Québec City, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, stands as one of North America's oldest and most charming cities. My two children - ages 5 and 13 - loved wandering the narrow, cobblestoned streets of the only walled city in North America north of Mexico. We all felt as if we'd stepped back in time. Less than 2 1/2 hours from Chicago, this former French colony will give you a taste of Europe, minus the hassle of a transatlantic flight. Walkable and friendly, Québec City makes for a fun and educational long weekend family escape.
The best way to enjoy Old Québec City is by foot - though you might also want to opt for a horse and carriage. While you won't want to miss the historical sites, especially the Fortifications of Québec and the Citadel - the city's two main defensive works, as well as the Notre-Dame-de-Québec Basilica-Cathedral - one of the oldest cathedrals in North America, you'll also love the many charming boutiques and cafes. Discover the history behind the founding of Québec City at the Musée Du Fort, where a 30-minute sound and light show will take you back in time to the founding of Québec City and the geography, people and major events that have shaped its history. The Musée de la Civilisation invites families to take a fresh new look at both local and international culture. Don't miss the museum's youth zones, where kids are asked to step into the action and explore culture through hands-on activities and more.
Skip the steps and travel from the Haute-Ville (Upper Town) to the Basse-Ville (Lower Town) via funicular, the only one of its kind in North America. Check out the fab UNESCO kids' playground, located in the middle of the Basse-Ville at 113 Rue du Porche. Your kids will feel like voyageurs as they climb the ropes of the ship and model fashions worn by the original inhabitants of the city.
For an outstanding view of the city, step aboard a commuter ferry and sail the St. Lawrence River as you travel from Québec City to Lévis and back. Ferries leave every 30 minutes in the daytime and on the half-hour during the evening. Expect picture-perfect views of the city's skyline along the ride!
A visit to the spectacular Montmerency Falls Park will give your kids the chance to walk across a 272 ft. high waterfall - that's 98.5 ft. higher than Niagara Falls - via a suspended bridge. The cable car ride to the top of the waterfall is just as thrilling!
Our family stayed at Hotel 71, once the National Bank of Canada's main office in Québec City. With it’s lovely neo-classic architecture, and luxe, spacious suites featuring sweeping views of the St. Lawrence River and Cap Diamant, this hotel is a great pick for families looking for a relaxing retreat after a busy day walking the streets of the old city.
Shop at the Marche du Vieux-Port de Quebec. This outdoor market is a foodie feast; shop for local, seasonal fruits and veggies, organic cheeses and meats, and freshly-baked breads - you'll find everything you need for the perfect picnic lunch.
We recommend the Boutique de Noël for its wonderful selection of Canada-themed Christmas ornaments.
Casse-Crêpe Breton serves the most delicious crêpes - both savory and sweet - you'll ever eat.
Amy Bizzarri is a writer, Chicago public school teacher and mom to two kids - a preschooler and a middle schooler - living in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago.