It’s only reasonable to expect the hometown of Bonhomme to deliver a colourful, cheerful activity-packed winter, and it absolutely does. From the Christmas villagelike Old Quebec, its cobblestoned streets and Euro-inspired buildings festooned with lights, to a riverside toboggan run that dates back to 1884, you can embrace the season at any speed.
Do Until March, warming stations will pop up around the city. Grab a chair and enjoy the heat from the gas fireplaces. Continue with this theme by heading to one of the city’s Nordic spas for a massage. Strom Spa, in Old Quebec, sits on the banks of the St Lawrence River, and Sky Spa is in downtown. stromspa.com, skyspa.ca
See For two weeks in February, Quebec City embodies winter with its legendary Carnaval. Along with some tried, true and quirky traditions such as the Snow Bath – in which participants don a swimsuit and, well, slip into a bath of snow, there’s also an obstacle course, lumberjack camp and two toboggan slides. Plus, the city turns into an open-air ice sculpture gallery, with more than 100 creations on display around town. From Feb. 4-13 the city embraces all things snow and turns electric. carnaval.qc.ca
Eat and Drink A stop at Le Grande Marché de Quebec, the city’s central market is a must visit for souvenirs (and pretty much any time you’re hungry). More than a hundred local producers and culinary artisans have set up shop inside offering the best of this vibrant and culinary-rich province, from coffee to fresh produce to tourtière. And an essential late winter stop: a sugar shack. About a 30-minute drive from downtown, Érablière du Lac-Beauport offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the production process of maple syrup, and about the local eco system at its wildlife interpretation centre Le Trappeur and indulge in a hearty traditional sugar shack meal, which includes pea soup, baked beans, sausages soaked in maple syrup and maple syrup pie for dessert. legrandmarchedequebec.com; erablierelacbeauport.com
Stay Are you really embracing winter if you’re not staying in a hotel made of ice? From January through March each year, the city welcomes Hôtel de Glace. Each year the architecture of the space changes, giving guests, whether staying for the night or just for a drink at the ice bar, something new to see. Hot tubs, saunas, fireplaces and heavy-duty sleeping bags keep guests warm. valcartier.com
One of the most scenic drives in the country has to be from Quebec City to the Charlevoix region, a twisty two-lane route that skirts the St. Lawrence River as it climbs and descends the Laurentians. Locals like to talk about the creative energy that lingers in Charlevoix, some hundreds of millions of years after a meteorite formed this 54-kilometre area. Visit, and you’ll realize there must be something to the old lore. The last descent into artsy Baie-Saint-Paul, for example, feels like you are driving into a painting: icy slashes of blue and white cover the frozen bay and parts of the river; stark, dark trees dot the rounded mountains that reach right down to the river’s edge.
Do About a 10-minute drive east of Baie-Saint Paul, pull into La Famille Migneron, a family-run farm and makers of cheese, wine and whey brandy and gin. “We keep some special cheese here so the locals can have an advantage. We don’t just make cheeses for the people who live in Montreal!” co-owner Madeleine Dufour says. Locals also know to bring a pair of snowshoes when they visit – the farm is on Les Florent Trail. A great spot for more grand views of the bay and river. famillemigneron.com
See Baie-Saint Paul is a great place to admire the work of artists you know, and those you should know. This city of 7,000 has 29 art galleries – the most per capita in Canada – so there’s lots to admire. Galerie Art&Style is a favourite, where you’ll find masters and new talents hanging on just about every wall of a grand old home. lharmattan.com
Eat and Drink In Baie-Saint-Paul, Mouton Noir is a cheerful, elevated bistro that features local foods. But visitors must also seek out Charlevoix’s one-of-a-kind wine: Omerto, made from heirloom tomatoes, is tastier than it sounds (and great as a vin chaud). In winter, Omerto’s tasting room is open by appointment or order a glass or two at Auberge l’Estampilles restaurant in town. moutonnoirresto.com; omerto.com
Stay Skiers should book the ski in/ski out luxury at Club Med Charlevoix, Canada’s first all-inclusive ski resort at Le Massif, a 25-minute drive west of Baie-Saint Paul. If you’d rather spa than ski, Le Germain Charlevoix Hotel & Spa is right in Baie-Saint Paul. Don your cutest tuque to admire the snowy views from the enormous outdoor soaking pool (listen for the odd moo from the adorable Highland cattle grazing nearby), or head for the wet and dry saunas. clubmed.ca; germainhotels.com
The writer was a guest of Bonjour Quebec. The agency did not review or approve the story before publication.
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