The Trans-Canada Highway is celebrating its 50th birthday in 2012 and the centennial anniversary of the first coast-to-coast road trip made in the country — accomplished by Thomas Wilby and Jack Haney, travelling from Halifax to Victoria. Vacay.ca writers have hit the road to come up with great tales to tell along this vital and historic route. Previously, Katie Marti suggested tips on how best to see the British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario legs of the route. In the sixth installment, she lets you in on the attractions of beautiful Québec.
Story by Katie Marti
QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC — Travellers have a reputation for being fair-weather friends to the tourism industry, with the vast majority of folks opting to plan trips and vacations during sunny summer months. And who can blame them? Kids are out of school, roads are great for driving, campsites are running full tilt and the list of pros for that season goes on and on. But with many moons to go before our shorts and sandals once again see the light of day in Canada, I’m here to let you know that cruising through La Belle Province along the Trans-Canada Highway is a treat in any season.
Take fall for example. As I type these words, minds are being blown all over Québec thanks to a natural spectacle of colours so vibrant it’s like the entire province is being broadcast in HD. A road trip at this time of year is an exercise in self-restraint as you’ll want to be stopping every hundred metres to take yet another photo of a landscape that seems to get more dramatic and stunning by the second. While Québec is not the only province to boast brilliant fall foliage, it certainly holds its own as one of the best spots in all of Canada to enjoy the colours of the season without even so much as unbuckling your seatbelt.
In fact, you can check in with Québec’s tourism website to see how the leaves are progressing and plan your drive accordingly. Of course, if you’d like to get out and put yourself right in the thick of things, rest assured there are plenty of hiking trails to be enjoyed. Trails are listed and outlined here. Most of the very best trails are to the north of the Trans-Canada Highway in the region’s provincial parks. They are worthy detours for those just passing through and make for fantastic final destinations for folks looking to unplug and unwind.
Quebec Carnival Is Worth the Drive
With winter just around the bend, Québec has plenty to offer the snow-loving crowd. Most famous is the Carnaval de Québec which runs from February 1-17, 2013. Outdoor events are scattered across the province’s capital city, from snow and ice sculptures to a canoe race on the mostly-frozen St. Lawrence River to a dazzling parade capped off with none other than the iconic Bonhomme Carnaval. If the dates don’t jive with your travel schedule, never fear. There are winter destinations and side trips galore throughout Québec, including to the annual Hotel de Glace, or Ice Hotel. My favourite activity, bar none, is sliding at Valcartier.
The massive park is full of waterslides and swimming pools in summer and, in winter, transforms into a snow tuber’s dream-come-true with steep chutes, wide raft-sized runs and a pulley system that tows riders and tubes back up to the top for more fun. The day I spent at Valcartier last winter was one of my favourite moments of the entire season. In fact, if you happen to be heading over and have an extra seat in the car, let me know …
Of course, spring is a great time to dust off the all-season tires and hit the road in celebration of warmer weather and a country in bloom. Québec is the nation’s leading expert and distributor of maple syrup, and ’tis the season to sample some of this liquid gold right from the tree trunk. Throughout the province, you can find sugar shacks with guided tours of their maple groves and processing facilities, and most offer a traditional Québecois meal — heavy on the syrup. If you’re lucky, you’ll also be treated to some folk music and dancing as well. Highly recommended is the Érablière Lac Beauport just north of Québec City. They have a small wildlife museum, cater to large groups and play the spoons like nobody’s business.
The beauty of road tripping in the summer goes without saying. However, Québec has something going for it beyond the obvious parks and recreation and that’s a festival season unlike any other in the country. Three world-class events are held in Montréal between the middle of June and the beginning of August; the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival, Montréal’s Jazz Fest and Osheaga Festival of Music and Arts. All three are unique cultural experiences that draw international crowds thanks to their equally outstanding reputations for providing quality performances from high-profile artists and a party that just won’t quit. Simply pick your pleasure and hit the road.
Don’t let the barometer dictate when and where to travel this year. Be bold! Get out there! Québec won’t let you down.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TRANS-CANADA! Have you got a great photo to share or story to tell about the Trans-Canada Highway? Share it with Vacay Nation! Email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll publish it during this 50th anniversary of the highway, which opened on September 3, 1962 in Rogers Pass, British Columbia. (Photos should be sent as hi-resolution JPEG images.)