While Quebec City might not be as well-known as its neighbor to the south, Montreal, this small city with a medieval feel holds big allure for families. This especially true in winter when twinkly vintage holiday decorations and steady snowfall make Old Quebec City feel like a snow globe come to life. It makes a splendid March break destination, with few crowds and mild-for-Quebec winter weather.
1. Visit Valcartier
If you were to let your kid design their dream resort, they might conjure up with something like Valcartier, a four-season family mega-hotel 30 minutes outside of town. Stay overnight or just visit for the day, but either way definitely hit the 35 well-groomed tubing slopes of varying pitch. Just plop on to your tube for an easy tow up a conveyor belt, and then ride down attached together or on your own. Brave souls can take a terrifying ride down Everest, the highest accelerating slide in North America. Once you’re ready to warm up, hit the Bora Parc indoor water park for a float around the lazy river or a ride down the Tribu family slide.
2. Chill out at the Ice Hotel
Also housed at Valcartier, the Ice Hotel hotel boggles the mind with its grand architecture, intricate sculptures and tendency to inspire Elsa belting. Hearty and well-layered visitors can also opt to spend the night camped out on an ice bed. A sugar shack is right outside if you’re in need of a maple-y treat.
3. Relax at Siberia Station Spa
Usually vacationing parents can only gaze longingly at the spa, but if you visit Siberia Station, a Scandinavian-style spa 20 km from Old Quebec City, on Sunday mornings between 9am and noon, you can bring your kiddies with you (the spa’s also open for families at other special times during the year). Bring your own bathrobes—or rent them there—and do the hot-cold-rest circuit at the indoor/outdoor facility’s saunas, whirlpools, plunge pools, yurts and heated igloos until you’re loose as a wet noodle. If you can sneak away, massages are available too.
4. Hit the slopes for some family skiing
There are several mountains within easy driving distance of Quebec City, with lovely long runs. La Relais and Stoneham are the closest to the city, with 33 and 42 (across three hills) groomed runs, respectively, but they are light on beginner green runs. At Mont Saint Anne, the north side of the mountain has very gentle greens for novice skiers, and a glades-with-games trail, La Forêt Enchantée, just for kids. Le Massif de Charlevoix is unique in that the chalet, rentals and ski school are all the top of mountain instead of at the bottom.
5. Ride the luge
While skiing is the main attraction at Le Massif, the resort also has a unique offering that will bring you right back to childhood: a guided 7.5km luge run down the mountain, with a warm-up stop along the way. After transport via bobcat, sled down dedicated trails, controlling your speed with your feet. The gondola takes you back up where you started, so be sure to park at the top of the hill near the chalet. Note that kids must be 10 or older to participate.
6. Get your thrills at Mega Parc
This amusement park might be in a mall, but this is no quarter-in-the-machine operation. Mega Parc boasts 18 rides and attractions that range from gentle to thrilling, all with a Steampunk aesthetic. The rides and games are encircled by an energy-burning ice skating track, and right next to the food court for easy refueling. If your child is at least 36 inches tall, make time for Cortex, a 4-D experience that rivals those at Disney.
7. Wander around Old Quebec
Are we still in North America? Between cobblestone streets and charming old stone buildings, you’ll feel transported to another time and place. While much of the stores carry cheesy tourist knick knacks, you’ll find a holiday ornament to remember your trip at Boutique de Noel de Quebec, and a huge selection of toys at Benjo (on weekends, ride a train around the store!). You can also ice-skate in the shadow of fortress walls at Patinoire de la Place D’Youville, ride the funicular up to the iconic Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, or stop at one the adorable chocolate shops, creperies or pâtisseries in this area. The many pedestrian-only streets also mean you can give darting kids a slightly longer leash.
8. Discover Winter Carnaval
Held between late January and mid-February each year, Carnaval de Quebec brilliantly recasts the Quebec frigid months as wintry Mardi Gras. But while you’ll find the live music and spectacle parade you’d expect, you’ll also discover all sorts of things for families to do, like tubing, human fooseball and bowling (it involves zorb balls), ice sculptures, and dog sledding. Bonhomme, the event’s perpetually smiling mascot, presides over it all.
Some of the writer’s costs were covered by Quebec City attractions.