Children who love Arthurian tales of fortresses and castles or Harry Potter’s adventures will delight in walking around this storybook city and the Château Frontenac. On Terrasse Dufferin in Upper Town, there are coin-operated telescopes, street entertainers, and ice-cream stands. Halfway down Breakneck Stairs (L’Escalier du Casse-Cou) are giant cannons ranged along the battlements. The gun carriages are impervious to the assaults of small humans, so kids can scramble all over them at will.
If military sites might be appealing, take them to see the colorful Changing of the Guard ceremony at La Citadelle. Or just head for the Parc des Champs-de-Bataille (Battlefields Park, which features the Plains of Abraham) adjacent to the La Citadelle if young ones need to run off excess energy. Acres of grassy lawn provide room to roam and are perfect for a family picnic. Québec Expérience is a flashy way to introduce some history of the region to kids, although it might be too vivid for younger children. In Lower Town, the Musée de la Civilisation presents exhibits for families and, given that it’s free for children 11 and younger, it’s great value. The Musée du Fort at 10 rue Sainte-Anne (www.museedufort.com; tel 418/692-2175) contains a floor-sized diorama that depicts the French, British, and U.S. battles for control of Québec. It was built by a high school teacher in the 1960s and has had a few updates since; the presentation of the six sieges lasts 30 minutes.
When in doubt, head to the water. Montmorency Falls makes a terrific day trip for children of all ages during any season (in winter it’s an icy wonderland). It’s just 10 minutes north of the city by car, and there are bus tours to the site, as well. It costs to park, but walking around near the water is free. On Wednesdays and Saturdays in August, the falls are host to a grand fireworks competition, Les Grand Feux Loto-Québec. It pits international pyrotechnical teams against each other in a contest for who can make the biggest and brightest presentation.
Village Vacances Valcartier (www.valcartier.com; tel 888/384-5524) in St-Gabriel-de-Valcartier, about a half-hour northwest of the city, is a major man-made water park. In summer, it boasts 35 slides, a gigantic wave pool, a huge pirate ship, and a faux Amazon River to go tubing down. In winter, the same facilities are put to use for “snow rafting” on inner tubes and skating. Instead of carrying cash or credit cards, visitors can register their credit cards and then pay for food and other services by pressing a finger to a screen.
If sea life is of interest, block off time to see the more than 10,000 marine animals at Aquarium du Québec (www.sepaq.com/ct/paq; tel 866/659-5264 or 418/659-5264), about 15 minutes west from the city near the bridges. It covers 16 hectares (about 39 acres) with outdoor and indoor activities such as a walrus show, seal training, a touch basin—and, there are polar bears! Families can bring a picnic or grab a treat on-site.
Québec City is day-trip distance to where whales come out to play each summer.
If you’re going to the wintertime Carnaval, kids won’t want to miss the dog sled race through the old city streets or the canoe races, where teams push, pull, or paddle (depending on the state of the river) from one side to another. The best place to view the water competition is from the Terrasse Dufferin or from the lookout on the opposite bank in Lévis.
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.