From the magical culture and vibrancy of Montreal, to the contrast of old world and modern comfort in Quebec City, and the charm and friendliness of its small communities, Quebec is a destination for discovery. On Vacations of the Brave, Mandy Harvey, a musician and singer who lost her hearing at the age of 18, and her father Joe travel to the French Canadian province on a quest to push their own limits and try new things. After exploring an interactive light show in the middle of the forest, busking in the shadow of a historic hotel, and jumping (reluctantly) out of a plane, there’s no doubt they succeeded.
A modern take on history
In Quebec, the pleasing contrast of old and new becomes clear the second you arrive. Take Quebec City’s Le Monastère des Augustines, for example. A nearly 400-year-old monastery — and the location of North America’s first hospital north of Mexico — has been reimagined and redesigned as a unique wellness experience that Mandy enjoyed in Vacations of the Brave. There, you can stay in authentic cloister rooms or contemporary rooms, listen to the remaining nuns sing the vespers, and learn about medical history in between massages, yoga, reflexology, and more.
Fairmont is known for taking stunning historic buildings and transforming them with modern amenities, without losing any of that classic luxury. Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, which celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2018, is a castle-like building located inside the walls of old Quebec City. The modern/historical contrast is captured in the hotel’s self-guided tour app, which allows you to discover the history of the building through videos and stories on your phone. Over in Montreal, Fairmont the Queen Elizabeth recently upgraded the famous John Lennon and Yoko Ono Suite — the location of their 1969 “bed-in for peace” where they wrote and recorded “Give Peace a Chance.” Now, the suite is host to a virtual reality experience that allows you to relive that history for yourself.
Over in Old Montreal, the city’s Notre-Dame Basilica has taken on new life thanks to the folks at Moment Factory. Completed in 1829, the first Gothic Revival-style church built in Canada now plays home to a stunning light show. AURA turns the church into a canvas, and as you sit in a pew and look up at the ceiling, with orchestral music in your ears, you’ll be absolutely blown away by the dazzling high-tech light show. As you leave the church and walk through the old neighborhood, be sure to keep an eye out for projections on the ground and the sides of buildings. Part of Cité Mémoire, 25 projected tableaux — silent videos — explore the history of Montreal through the characters that lived it.
Both Cité Mémoire and AURA are great examples of Quebec’s tendency to produce some of the most innovative and forward-thinking entertainment in the world. This is the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil, after all.
In Coaticook, about a two-hour drive from Montreal in the Eastern Townships region of Quebec, Foresta Lumina is an interactive multimedia experience in the middle of a forest. Follow in Mandy’s footsteps and hammer on glowing drums, pluck giant harps, and follow the fairies as they guide you along this breathtaking light show in the middle of nature.
Visiting in winter? Quebec City’s Jamboree is a ski and snowboard festival unlike any other you’ve experienced, mostly because it takes place right downtown. You can literally walk a few blocks from your hotel and come across massive snow jumps that are built alongside the highway. The highlight of Jamboree is the Big Air World Cup, during which some of the world’s best riders perform groundbreaking tricks high above the crowd.
No matter the season, Montreal is the destination to enjoy electronic dance music in unbelievable settings. In the summer, Piknic Électronik is the most fun you’ll ever have at a picnic. In a park just 10 minutes from downtown Montreal, thousands of music fans meet up every Sunday to enjoy the music, the drinks, and the food, all under the open sky. Then, when the weather turns cold, people put on their warmest snow suit and head to the waterfront in the Old Port of Montreal for Igloofest — a winter music festival that attracts some of the world’s best DJs. Besides amazing music, Igloofest features ice sculptures, mulled wine, and a kitschy winter wear competition aptly named “Iglooswag”. So grab your neon ‘90s one-piece snowsuit and join in.
The outdoor adventurer
When Mandy came to Quebec, she had one particular challenge in mind: she was going to face once of her biggest fears and jump out of a plane. The folks at Parachute Montreal, with more than 25 years of skydiving experience behind them, were the ones who made sure she landed on the ground safe and sound, and they can do the same for you. With two locations within an hour of Montreal, these guys are so good they train the Canadian military!
In addition to skydiving, Quebec has all of the outdoor adventure staples: bungee jumping and ziplining, endless mountain biking, skiing, and snowboarding, whitewater rafting and kayaking, snowmobiling… the list goes on. But there are a few attractions that encourage you to push your limits in a way that’s unique to Quebec.
Take ice canoeing for example. In Quebec City, they don’t put the canoes in storage for the winter; they bring them out onto the frozen St. Lawrence River. Alternate between rowing and pushing as you take on these powerful waters with the historic city in your rearview mirror. In Montreal, river surfing provides a different, extreme experience for those who don’t mind a little cold water. The river waves of the Lachine Rapids are stationary, meaning if you can catch one, you can essentially ride it forever (or until you bail).
Ready for your own adventure in Quebec?