A safari and a hotel made of ice blend in with historical and natural wonders in Canada’s biggest province.
The Canadian Museum of History
The Canadian Museum of History is one of the country’s oldest museums, dating back to 1856. It also happens to be the most-visited in Canada, with 1.2 million annual visitors. So why do so many people stop by? The Gatineau museum’s four million items trace the history of Canada, and the world, starting 20,000 years ago. In the Grand Hall, discover the story, culture and beliefs of Canada’s Pacific First Nations, in a beautiful setting overlooking the Ottawa River and Parliament Hill. Look up at spectacular totem poles alongside Native houses, before moving into the First People’s Hall for more insights into Canada’s Aboriginal roots. Immerse yourself in the travelling exhibits on display, and swing by the CINE+ 3D theatre for a movie.
Quartier du Petit Champlain
Visitors to Quebec City always talk about its European charm, and nowhere is this more true than in the Petit Champlain district (Quartier du Petit Champlain)—one of the oldest neighbourhoods in North America. Walk the narrow cobblestone streets and pop into the many boutiques and shops for a fashionable souvenir. Let your nose guide you to one of the many restaurants and bistros, and be sure to make time to indulge your sweet tooth with local maple syrup treats at the La Petite Cabane à Sucre.
Located in Quebec’s picturesque Laurentian Mountains, Mont-Tremblant is one of the top ski destinations in the province. Lots of natural snow and one of the best snowmaking systems in the world make for a long and happy season for snowboarders and skiers of all skill levels. If you’re not big on flying down a mountain, there are a host of other year-round activities to enjoy. Grab your woolly hat (or ‘tuque’ as the locals call it) and go ice skating, snowmobiling, snowshoeing or dogsledding. When it’s t-shirt weather, head up for a hike or a bike on the mountain, enjoy the view from the gondola, or relax with a round of golf on some of the best public courses in Quebec.
Old Montreal is appropriately named in one sense: it’s the oldest neighbourhood in the city, and contains the site where Montreal was first established in 1642. Its cobblestone streets bring to mind Europe and travellers and locals alike explore maze-like streets by foot and bike. And yet, the crowds that gather in Old Montreal are a contemporary bunch. The many local fashion boutiques and cafes are always full of life. People stream into the area to walk, bike, boat the beautiful waterfront (known as the Old Port) during the day, and to drink and dine at the many modern restaurants at night. In January, thousands of people don snow suits and fill the harbour for Igloofest, an outdoor electronic music festival. OId Montreal is an incredible mixture of new and old that should be near the top of your ‘must do’ list.
Hôtel de Glace
The only ice hotel in North America is located just steps from Quebec City. The fairytale-esque Hôtel de Glace has been hosting guests for 15 years, and every year it presents new, fresh features and ideas. Grab a drink or two at the Ice Bar to warm up, spend an hour in the outdoor spas and sauna, and then head to your room where the walls are ice, the ceiling is ice, and yes, the bed is also ice. You’ll need to layer up to stay warm, but if you can deal with the cold, there really is no other experience quite like it. Between January and March, drop by for a visit or spend a night in this work of art.
The Montreal Botanical Garden
The expression ‘stop and smell the flowers’ takes on a whole new meaning at the Montreal Botanical Garden, one of the greatest in the world. With 22,000 plant species and cultivars living in its 10 greenhouses, 20 thematic gardens and a pavilion, you might have a tough time smelling them all, but why not dream big. Whether you’re into lilacs, lotus flowers, orchids or succulents, or you just like looking at pretty flowers, there’s a little something for everyone. The Botanical Garden is an oasis within the city, only a few minutes from downtown, beside the Olympic Stadium and Biodome.
Mount Royal is, you guessed it, a mountain located right in the heart of Downtown Montreal, much of it within a large park of the same name. It was Frederick Law Olmstead, the designer of New York’s Central Park, who designed Mount Royal Park, and the two landmarks serve a similar purpose: existing as an outdoor space in the city where people meet, hang out, spend time outdoors, play sports, and much more. Climb to the lookout point at the top, visit the giant cross, and look out over the entire city of Montreal. Or, visit on a Sunday for one of Mount Royal’s biggest draws: tam-tams. Tam-tams are weekly gatherings (weather-permitting) of drummers, dancers, vendors, and just about anyone else. It’s a big outdoor party and you’re invited.
Old Quebec (or Vieux-Québec, as the locals know it) isn’t so much an attraction as a collection of impressive attractions, all populating one historic area. This UNESCO world heritage treasure makes for the perfect day trip. In just a few hours you can see architecture dating back centuries, including fortifications that form the biggest walled city north of Mexico, as well as stunning churches and chapels that drive home the religious history of the province. Even if you’re not a history buff, the area is full of entertainment, from art and music to shopping and fine dining. Truly, a must-visit area of Quebec City.
Montmorency Falls Park
Many people are surprised to discover that a waterfall one and a half times higher than Niagara Falls sits just minutes from Quebec City. At 83 metres high, the Montmorency Falls are a sight to behold, both from within the city and up close and personal in the Montmorency Falls Park (Parc de la Chute-Montmorency in French). Hang out near the base and feel the mist on your face, or ride the gondola up to the top for a spectacular view. More adventurous visitors might choose to hike one of the three Via Ferrata trails, stopping at viewpoints along the way for some Instagram-worthy shots, or even zip line across the falls. Once you reach the top, sit back and enjoy a great meal or a few celebratory drinks at the elegant Manoir Montmorency.
Right in between Ottawa and Montreal, you can go on the Canadian version of a safari. Parc Omega is a safari park that you drive through in your own car. Pick up a bag of carrots from the gift shop before you head in (trust us) and then start along the 14.5-kilometre nature route. You’ll pass by lakes, between rocky hills, through valleys, forests, and meadows, all the while getting up close and personal with the animals that inhabit them. Wind down the window, hold out a carrot, and watch deer and ibex trot over for a meal. Pause as a herd of bison cross the road and keep your eyes peeled for boar and beaver. Then pay a visit to the separate wolf, bear, coyote, and fox enclosures. This isn’t a zoo; this is nature.