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Winter fun in Quebec

by Liza McAvoy on 12 November 2013, 10:11AM

At less than 7 hours from the UK and with only a 5 hour time difference, Québec is a great place to visit this winter, for either a short shopping break or a more extended break.  You can have fun in the snow, enjoy various festivals, go to an ice hotel, go ice fishing and go to a snow park.  If you fancy being more adventurous, there are plenty of places to go that are within easy reach of Québec City or Montréal.  In fact, there are more non ski activities here than anywhere else in the world!  


Montréal is a cool, artistic and very hip city with fantastic shopping, excellent museums and a great music history.  The Nutcracker Christmas Market is open from 28 November – 8 December 2013 and could give you ideas for unusual Christmas presents.  No trip to any city is complete without a city tour and Montréal does them with a difference.  Enjoy a tour that includes skating, sledding and skiing across Montréal so you can see the sights, sounds and tastes of the city from a local’s perspective.  You should ensure you have time to make the most of Old Montréal with its romantic atmosphere and breathtaking architecture.  If you’re getting a little bit chilly outside, then head into the underground city, a 30km maze of brightly-lit passageways, which links over 2000 shops, major department stores, restaurants, bars, cinemas, hotels, stations and even the museum of fine art.


Mont Royal Park is in the heart of the city and a veritable winter playground.  Here you can try a number of activities including cross-country skiing, ice skating, sledding on tubes and toboggans or enjoy a snow shoe hike.  For me, the best time to go snowshoeing is late afternoon to watch the sunset over Montréal. 


Get over your post Christmas blues with a trip in January, February or March and enjoy some of the great festivals on offer.  In Montréal, there is Fête des neiges which takes place at weekends in Parc Jean-Drapeau from mid January to mid February.  It includes sculptures, skating, sliding, outside shows and many surprises.  There is also Igloofest every weekend from 13 January – 8 February 2014 which is a winter must-do for electronic music fans.  Warm up with Montréal en Lumière, from 20 February – 14 March with world class chefs, the finest restaurants, renowned artists and lighting designers offering the best that Montréal has to offer in every way with a colourful array of culture, theatre and entertainment.


Why not make it a twin city trip as Québec City is only a 3 hour train trip from Montréal?  You can also enjoy a number of winter festivals here, including the biggest winter carnival in the world. The Québec Winter Carnival runs from 31 January to 16 February 2014, with giant ice carvings, an ice palace, food, entertainment and activities including giant ice slides and floats.  This is a great place to go with your family to celebrate the winter in all its glory.  Red Bull Crashed Ice visits Québec annually in March.  Feel the excitement as the athletes have to race the custom built course from the battlefields at the top of Québec City to the heart of the old quarter at the bottom on ice skates, whilst tackling vertical drops and tricky obstacles.


You can join the action as well.  Why not zoom down a slide 82m (270ft) on a toboggan at speeds of up to 90km/h (60mph) on the Glissades de la Terrace overlooking the St Lawrence River?  Village Vacances Valcartier offers you more high speed sliding including a section called Himalaya - a high-thrill sector with steep slopes, Snow Rafting and a Tornado.  It is the largest winter playground in North America and is great for thrill-seekers of all ages, just 20 mins outside of Québec City.   There are over 35 slides and they are marked like ski runs (easy – difficult).  You can also go ice karting and skating here.


You could always try Paraski Aventure a thrilling, yet little-known, winter activity, where you strap on a pair of skis, a harness and a giant sail, and zip over the fields and frozen lakes in the beautiful Québec City Area.  Paraski is suitable for all levels of skiers, even novices.  There are also a number of snowshoeing trails that criss-cross the Bras-du-Nord Valley in Portneuf, just outside Québec City.  You can even camp in a deluxe yurt, gazing up at the stars while lying in a sleeping bag.  The cabins, deluxe cottages and yurts let snowshoe lovers get the most out of over 48 miles of trails.


If you fancy a dogsled ride, why not do it at night with Aventures Nord-Bec Stoneham?  You can ride the torch-lit trails of the Jacques-Cartier Valley, about half an hour from Québec City, and then enjoy a French-Canadian dinner, which could be a very nice way to surprise a loved one.  A slightly more relaxed must-see is the Ice Hotel, only ten minutes from the city centre.  The world’s most accessible Ice Hotel opens from early January to late March depending on the weather. You can stay there; get married there or just pop in for a drink. Each year the Ice Hotel changes design so be one of a select few to have been to that particular one. 


For holidays to Quebec please visit www.travelbag.co.uk/holidays/canada/montreal-and-quebec.

Author bio: Liza McAvoy promotes Destination Quebec in the UK.

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