremblant they mark the occasion with a family-friendly event, “Tremblant Beneath the Stars” (www.tremblant.ca).
Two-wheelers take to “la Route verte,” a 5,300-km (3,293-mi.) web of cycling and multi-use paths that criss-cross the province, creating the largest cycling network in the Americas.
Spectacular sightlines are the norm at about 300 Québec public golf courses. One of the most challenging is Le Géant at Mont-Tremblant, a master’s 18-hole championship course carved out of the Laurentian landscape.
In the Laurentian Mountains north of Montréal, Le P’tit Train du Nord Linear Park is a former railroad track converted into a 230-km (143-mi.) level biking trail—and a cross-country ski trail in winter—between Saint-Jérôme and Mont-Laurier (www.laurentides.com/en). Or ride a panoramic gondola to the summit of Mont-Tremblant.
Whale watching from Tadoussac, Baie-Sainte-Catherine and Rivière-du-Loup, gets visitors close to nature with sightings of minke, humpback and even the rare blue whale, as do boat cruises from the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula to the seabird sanctuary at Bonaventure Island (www.quebecmaritime.ca).
HERITAGE AND CULTURE
Montréal has designed a unique way for anyone with a good helping of curiosity and an interest in heritage to learn about the city. “Montréal en Histoires” is an interactive way to play with history and test knowledge using a mobile app that guides users through 60 points of interest. The project includes daytime and nighttime scenarios, including 19 short movies projected on buildings, streets and trees through Old Montréal (www.montrealenhistoires.com).
Québec City is the only walled city north of Mexico, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a textbook of 17th and 18th century architecture. Begin with a visit to Battlefields Park, also known as the Plains of Abraham, the site of pivotal clashes between French and English forces (www.ccbn-nbc.gc.ca). Catch the view from the Dufferin Terrace overlooking the St. Lawrence River, or stop for tea at Le Château Frontenac, the world’s most photographed hotel (www.quebecregion.com).
One of Canada’s premiere community festivals happens in the Old World ambience of Québec City. The summertime New France Festival (Les Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France) is a showcase of the roots of francophone culture. Costumed revellers celebrate all that makes Québec unique, from music and history to food and literature (nouvellefrance.qc.ca/home).
The Québec Aboriginal Tourism Corporation is home to the Pow-Wow Trail, a one-stop list of First Nations special events including music, dance, handicrafts and food (www.quebecaboriginal.com).
MUST SEE, MUST DO
More than 40 tall ships will be rallying at Québec City (July 18-23) as part of Rendez-vous 2017’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation (www.rdv2017.com).
The region of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean is well-known for its premier biking routes, including the Véloroute des Bleuets (Blueberry Route) encircling a scenic lake (www.veloroute-bleuets.qc.ca/en).
The city of Montréal is marking its 375th anniversary with a year-long celebration of more than 175 events including musical shows, world-class dance, parties, historic experiences and giant marionettes (www.375mtl.com).
In the Gaspésie region, Plongée Forillon and Auberge Griffon Aventure provide unforgettable experiences swimming with harbour seals, starfish and lobster (www.plongeeforillon.com; www.aubergegaspe.com/en).
Foresta Lumina in the Eastern Township’s Parc de la Gorge de Coaticook is an interactive multimedia trail that wanders along a night-illuminated pathway for a magical experience (www.forestalumina.com/en).
Visitors to Huttopia Canada’s getaways in Sutton experience a serene outdoors stay in chalets and high-end eco-tents tucked into forest settings with a river nearby for paddling (canada.huttopia.com/en).
Dominated by the highest mountain peaks of southern Québec, the Eastern Townships’ 193-km (120-mi.) Summit Drive reveals one gorgeous panorama after another.
Forged by glaciers, the picturesque Fjord Route follows the winding Saguenay fjord—one of the longest in the world (235-km/146-mi.)—with a never-ending show of imposing rock faces and majestic capes.
Route du Richelieu’s historic 265-km (165-mi.) transportation road traces both sides of the lovely Richelieu River, encompassing historic villages, archaeological digs, museums, heritage churches and bucolic landscapes.
The 280-km (174-mi.) King’s Road (Chemin du Roy) is Canada’s oldest roadway, linking Québec City to Montréal along the St. Lawrence River’s spectacular north shore.
Montréal’s Barbie Expo is the largest permanent exhibit of Barbie dolls in the world. More than a thousand one-of-a-kind Barbies are dressed in the haute couture of world-renowned designers including Christian Dior and Diane Von Furstenberg. There are celebrity Barbies—Cher, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Taylor—and movie themed Barbies like The Wizard of Oz and Cleopatra. Admission is free.
PARK PICKFORT LENNOX NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
An hour south of Montréal, hop onto a ferry and cross the Richelieu River to Fort Lennox National Historic Site and you are transported back in time to 19th century British North America. The fort was originally built as a stronghold against potential invasion from the U.S. to the south. Soldiers in period costume act as interpretive guides, giving a glimpse into what garrison life was like for British Redcoats and their families. Fort Lennox is also a place for peaceful and reflective walks along the fort’s stone ramparts or on one of the trails through the surrounding green space (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/lennox).