Family vacations – the subject of countless comedies, some nightmares, but most often long-lasting memories of kids and parents alike. I can personally remember long road trips my parents took my siblings and me on during our childhood summers. Stuck in the third row of our Chevy Suburban, a cooler stuffed between my bother and I and no tablets, dvd players or technology to keep our minds busy. It was the best of times and also time for my brothers and sisters to bond over our mutual disinterest in stopping at yet another historic village (which, go figure, I love to do now).
Yes, we drove all over the country from New England to the Dakotas down to New Mexico and back again. The driving seemed endless and of course sticks out in my brain as childhood torture, but I also remember it being amazing – we got to see and experience so much! We hiked in the Rocky Mountains, ate sopapillas in the South West and stepped aboard tall ships off the coast of Boston. We had family adventures that we all still talk about to this day. So when I came across this article on Parents.com about the benefits of family vacation time on kids mental health and brain development, I felt vindicated in my quest to provide those same adventures for my own children. I mean, I knew I wanted to provide some family bonding time in the form of vacation, but after some complaints about the long drive times following our first vacation, I wan’t sure how to plan for the future.
In years past, we drove up the coast of Michigan, stopping at Mackinac Island, continuing through the UP and then down through Wisconsin. It was a great first foray into road tripping with the kids. We kept the daily driving times relatively short due to their young ages and had a blast a little closer to home. Next, we drove to the Smoky Mountains which was an amazing trip where we hiked, rafted and explored caves. So for this years’ trip, when Nanette offered to have us stay at her house in coastal Maine, we jumped at the idea. While we didn’t drive all the way to Maine, we flew, we did rent a car when we got their and drove up to Canada and Quebec City and then spent a few more days in the lovely state of Maine. Below I have outlined what we experienced, where we stayed and what we loved about each area we visited.
This year, we ended up flying for part of our trip. Cost-wise, it almost was the same for us to drive to Maine over 2 – 3 days with hotels, gas and food as it was to fly. Also, the time it takes to drive to Maine from Chicago with small children really would have limited our ability to visit both Maine and Quebec City in one trip. So, we ended up driving to Quebec City from Maine, which was about a 6 hour trip from where we were. (Quick tip, we lost all cell phone service at some points during this drive. We had a caravan with 3 families so we lost touch a few times.)
That being said, our trip to Quebec City was amazing! We weren’t sure where to stay – in the city, historic Old Quebec, or somewhere just outside the city. We decided that due to the amount of children we had on our trip, 7 to be exact, being a little bit outside of the city with a few more amenities for the kids was the right way to go for us. We stayed at a resort about 20 minutes north of Old Quebec.
This turned out to be a great and memorable part of our trip, especially for our kids. Our resort had a private beach on a lake nestled in a hilly, mountainous area. There were lounge chairs, towels, a pool, sand volleyball court, kayaks, stand up paddle boards and a paddle boat that were all available for resort guests. We always had something fun to do at the resort from building sand castles to swimming to sitting by an outdoor fire pit in the evening. The kids loved going back to the hotel after a day of sight-seeing.
My dress in this picture can be found here on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ZH4532 It is a great dress for travel, was light and airy and had minimal wrinkling after being in my suitcase for 2 days.
First we went to Montmorency Falls, a large waterfall in the area. It was a lot of fun for both the kids and adults in our group. We decided to park and start at the top, walk across the bridge that runs right over the top of the falls which made for great views and then down the stairs to the bottom. We then took the cable car back up to the top, because there were a LOT of stairs going back up. It was a great activity that gave us a sense of the beautiful Canadian scenery.
Then we ventured into Old Quebec during the afternoon. First thing to know if you are driving, like all cities we had to pay to park. Not surprising, but make sure you are budgeting for it. There are parking garages and parking lots near Old Quebec. We ended up using a lot one day and a parking garage another. Both were within walking distance of Old Quebec. Once you get into the old part of the city, it really is like walking into history. The buildings are beautifully adorned with flowers in the window boxes and colorful shutters. The streets are a lovely cobblestone and most of the area is shut off to cars for the day so you can walk without worrying.
My hat in the above picture can be found on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/2LiOWwW I love that it kept it’s shape in my suitcase without winkling or creasing!
There is a area to buy art from local artists, lots of souvenir shops and restaurants with outdoor seating. As you can see I stopped at a local bakery for some croissants while there. We had some delicious food and all of the vendors were very nice and accommodating. Once you venture up to the top of the city there are many more things to see and do. We went to Le Château Frontenac, basically a castle at the top of the city that is now a hotel. There were street performers in the area around the Chateau as well as a walkway with a great view of the St. Lawrence River.
While there, we were directed underground to tour the archaeological remains of the 17th Century Forts & Chateau. There were booklets for the kids to complete activities in. The ruins were pretty incredible, the presentation was great. There were plenty of signs telling us what part of the old forts and castle we were looking at as well as some of the artifacts found at this location. At the end, the kids were able to return to the payment kiosk for a free dog-tag style necklace for completing their booklets.
Nanette commenting here: Our family ventured off to the Museum of Civilization. We like to experience at least one local museum on all of our adventures and this one didn’t disappoint. Favorite exhibits included Venenum: A Poisonous World, Observe: More Than Meets the Eye and Once Upon A Time. The last two are perfect for children and offer many hands-on activities. The girls didn’t want to leave at closing time.
Overall, this was a great few days in a beautiful, historic city. We were sad to say goodbye to the resort. The city was very walkable, even with kids. We visited even more historic and interesting sites while in the city, like the Citadel, we just didn’t document it all. The people were so nice and inviting and almost everyone spoke English which was something we were nervous about. I loved every minute of our trip to historic Quebec City and hope to go again! Next up, our trip to Coastal Maine. Details coming soon.