Quebec City: Most Memorable Things To Do With Family

by | Mar 15, 2024 | Canada, Family Adventures, International

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After the longest train ride of my life—18 hours—my son and I finally arrived at our hotel in Quebec. We quickly made our way to our room and fell into our beds.

The next day, we jumped out of bed, eager to explore the lively city. We got lost a few times, met some amazing Quebecers, and almost found the perfect plate of poutine. In short, we fell in love with Quebec and the natives’ joie de vivre , or joy of life.

 

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Quebec City’s Parks

 

Montmorency Falls

One of the most thrilling things to do near Quebec City is to visit Montmorency Falls. Just a short 15-minute drive from the city center, these majestic falls (taller than Niagara Falls) cascade into the St. Lawrence River.

We took a private cable car above the frozen falls, and while nerve-wracking at first, about halfway through, I began to relax and enjoy the ride. With the frozen falls behind us, we took many brave-faced selfies to show our friends and family. 

The bravest visitors can get a thrill by walking on the suspension bridge, which goes right over the top of the falls. It makes for an adrenaline-pumping adventure, that I happily observed from the ground. 

In the summer months, families can cool off in the refreshing waters below or explore the surrounding trails blooming with goldenrods and daisies. 

 

-Montmorency Falls- Quebec City

It takes a heaping of courage to board that little cable car, but it’s totally worth it! @Shutterstock

 

Jacques-Cartier National Park

Jacques-Cartier National Park is part of the stunning Canadian province of Quebec. About a thirty-minute drive from the city, it is worth the trip. 

My son and I loved visiting this snowy paradise. We went on a ranger-led hike and spent about an hour sledding. The sledding hill and hiking trail were ours to use, as there didn’t seem to be anyone around for miles.

 

The park is notably quiet during this season. The bears are hibernating, the moose have moved on, and the warm-weather visitors are home, staying toasty by their fires.

 

In the winter, the park’s headquarters loans out snow scooters, fat bikes, and snowshoes.

During the summer, when the landscape bursts into a riot of green and the rivers swell with meltwater, the park transforms into a bustling gathering spot for nature lovers.

Summer brings a variety of activities, from kayaking along the Jacques-Cartier River to hiking the winding trails, providing many unique ways to enjoy the park.

From the park’s headquarters, knowledgeable guides are available to enrich the experience, sharing insights about the park’s diverse ecology and history. Families can sign up beforehand for a private tour.

 

Our nature guide, Max.-Quebec City

Our fearless nature guide, Max, took us on a snowy hike through the national park.

 

Baie de Beauport

Not too far from the rugged wilderness of Jacques-Cartier and less than 10 minutes from Quebec City, Baie de Beauport provides a contrasting landscape where the city meets a beachy vibe.

This sandy bay area is the perfect spot for family outings because of its well-maintained picnic areas, water park, and selection of water sports like paddle boarding and kayaking. The summer breeze carries the laughter of families and friends as they gather to enjoy the warm sunshine and the cool blue water of the St. Lawrence River.

 

Historic Landmarks

One of the best parts of visiting a city like Quebec is discovering its rich cultural heritage. The physical effects of important historical events have helped to create the Quebecois culture today; for example, the stone wall that once barricaded the city now feels like part of what keeps Old Quebec feeling cozy and small. 

Walking through the streets of Old Québec, the heart of the city, is a favorite activity of visitors. The city is renowned for its well-preserved 17th-century architecture and rich French culture. 

With street performers, quaint shops, and the only walled city north of Mexico, it’s the perfect spot for a family to explore.

Don’t miss the historic buildings that tell tales of yesteryear with a guided tour of the Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

We enjoyed a walking tour of the city from the sweetest “retired” woman. After teaching history and then running a bed and breakfast, she decided to stay busy by leading tourists around her city. She seemed to have an answer to every single one of our questions and wasn’t afraid to take us off the tour route.

Together, we made our way along the cobblestone streets of both Upper Town and Lower Town. I had to hide my smile as each time she stopped to talk, we seemed to pick up another set of visitors who leaned in to hear what she had to say. After the tour, we felt a deeper appreciation and understanding of the city.

There are many different tour companies in the city, and honestly, it’s hard to go wrong. Ghost hunters, foodies, historians – whoever you are, there is a tour for you. 

 

-Old Quebec City

The church at Place Royale in Old Quebec City sparkles in the snow. @Shutterstock

 

Plains of Abraham

For a dose of history, culture, and natural beauty, head to the Plains of Abraham. This historic battleground played a pivotal role in Canadian history. Today, it is much like Central Park is to New York City.

During the winter, activities like cross-country skiing and ice skating keep the park hopping. Summer turns the park into an expanse of gorgeous greens matched in vibrancy by the many activities open to visitors during this season. In addition to walking, jogging, biking, and skating, guests can find both indoor and outdoor escape rooms. These escape rooms, while both challenging and fun, will also give guests a good overview of the historical significance of the park.  

 

Musée de la Civilisation

No visit to Quebec City is complete without a trip to the Musée de la Civilisation, where families can learn about the region’s history and heritage. 

The Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City hosts several evolving exhibitions that captivate visitors of all ages. 

Before visiting, check out “People of Quebec… Then and Now.” Although the exhibition is no longer at the museum, guests can still explore it online. It does a good job of immersing visitors in Quebec society’s rich history and evolution.

Another highlight is the “This is Our Story” exhibit in 2024, dedicated to First Nations and Inuit cultures, providing a deep look at their traditions, beliefs, and contemporary issues through artifacts and multimedia presentations. 

Additionally, the museum often features interactive installations that explore themes of technology, identity, and social change. 

 

In the spring, the street name Petit Champlain, gets dressed up with colorful umbrellas. -Petit Champlain -Quebec

In the spring, this street, named Petit Champlain, gets covered in colorful umbrellas. @Shutterstock

 

Ile d’Orléans

Ile d’Orléans, a jewel in the St. Lawrence River near Quebec City, is a living museum of some of Quebec’s most significant historical events. 

This island is the birthplace of the region’s rich French heritage. It is, after all, where Jacques Cartier first stepped foot on Canadian land in 1535. Well-preserved landmarks dating back to the 17th century offer guests a glimpse into the lives of early settlers. 

Many families who trace their ancestral roots to Quebec, along with schoolchildren eager to see the pages of their textbooks come to life, visit Ile d’Orléans.

One of the best places to visit is the somewhat hidden lavender fields at La Seigneurie de l’Île d’Orléans. The gardens and associated shops are only open from June through October. A walk through those dreamy lavender fields smells soft and sweet.

We highly advise stopping at Confetiurerie Tigidou before leaving. First of all, the shop itself is adorable and picture-worthy—think clapboard wood, jewel-colored jars of jelly and jam, and plenty of quirky Canadian touches like fur throws and polished tree stump tables. If that is not enough, the Island Strawberry Jam is heavenly. Enjoy some there, but take a few jars home too.

The tranquility and rustic charm of Ile d’Orléans make it a captivating destination for those looking to explore the origins of French culture in North America.

 

-Ile d’Orléans

Ile d’Orléans at its finest. @Shutterstock

 

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac holds a distinguished place in the historical tapestry of Quebec City, emblematic not just as a grand hotel but as a living monument of the city’s rich heritage. 

Built in 1893 by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company (CPR), the hotel is one of several grand railway hotels built by the CPR across Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

These opulent hotels were designed to promote luxury travel and tourism across Canada, which, you guessed it, were served by the railway’s extensive network.

Le Château Frontenac was part of a brilliant business strategy to attract affluent travelers to the scenic and historic locations along the railway’s routes, thereby increasing passenger numbers.

It might seem strange to include a hotel as something to see, but here’s the deal- this hotel is the heart of the city. Appearing in almost every image of the city’s skyline, it’s a big reason that Quebec City became a tourist destination. 

Visitors can pop inside to visit the basement museum where they will learn a bit about the history of the hotel (and the city).

For example, visitors will learn that the Château Frontenac was designed by American architect Bruce Price, who created its distinctive châteauesque style, making the hotel an enduring symbol of Quebec City’s historic elegance and charm. 

It was named after Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac, who was an important figure in the French colonization of North America, the hotel honors Quebec City’s proud French heritage. (Side note- I was not at all prepared for just how little English is spoken here. I definitely made some people angry on the road, because I had no idea what the French signs said. Ooops.) 

This hotel’s prime location within the walls of Old Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, further cements its historical significance.

The hotel’s iconic silhouette dominates the skyline of Quebec City, drawing visitors from around the globe. Its enduring presence and continual operation have made it one of the most photographed hotels in the world.

 

-Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is the heart of Old Quebec. @Shutterstock

 

For the Young and Young at Heart

 

Aquarium du Québec 

Families with young children will enjoy the Aquarium du Québec. Young explorers can visit with marine animals from the St. Lawrence River and beyond.

Polar bears, arctic foxes, and seals are perennial favorites, so be sure to make time to see them. My best advice is to get there early and go to that particular spot that you all most want to see first.

 

Village Vacances Valcartier 

Nearby, Village Vacances Valcartier offers fun for the whole family with its indoor water park, outdoor water park, winter amusement park featuring sledding hills that pack as much of a rush as roller coasters. (Pro Tip- Bring ski goggles.) 

This fantastic family resort has all the amenities that make the kids happy, including arcade games and a candy shop. Furthermore, parents will enjoy the shopping and the spa.

The coolest spot at the resort by far is only there during the winter, and it is demolished every March. 

Built by artists and ice sculptors each year, Village Vacances Valcartier is home to North America’s only ice hotel- Hotel de Glace

Each December, 30 brand new rooms are thoughtfully sculpted… along with an ice bar, ice slide, ice chapel (for frosty weddings), and, naturally, an ice dance floor. 

The hotel is open for touring during the day, which is just what my son and I did. In the evenings, guests can stay the night. However, frosty toes are my nemesis, so we left before the sun set.  

 

Ice Hotel in Quebec

The only ice hotel in North America is in Quebec City. It is only open from December through March.

 

When You Go

 

The Weather

There are four very different seasons in Quebec. In the winter temps can drop to as low as -16, but in the summer, visitors can enjoy a high of around 76 degrees.  And the spring and fall give visitors that perfect sweater weather of 60 degrees. (Locals might be in tank tops at 60, but this sunshine-loving girl won’t be!)

Listen, a low of -16 sounds cold to anyone, but the truth is that winter in Quebec is pure magic. From eclectic characters, like the winter carnival’s Bonhomme Carnavale (a larger-than-life snowman), to unique experiences, like touring North America’s only ice hotel, Quebec City is an ideal destination for a winter family vacation. (Another nugget of truth is that the average winter temperature is around 20 degrees Fahrenheit.) 

Skiers and snow bunnies will LOVE that Quebec City receives around 100 inches of snow each winter. 

So, check your weather app, believe what you see, and pack accordingly. 

Quebecers will surely agree- that there is no bad weather, only unsuitable clothing. 

When we visited in early February, we experienced fairly mild weather. Quebecers told us that the weather wasn’t normal. However, for us, it was pleasant to experience snowy sports and plenty of sunshine. Perfect!

As cold as winter is here, summer is warm, with average highs in the upper 70s. In the summer, the cobblestone streets are transformed as buskers, tables, and waiters make their way outside. Families spend a little longer lingering over alfresco meals under twinkle lights, which are generously strung throughout Old Quebec.

There are so many good reasons why Quebec City is a great place to spend quality time with the whole family, no matter what season it is!

 

Sledding in a tshirt. -Quebec

George was sledding and sweating on this abnormally warm winter day.

 

Where to Stay

 

Hotel Champlain

This is where we stayed! I highly recommend staying here for several reasons. First, we were within walking distance of everything in Old Quebec. Second, we had an incredible view of the charming Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. Third, there was an electric fireplace next to the bed that was all sorts of cozy. Finally, the people! The people who work here make guests feel as if they are staying at their own home. They went above and beyond to make sure that we were comfortable. 

 

DON’T MISS! Hotel Champlain Vieux Quebec

 

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

While we didn’t stay here, we had friends who were staying here while we were in Quebec. Because of this, we were able to get a full tour of this palatial hotel. It truly is both elegant and colossal. I felt like I was onboard the Titanic- the nice part- where Rose stays. 

The rooms are cleaned every day, and if little ones happen to leave their teddy bear behind, that teddy bear is guaranteed to be tucked into his very own blanket by the staff. There are restaurants, bars, ballrooms, a spa, a pool… pretty much any amenity one can think of; the Fairmont has it. It is in the heart of Old Quebec and towers over everything else, so the views are stunning. 

 

 

Village Vacances Valcartier 

Although not in the heart of Old Quebec, this family resort is one super fun place to stay. It’s like staying at a Disney Resort, in that everything one might need is right there- entertainment, food, shopping, and wellness. Its home to an indoor and outdoor waterpark, along with the most epic sledding hill park that I’ve ever seen. It’s also home to North America’s only ice hotel. To stay the night there, one also gets a regular room at the hotel, just in case one changes their mind in the middle of the night. 

 

Ice Hotel in Quebec

Would you be able to sleep on a bed of ice? Not me.

 

Come explore the streets of Old Quebec. Catch a street performance on Dufferin Terrace. Splash around at Bora Parc. It’s all here, in the heart of North America, on the eastern coast of Canada- a little slice of Europe. Beautiful Quebec City, truly makes a a family-friendly destination for travelers of all ages.

 

When You Go

Getting to Quebec City from LA

 

 

United and Air Canada feature flights from LA to Quebec City with only one stop at around 7.5 hours. Good news is that the drive from the airport to Old Quebec City (which is definitely where visitors will want to stay) is only a short 20 minutes. In order to get around the city, a car is necessary. There is an Enterprise at the airport, and they have winter-friendly vehicles for visitors with less snow experience.

An excellent discount site for flights (and cars, hotels) is Expedia! This is where we start our research for the best deals!

If you’d like to be in the know for exclusive discounts to fly anywhere in the world, check out Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). Their website shows current deals, and they send emails when they find crazy cheap discounts. Some can even be booked with points.

To get discounts on tours in the area, we recommend Get Your Guide or Viator (which offers 51% off last-minute tours!).

To save time (and because we travel so much), we got an annual travel insurance policy for the whole family from this site. They have affordable policies for individual trips, too, and tools to make picking one easy.

 

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Steffy McCourt is a mom to three active and awesome boys, two budgies, one cockatiel, and a mischievous corgi. Currently an ELA Teacher in Plymouth, Michigan, she also writes for parenting magazines and education websites. She just recently launched her own travel website, www.mifamilytravel.com; a tribute to the state of Michigan. She has an MS in Educational Leadership from Butler University and a BA in English from Indiana University.