Quebec City charms families with its French flair, riverside location and historic district, which dates back to 1608. A UNESCO world heritage site, Old Quebec (Vieux-Quebec) with its towering walls, cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and plentiful street performers captures kids’ imaginations.
Founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, Quebec served as the base for early French explorers, traders and missionaries in North America. In 1759 British troops defeated the French at what is now known as Battlefields National Park (Parc des Champs-de-Bataille). In 1763 Canada was ceded to Great Britain. Despite this, Quebec has maintained its French heritage. Because the French influence dominates in culture, cuisine and language — at least 95 percent of the population speaks French — Quebec exudes enough foreign panache to feel a bit “exotic” in predominantly English-speaking Canada. ‘Tweens and teens studying French have a wonderful opportunity to practice as they browse the boutiques; however, knowing the language really isn’t necessary. Unlike in Paris or other French cities, Quebecois are happy to talk to you in English.
Active families also like Quebec’s proximity to outdoor adventures. It’s easy to combine historic tours and museum visits with afternoon bicycling treks or strolls. Within an hour’s drive of the city, you can, in summer, scramble over rocks and glide on a zip line across a waterfall at the Canyon Sainte-Anne or splash in a mega-water park. In winter, cross-country ski in the city’s parks. Drive less than an hour, and you can sled down or climb up a frozen waterfall.
And if you haven’t been to Quebec in awhile, it’s time to come back. As a result of the city’s 400th anniversary celebration in 2008, Quebec is better than ever. Buildings have been beautified; a two-tiered water fountain, French of course, graces Parliament Hill; the Promenade de Samuel Champlain extends the bicycle/strolling paths well beyond Montmorency Falls and two, acclaimed, free shows — one by Cirque du Soleil — designed especially for the celebration still delight visitors in summer and will for the next several years.
And did we mention the maple pie and the crepes? All in all, Quebec City is a sweet destination for families.
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Header photos from stock