Can’t afford to go to Europe? Don’t like to fly (though there is an international airport there)? Don’t fret, an abundance of old world French charm and a large welcome mat are just above the U.S. border. Quebec City has everything a winter vacation can offer and then some. And right now the exchange rate is quite favorable to the U.S. dollar. As of March 8th $2.00 American will get you $2.53 Canadian.
Easily reached from New York State via the Adirondack Northway, it is approximately a 3-hour drive North of the U.S. border and 8 hours from New York City.
Quebec City has been named a UNESCO World Heritage City. It is frequently called the most European city in North America; no trite accolade. It has earned this right due to its remarkable site on the West bank of the St. Lawrence River, its history, architecture, famous stone buildings, fortresses, and narrow cobblestone streets. Quebec City celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2008.
The City offers spectacular cultural attractions, exquisite accommodations and one of the most famous annual winter carnivals in the world. It is third in size for carnivals behind Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival. The Carnival alone, an annual event since 1955, is more than worth a trip. It attracts a million locals and tourists every year and requires more than 1400 volunteers to produce.
Visiting during Carnival, usually late January into early February, will surely add variety to your winter vacation. Quebec knows how to truly celebrate the winter months, but be prepared for the cold. You get no sympathy from the locals who don’t complain about winter. Natives revel in its glory and its beauty. Long coats, scarfs and insulated footwear are commonplace in this land of long winters, snow and ice.
Several winter resorts are within a reasonable day drive from the heart of Quebec City. Among them, Stoneham Mountain Resort, 20 minutes away, Mont Sainte Anne, 30 minutes away, and LeMassif, a bit over an hour away. Mont Sainte Anne and LeMassif offer spectacular vistas over the St. Lawrence River.
LeMassif seems to drop its trails right to the river’s edge from a height of 2,526 feet, the highest Canadian vertical drop East of the Canadian Rockies. With an ambitious master development plan, LeMassif is surely creating its own legacy among eastern resorts.
Mont Sainte Anne has 66 runs and 13 lifts on three sides of the mountain, including an 8-passenger gondola, and 80% snowmaking. A plus is night skiing on 17 trails.
Stoneham, closest to the City, has 32 trails, a lighted super pipe, and a top to bottom slope-style course, the resort has a variety of on-mountain challenges that are sure to please.
The Winter Express Shuttle offers daily trips to Stoneham and Mont Sainte Anne right from your hotel, condo, inn or chalet.
Ice climbing, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, downhill skiing and snowboarding, combine with picturesque settings everywhere one looks.
Phenomenal city settings include the majestic St. Lawrence River, The Plains of Abraham (a truly exquisite park), and fantastic old as well as contemporary architecture. First class restaurants abound around most every corner to make for a most memorable vacation. The area is a photographer’s dream.
Make sure to visit the “Ice Palace”, better known as the Hotel de Glace; 36 sleeping accommodations are available if you make reservations early. Special features include a chapel for weddings, ice sculptures, art gallery, ice bar and ice slides. Yes, I said ice bar complete with ice glasses for your favorite cocktail. Since opening in 2001, it has entertained over a half million visitors.
A great place to stay in Quebec City is the 4-star Hotel Manoir Victoria http://www.manior-victoria.com located in the heart of the old city. Recently renovated, it is the only Art Deco style building in the area. Manior Victoria has 156 rooms and suites, fine dining, meeting and function rooms.