Inside the city, Parc des Champs-de-Bataille (Battlefields Park; below) is the most popular park for bicycling and strolling.
Just outside the city, lakes and hills provide countless opportunities for outdoor recreation, including swimming, boating, fishing, skiing, snowmobiling, and sleigh riding. There are three centers in particular to keep in mind, all within a 45-minute drive from the capital. The plateaus and glacial valleys of Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier (www.sepaq.com/pq/jac/en; tel 800/665-6527) are off Route 175 north; Station touristique Duchesnay (www.sepaq.com/duchesnay; tel 877/511-5885) is a state park resort on the shores of Lac Saint-Joseph, northwest of the city; and Parc du Mont Ste-Anne (www.mont-sainte-anne.com; tel 888/827-4579) is northeast of the city. All three centers are mentioned in the listings below. From mid-November through March, the Taxi Coop Québec shuttle service (www.taxicoop-quebec.com; tel 418/525-5191) picks up passengers at Québec City hotels in the morning to take them to alpine and cross-country ski runs, and to snowmobile trails, with return trips in the late afternoon.
La Promenade Samuel-De Champlain -- When Québec celebrated its 300th anniversary, the government of Québec gave the people Parc des Champs-de-Bataille. For the 400th anniversary (in 2008) it created La Promenade Samuel-De Champlain, a scenic path approximately 2.5 km long (1 1/2 miles) along the St. Laurent River between Quai des Cageux and Côte de Sillery. The space required shifted the road inland so that the public could bike, rollerblade, or walk along the water’s edge all year long. With Pont de Québec and Pont Pierre Laporte framing the picturesque setting in the Ste-Foy-Sillery-Cap-Rouge arrondissement, Québec City has a beautiful new space, which involved planting 1,500 trees and outdoor contemporary art. There is a sports zone for activities such as soccer, quaint picnic nooks, lights at night for evening strolls, and at the Quai des Cageux there is modular 25m-high (82-ft.) observation tower next to a small cafe, run by Panache restaurant where you can enjoy over-the-counter foods like paninis, wraps, hot dogs, ice cream, and beverages.
2795 boul. Champlain. www.quebecregion.com. tel 877/783-1608. Free admission and parking. Observation tower daily 7am–11pm; Cafe daily June-August 11am–8pm and Sept–Oct on weekends, depending on weather.
Lieu historique national des Fortifications-de-Québec -- The walls and ramparts that once protected Vieux-Québec from its enemies are now under the protection of the national government as part of the Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site. The locations that make up this site include the Governors' Garden and Montmorency Park as well as other places of note such as the Québec Garrison Club, Maillou House, Terrasse Dufferin, and the Promenade des Gouverneurs. Visitors can tour the series of defensive buildings erected by the French in the 17th and 18th centuries that make up Parc de l’Artillerie (Artillery Park) in Upper Town. They include an ammunition factory that was functional until 1964. An iron foundry, officers’ mess and quarters, and a scale model of the city created in 1806 are on view. It may be a blow to romantics and history buffs to learn that St-Jean Gate in the city wall was built in 1940, the fourth in a series that began with the original 1693 entrance, which was replaced in 1747, and then replaced again in 1867. Tickets can be purchased at two informational kiosks: in front of Frontenac on Dufferin Terrace and at 2 rue d’Autueil, near the St-Jean Gate.
2 rue d’Auteuil (near Porte St-Jean). www.pc.gc.ca/artillerie. tel 888/773-8888 or 418/648-7016. Admission C$3.90 adults, C$3.40 seniors, C$1.90 children 6–16, free for children 5 and under, C$9.80 for groups and families. Additional fees for audio guide, tea ceremony, and special activities. Early May to early June and early Sept to early Oct daily 10am–5pm; late June to early Sept daily 10am–6pm; April to mid-May by reservation.
Parc des Champs-des-Batailles -- Known in English as Battlefields Park, this green gathering place of winding paths and the occasional fountain or monument was Canada’s first national urban park. It covers 108 hectares (267 acres) and officials compare it to New York’s Central Park or London’s Hyde Park. A section called the Plains of Abraham is where Britain’s General James Wolfe and France’s Louis-Joseph, marquis de Montcalm, engaged in their short, but crucial battle in 1759, which resulted in the British defeat of the French troops. It’s also where the national anthem, “O Canada,” was first performed. From spring through fall, visit the Jardin Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc Garden), just off avenue Wilfrid-Laurier. This spectacular garden combines French classical design with British-style flower beds. In the rest of the park, nearly 6,000 trees of more than 80 species blanket the fields and include the sugar maple, Norway maple, American elm, and American ash. Also in the park are two Martello towers, cylindrical stone defensive structures built between 1808 and 1812 when Québec feared an American invasion.
The Discovery Pavilion of the Plains of Abraham (835 av. Wilfred-Laurier; tel 855/649-6157 or 418/649-6157) is the starting point for tours, hosts a multimedia show called The Odyssey, and houses a scale model of the park. Entrance fees during high season also provide access to activities such as the Martello Tower 1 and a tour on Abraham’s Bus. Yet there’s much to be said for simply taking in the landscape for exercise or to glimpse the exquisite vantage points of the St. Lawrence. There are groomed cross-country ski trails in the winter and the snow can pile higher than parking meters and last through March. In warmer weather, look for evidence of carpet-bedding, also called mosaiculture—an ornamental garden technique that creates lettering out of plants. This park’s horticulturalists are experts and take great pride in creating stunning designs each growing season. The whole park is that, really, an emblem of the pride this city takes in its vivid history and vibrant present-day life.
Parc des Champs-des-Batailles. www.ccbn-nbc.gc.ca. tel 888/497-4322 or 418/644-9841. Discovery Pavilion admission C$15 adults, C$11 ages 13–17 and seniors, C$5 ages 5–12, free for children 4 and under. July to early Sept daily 9:30am–5:30pm; Early Sept to June daily 9:30am–5pm.
There’s lots of good biking in the city, either along the river or up in Parliament Hill in Parc des Champs-de-Bataille. A marked path for cyclists (and in-line skaters) along the waterfront was new in 2008 and is well maintained. It extends both directions alongside the river and heading out of the city. Tourist information centers provide bicycle-trail maps and can point out a variety of routes. Mountain bikers, meanwhile, head to Mont Ste-Anne, which has the most well-known mountain bike network in eastern Canada. It was host to the 2010 Mountain Bike and Trial World Championships, and every year to Vélirium (www.velirium.com), the International Mountain Bike Festival and World Cup. It’s 42km (26 miles) northeast of Québec City.
The greater Québec City area has 16 campgrounds, most of which have toilets and showers. For a list of sites and their specs, go to www.quebecregion.com and search for “campground” or pick up a free copy of "The Official Accommodation Guide" published by Québec City Tourism.
An 18-hole course, Golf de la Faune (www.golfdelafaune.com; tel 866/627-8008 or 418/627-1576), opened in June 2008, 10 minutes from downtown, at the Four Points by Sheraton Québec (www.fourpoints.com/quebec; tel 418/627-8008). The course has eight water hazards and 45 sand traps. Summer season green fees start at C$40 and go up to C$75.
About 40 minutes north of the city at Mont Ste-Anne, Le Grand Vallon (www.legrandvallon.com; tel 888/827-4579 or 418/827-4653) is an 18-hole, par-72 course with tree-lined stretches, 4 lakes, and 40 sand traps. Rates start at C$46 and include a golf cart, access to the driving range, and practice balls. Also a short drive west of Québec City, Golf Le Grand Portneuf (www.legrandportneuf.com; tel 866/329-3662 or 418/873-2000) offers 36 challenging holes in a peaceful, scenic environment. Other courses are located near Jacques-Cartier national park and on Île d'Orléans.
Those who want to splash around during their visit have several hotel options with (mostly indoor) pools. Fairmont Le Château Frontenac has one, as do Hôtel Manoir Victoria, Hôtel Château Laurier, and TRYP by Wyndham Québec Hotel Pur. They’re all listed in chapter 12. Outside the city, the waterpark at Village Vacances Valcartier has more than 35 water slides, a wave pool, and themed rivers, such as the Tropical River or the Crazy Cascades.
For swimming in natural bodies of water less than 30 minutes drive from the city, two nearby lake options are Lac Saint-Joseph (www.la-plage.ca; tel 877/522-3224) and Lac Saint-Charles (www.laccesnature.qc.ca; tel 418/849-6163).
With 52 ski centers and at least 2,500km (1,553 miles) of trails, the options to cross-country ski in Greater Québec are plentiful. Within the city, the Parc des Champs-de-Bataille, where Carnaval de Québec establishes its winter playground during February, has a network of free, groomed cross-country trails in winter. You can rent equipment at the Discovery Pavilion, near the Citadelle. Thirty minutes outside the city, Station touristique Duchesnay offers extensive trails and ski rentals. The Association of Cross-Country Ski Centers of Québec Area’s website (www.skidefondraquette.com) has venue listings and maps.
Aventure Inukshuk (www.aventureinukshuk.qc.ca; tel 418/875-0770) is located in Station touristique Duchesnay, in the town of Ste-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier. Guides show you how to lead a sled pulled by six dogs. A 1-hour “Ballad” ride takes you deep into a hushed world of snow and thick woods, past rows of Christmas trees, and over a beaver pond. The dogs live in a field of individual pens and houses under evergreen trees. Guides train and care for their teams themselves. Overnight camping trips are available. The 1-hour trip, which includes an additional half-hour of training, costs C$90. Children 6 to 12 are half price, and children 2 to 5 go free (children 1 and younger aren’t allowed). Expensive, especially for families, but the memory stays with you.
The coastal-hugging mountain, Le Massif, is famous for its “I’m about to drop into the St. Lawrence!” feeling as you shush downhill. Over the years, Le Massif has steadily increased services on-mountain and well as transportation to the mountain. Also: Mont Ste-Anne offers eastern Canada’s largest total skiing surface, with 66 trails (17 are lit for night skiing). Another option is Stoneham Mountain Resort (www.ski-stoneham.com; tel 800/463-6888 or 418/848-2415), about 30 minutes north of the city.
From the end of October to mid-March, a mini outdoor rink is set up in Place d’Youville just outside the Upper Town walls. Admission is free, and skates can be rented. If you want to feel like a true northerner, and skate through trees to the sound of music, take a quick jaunt west of town to Centre de plein air de Beauport (www.centrepleinairbeauport.ca; tel 877/641-6113 or 418/641-6112), where admission is free on weekdays.
Snowmobiles, known here as “ski-doos,” are hugely popular. It’s said, in fact, that there are more trails for snowmobiling than there is asphalt in Québec City. In addition to options for day trips, many restaurants and hotels outside the city accommodate snowmobile touring, making it possible to travel from locale to locale. La Fédération des clubs de motoneigistes du Québec (F.C.M.Q.; www.fcmq.qc.ca) has extensive information about snowmobiling in the province, including maps and trail permits. Also, check the tourist office for current options.
An old-fashioned toboggan run called Les Glissades de la Terrasse (tel 418/829-9898) is set up right in the city on the steep wooden staircase at Terrasse Dufferin’s south end in winter. The slide extends almost to the Château Frontenac. Next to the ticket booth, a little sugar shack sells sweet treats. Cost is C$2.50 per person.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.