It had been 14 years since my last visit to la belle province Québec. Last time a romantic whirl in Montreal with hubs, and before that a Grade 7 class ski trip MANY years ago. This time, an epic mom-son adventure to immerse in an array of activities and soak in some uninterrupted one-on-one bonding time with my oldest I crave being usually tugged in all different directions daily with our big crew. With four kids ages preschooler to tween, finding destinations that offer activities to meet all interests of our gang isn’t easy, but Québec really does have it all and then some. From plunging into parts of the province’s breathtaking natural environment, devouring local cuisine that affirmed why Québec is a hub of world gastronomy, to in & outdoor adrenaline surge inducing action, we felt that joie de vivre vibe and discovered that Québec offers fun for the whole family!
*Disclosure: accommodations and activities were provided complimentary as part of our press tour/partnership with QuebecOriginal & its regional partners. All opinions are our own*
We explored (2) regions in the province: Lanaudière & Laval. Below I’ll offer suggestions on where to STAY, EAT & EXPLORE if you’re looking for an all-encompassing family adventure in these not as well known, yet pleasantly surprising, incredible regions.
Lanaudière is one of 17 regions in Québec just a stone’s throw from Montreal. It stretches from the Saint Lawrence River toward the Laurentian Mountains. Its landscape of farmland, hills and lakes is known for activities such as hiking, cycling and golf. Two-thirds of the Lanaudiere region are public, making it an open playground for you and your family to discover & explore. It is considered one of the most “authentique” regions of la belle province and there are SO many ways to have fun with the whole family!
Just 1hr 15 minutes from Montreal, and in the city of Sainte-Émélie-de-l’Énergie, stay at L’Auberge du Vieux Moulin – a family-owned, rural oasis with accommodations and amenities for an enjoyable family stay.
We spent two nights in Room #44 – Luxury Room with Clawfoot Tub & Fireplace (*starting at $285 CAD/night, add breakfast & dinner for additional fee*) on the second level. It had charming country décor and a nice rustic charm you’d expect of its location amidst the meadows & mountains of the region. The best part was the view of the lake from the private porch – a great place for parents to enjoy some morning calm with a cup of coffee or wind down after the day’s activities.
Our room felt spacious and included:
- 2 Queen Beds & double sofa bed (would accommodate a family of up to six people)
- Woodburning fireplace
- Pretty clawfoot tub
- A small flat-screen TV (mostly French channels so bring DVDs)
- A small refrigerator & coffee maker
The only noticeable amenity missing and usually a standard in most North American lodging establishments was an in-room iron & ironing board.
Wi-fi available almost everywhere in the Inn, although firewall settings made it tricky to access some sites.
From 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., your family will have access to some fantastic amenities
- Indoor swimming pool
- Indoor and outdoor hot tubes
- Saunas and Turkish bath
- Air hockey
- In winter, access to sporting equipment including cross-country skis, snowshoes, ice-skates, ice-fishing and inner-tubes or three-ski sleds.
- In summer, access to sporting equipment of rowboats, kayaks, canoes, paddleboats, cross-country bikes, volleyball and badminton courts, horseshoes, cricket, various beach games and on-lake water trampoline.
They also have 40km marked hiking trails. See trails map and on-site sugar shack run by the owner’s son Kevin where you can grab some authentic Canadian made maple syrup to take home as a tasty souvenir.
A family stay of 2 nights or more in this suite during high-season would cost approx. $1400 CAD and include all activities on the auberge site, family access to the indoor pool, outside spas and indoor saunas, dinner and hearty breakfast for each night’s stay. There would be no charge for children 2 years and under.
Other options for large groups/families are their private chalets & cottages.
Packages to suit your preferences no matter which season you visit are detailed on their website.
Stay on-property and enjoy the fine local culinary fare of L’Auberge du Vieux-Moulin prepped on-site by owner & formally trained Chef Yves Marcoux and tantalizingly presented by his partner & restaurant manager Sylvie. Dining experiences are offered for breakfast (8 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.) and dinner (6 – 8 p.m.) with take-away “lunch box” snacks for mid-day. To offer your taste buds some variety, dinners operate under three alternating table d’hôte menus featuring gourmet meals made with quality, locally sourced & foraged ingredients. There are 2 kids’ menus with modified meal versions to suit the younger ones. Note: they do their best to accommodate food allergies and do have gluten-free options.
If you added meals to your lodging package, dinner would include:
- Homemade Soup of the Day from their Wood Oven stove served with fresh bread
- Choice of Appetizer
- Choice of Main Dish
- Selection of plated fromage & seasonal fruit
- Choice of dessert (*selection changes daily*) and coffee or tea (*Espresso, cappuccino extra $2.25)
Notably yum-licious from the RED & BLUE dinner menus were: the Spring Mix Salad infused with Maple Syrup dressing, the Québec style cheese fondue, Tulip-shaped phyllo pastry, stuffed with vegetables in a Bocké cheese crust & the maple-glazed Atlantic Salmon. Our son’s top kids’ picks were the butterfly tiger shrimp served with veggies & rice and the Pizza Americana. For petit dejeuner (brekkie), I enjoyed a classic custom omelette paired with home-style potatoes & fruit, and our kiddo loved the pancakes with a side of Nutella.
There are lots of markets/grocers in the Lanaudière region where you can pick up some of the region’s food specialties, like local cheeses, venison and maple drenched potato donuts!
While a stay at L’Auberge du View-Moulin would be enough enjoyment on its own, there are some fantastic spots to get out and explore in the Lanaudière region with your family.
For an edu-taining wildlife experience, head to La Terre des Bisons in Rawdon (said to have been one of the stops on Amazing Race Canada). You can join a guided tour (about 45 minutes) to learn more about this fascinating species, head down the family-friendly trails where you’ll spot some Wapiti (Elk), and start or end your farm tour with a visit to their newly opened Wild Game Discovery Centre with immersive activities, visual Bison history presentations and museum of local artistry.
It’s a certified accessible facility for family members with mobility challenges. Before you leave, grab a selfie with “Buffy” -the friendliest of the Bison bunch – and head to the on-site gift shop for Bison & Elk spreads or frozen venison meat if you’re game. Open 7 days/week May to October.
Cost: Kids 6 – 12 years $6.00; Adults $10.
If you love immersing in nature and soaking in spectacular sights with your family, head to Parc regional des Chutes Dorwin (Dorwin Waterfalls). There’s a 2.5 km ecological trail running along the gorge where Ouareau River flows and two multi-level observation points of the 60-ft falls where you can take some great family photos.
Pack your family’s favourite foods (lots of grocery options in the vicinity) and enjoy lunch outdoors in their designated picnic area with lots of picnic tables and convenient restroom and playground facilities right beside. There’s geocaching at this location for families that partake. Cost: children 6 and under are FREE, 7-12 $4.00 and 13+ $8.00.
Does your gang like soaring to new heights, some challenge and accompanying adrenaline rushes? If so, you’ll want to visit a world of adventure in the treetops at Arbraska Rawdon – our son’s favourite adventure of our tour! After harnessing up, obtaining your colour-coded wristband, and getting a safety tutorial, there are over 120 challenges, including zip-lining, rope bridges, climbing nets and Tarzan-style lianas to enjoy from beginner to EXTREME. A Family Package costs $130 CAD, overs 2 adults + 2 kids ages 5 – 13 years old and gives you over 3 hrs to enjoy the tree-based activities.
There is also Arbre-en-Ciel Village for kids 3-7 – a “trees in the sky” adventure land with climbers, tree houses, obstacle courses, tunnels & bridges, with lots of seating areas for breaks and snacks. Not a fan of heights? There’s also a ground-level GPS Rally where your family can find waypoints & solve riddles in the forest. Note: online reservations are required prior to your visit. There are 12 Arbraska locations across Quebec, each with similar & unique activities.
NOTE: we visited Lanaudière during the Summer, thus suggested activities are for warmer seasons. The region does have an array of activities to enjoy with your family during Winter too!
The Québec city of Laval covers the entire islands of Île Jésus and Îles Laval. The city is Montreal’s largest suburb, sitting just to the north of it across the Prairies River. Often overlooked by the allure of Montreal, Laval is history & culture-rich and full of attractions and activities families will love and should not be missed on your visit to Québec. If you’re French is not up to par, you’ll appreciate that most locals are fluent in English. Laval was never on my radar of “must-see” urban destinations, but really surprised me! There’s no denying, the city offers loads fun for the whole family…and we only scratched the surface!
If you’re looking for an affordable hotel, conveniently located near attractions and offering fantastic family amenities, consider a stay at Sheraton Laval.
Just twenty minutes from downtown Montreal and Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau Airport, the Sheraton Laval is ideally located to take advantage of all the city offers. In the heart of Laval and close to the City’s major highways, this property is also just steps away from Carrefour Laval Mall and near Centropolis – a one-stop entertainment hub with various shops, eateries and family venues like a movie theatre. So close, in fact, opting out of a car-rental would be possible as most attractions are accessible by the public transportation or via the hotel’s complimentary 360 Shuttle.
There are roughly 244 guest rooms, including 12 suites. We were accommodated in their double-Queen room on the 4th floor with a bit of a city view, equipped with typical amenities like coffee-maker, in-room safe, flat-screen TV, bathroom toiletries, hairdryer and more. The “sleeper beds” are a sleep-deprived mom’s dream come true, and I enjoyed 2 rare, well-rested nights snuggled up in them. Our room category would have cost approx. $224/night (or $216 if you’re a Marriot Bonvoy member like we are).
Families will love the indoor heated pool (with life jackets for kids!), and parents the spa tub and sauna in the same area. There’s also Amerispa health and beauty centre and a well-equipped gym with very clean change rooms if you can fit in a mom or dad time-out during your stay to recharge. You’ll need your room key to access these facilities on the lower level.
A visit to Québec just for the food would seriously be a satisfying adventure all its own. While there are so many gastro-friendly options for your family to enjoy throughout Laval, save at least one meal to enjoy Sheraton’s Laval’s not-to-be-missed buffets like their Friday or Saturday evening and/or Sunday Brunch that includes hot/cold buffet, choice entrees, food stations, chocolate fountain and live music + dance floor.
Prices range from $14 – $50, and half-price for kids ages 4 – 11 years old. We enjoyed a simple Continental/American breakfast buffet during our stay, including the usual suspects like cereals, muffins, eggs, bacon, bread, fruit, cheeses and, big dude’s fave, pancakes. There is also La Piazza restaurant on-site that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Nothing instills an appreciation for where our food comes from then a family visit to a local farm and pick-your-own experience. Head to Ferme Vaillancourt – owned and run by the Vaillancourt family for over 185 years.
There’s an on-site market where you can pick up produce harvested on-site & jams/marinades just like your Grandma makes, or hop on the tractor for a ride through the growing fields and hop off to do some family picking of in-season, sustainably grown fruit/veggies (berries, tomatoes, sweet peppers or eggplants). We filled our baskets with the juiciest strawberries during our early July visit…a few weeks later, Raspberries would be ready too!
Put away your tech and enjoy some good ol’ family board game fun while you dine on pub-style fare at Premier Joueur. With over 1000 games to choose from (all originally owned by the establishment’s game collecting owners), it won’t be hard to find one your family dynamic will enjoy, and if you’re stumped from the selection, don’t worry, your assigned “Game Expert” will make some fantastic suggestions.
We enjoyed Telestrations and a structure-building challenge during our visit while we dined on family-style shared plate service of various pizzas, loaded nachos salads & charcuterie, followed up with fresh-baked cookies for dessert. The restaurant is fully licensed while proud of its family-friendly atmosphere.
Cost: $6.50 for 13+/adults; $4.50 for 12 and under; $20 Family rate for 2 adults + 2 kids. Food/beverages extra.
If you want to savour a real adventure for your family’s taste buds, head to La Bete a Pain – a bakery offering ready-to-serve dishes, pastries, donuts and viennoiseries for takeout, or grab a seat in their 50-seat dining area to enjoy seasonal, contemporary cuisine prepared with quality local ingredients.
We devoured a sampling of freshly-baked croissants, chocolatines, buns & chouquettes, the creamiest homemade granola and yogurt slathered with Quebec strawberries, honey (Miels d’Anicet) and bee pollen, Avocado multigrain toast topped with poached egg, Veal sausage with pistachio and finished off with a warm, creamy decadent brioche dessert drizzled with chocolate and hazelnut, whipped cream, candied orange and Maldon salt. They were able to accommodate some food allergies of some members of our group. There’s also the prettiest on-site floral & housewares shop to pick up some lovelies after you dine. Menu items very reasonably priced between $4-24 CAD.
If visiting Laval in July, plan to go when Festival des Bieres takes place at Centre de la Nature. A BIG family-friendly, country-style outdoor celebration of Quebec’s micro-brewing industry and regional food offerings, with kid-friendly activations & live entertainment to enjoy. We had a fabulous time on opening night of its 5th annual edition, and it’s understandable why this festival started by a local couple now draws a 30,000+ crowd.
I enjoyed trying Poutine Homard (Poutine w/ Lobster) and our big guy loved the Jerry burger & fries combo from famous Quebec Chef Jerry Ferrer’s food truck. I’m not a big beer drinker, but the hibiscus infused sample and pale ale from Les Insulaires Microbrasseurs (a new microbrewery opened by the Festival founders) were not too shabby at all. While a “beer fest”, there are also spirits & ciders available.
Cost: Youth under 17 years of age are FREE, and passes for 18+ start at $10 (admission includes all activities & workshops. Food/beverage samplings extra). Beer samplings range from $2-10 (you’re allowed to bring your own mug under 16 oz!), and food reasonably priced and determined by each vendor.
TIP: I’d suggest taking public transportation to the site, as parking on-premises is minimal and you can enjoy the festival without the worry of sipping & driving.
Join the Escape room craze and enjoy some mind-boggling, clue cracking fun under pressure to escape in a 60-minute timed, themed experience at Escaparium Laval. They have 10 experiences to choose from and are currently constructing what will be a next-level, high tech Pirate-themed experience, positioning themselves as one of the best escape rooms in North America.
Suggested group size is 2-8 people, and while they say “all-ages”, these experiences are most suitable for 10 years plus. We beat the clock with 4:04 minutes left in The Final Stop room and are now totally hooked on escape room fun.
Cost: $26.99/person. NOTE: 2 rooms are certified accessible for those with mobility challenges.
If action-packed and active recreation is your jam, and you’re looking for a spot to burn off some family energy, head to Clip n’ Climb Laval where you can scale over 34 themed climbing walls of various levels of difficulty to suit all ages.
Their unique harnessing system offers a safe, non-stop motion experience and you’ll receive a safety briefing before you jump in. Our big guy conquered most of the vertical walls, and I tried out the Cloud Nine.
We had a Mom-Son showdown on their timed race walls, and we both had the ultimate adrenaline surge experience on the Vertical Drop Slide (One deep breath at a time, I made it to the “Laval” level & bid dude went all the way to EXTREME!). Clip n Climb is located in the Cosmopolitan complex making for a one-stop family experience.
Cost: Under 5 $11.50; 6+ $23 per hour. The Vertical Drop Slide & Leap of Faith activations are an extra $4.35 (or 2 for $6.09). Note: Socks and closed-toe shoes are a must.
If you need some nature & chill after the other action-packed suggestions, add Parc de la Riviere des-Mille-Iles to your family adventure itinerary. This heavily protected wildlife sanctuary is a unique & popular outdoor attraction of the region with so many amenities to enjoy like cycling paths, hiking trails, guided ecological tours around the islands, & non-motorized watercraft rentals in Spring/Summer and skating paths, cross-country skiing & snowshoeing trails & ice fishing in Winter.
We enjoyed a guided fishing tour aboard a Rabaska and some catch and release calm on Iles #4 Kennedy – just across from a mansion previously owned by Québec sensation Celine Dion. It was an edutaining adventure learning about the ecosystem and rare species that grow/live in the waterway, like the Water Willow, and the endangered Copper Redhorse fish often misidentified as Carp – both found only in Québec.
There is also the newly opened, enviro-friendly Exploration Centre where you can learn about the rich history and environmental issues of Parc Mille-des-Iles in the Believe It or Not! Exhibit (Incroyable, mais vrai!) and meet some rather cute reptiles like Mojito, Margarita & Smiley in the Turtle sanctuary. We were treated to a secret sneak inside the turtle hospital where vets work tirelessly to rescue those injured or disease-ridden.
Cost: Parking and access to the grounds are free, while watercraft rentals start at $13/hour and guided excursions and cruises of the islands: $18/adult & $12/child (6 to 13 years old)
The Incroyable, mais vrai! exhibition is $11/adult, $7.50/child (6 to 13 years old).
Plan to spend at least 2 hours here. There are family-friendly amenities & conveniences like an on-site bistro with ready-to-serve food options & drinks, as well as clean, accessible restroom facilities (*psst…don’t be alarmed with the off-colour toilet water. The centre aims to become LEED Gold certified and using lake water for flushing is one of many ways they strive to be enviro-friendly).
From its culinary offering for all palates to the endless array of urban and rural activities, Québec offers something for every type of family adventure. Our quality mom-son time was so special and we can’t wait to return with the rest of our gang to explore further & make even more lasting memories. La belle province truly offers all-encompassing fun for the whole family! Hope you’ll add it to your crew’s bucket list!
Visit QuebecOriginal for more suggestions to plan your perfect family getaway!
*Article appears on Allways Traveller*