For your teens’ first taste of Europe, but closer to home, put Quebec City on your list for family travel. The only completely walled city in North America, Old Quebec feels like a European city, its narrow streets lined by 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century stone and brick buildings. It’s a good place for traveling teens to begin collecting UNESCO World Heritage sites, too.
Prepare to get a good workout on the hills, as half of Old Quebec sits atop a bluff and the other half directly below, along the river. For a sense of this vertical layout, begin by strolling along Dufferin Terrace, easy to find alongside the towering Chateau Frontenac. Buy an ice cream cone at the kiosk and admire the views of the lower city and the river from a bench. Energetic teens can climb to the ramparts overhead for wider views.
Dufferin Terrace was built on top of the 17th-century chateau and fortifications protecting the city’s early settlement. Directly underneath the terrace, explore the recently excavated remains of Forts-et-Châteaux-Saint-Louis to see details that were uncovered.
The history here comes to life through excellent interpretation and engaging guides, who point out details like the massive brick oven that was unearthed and the vast ice vault where blocks from the river kept foods cool all summer. For our teen, this was one of the sightseeing highlights.
Below is the oldest part of the city, filled with small specialty shops. They line the steep street, which break into stairways, and sell local foods and crafts, as well as clothing, accessories and Quebec souvenirs (think red flannel woodsmen’s shirts).
You’ll want to walk down the stairs and street from Dufferin Terrace to see the shops lining the route. You can avoid the steep climb back by riding on the funicular that begins on a lower level along Rue de Petit‑Champlain.
Surrounding the historic square, small independent shops, galleries and bistros make browsing and shopping a favorite pastime, with stops in sidewalk cafés for people watching. One shop, Jade, on Place Royale, is as much a museum as a jewelry store, with examples of jade from all parts of Canada displayed in cases with sculptures and other jade art.
If Quebec’s steep streets aren’t enough to work off teen energy, take a short jaunt out of the city to Montmorency Falls, only a 15-minute drive away. At 272 feet high, Montmorency is almost 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls, plunging over a vertical cliff alongside the St. Laurence River.
Ride the gondola to the top, then cross over the falls on a suspension bridge, or get even closer to the falls on the double zipline. The Via Ferrata approaches the falls from three different routes and doesn’t require technical experience (no need for carabiners).
This Summer Only
Two other top hits in Quebec are excellent reasons to go this summer. Both the Mosaicultures Quebec 2022 (until Oct. 10) in Bois-de-Coulonge Park and the Pompeii – The Immortal City exhibit (until Sept. 11) at the Museum of Civilization are outstanding for all ages.
The first is a wonderland of sculptures made from plants and flowers: a full-sized moose, larger-than-life racoons and turtles, a peacock with colored tailfeathers made of flowers and giant butterflies pulling a rainbow around a giant turtle.
The Pompeii exhibit recreates the world of the Roman city before, during and after the devastating volcano of 79 AD, complete with more than 120 artifacts. The exhibit also features an immersive installation where visitors feel the volcanic eruption and witness the collapse of the city around them. Interactive screens and activities engage everyone.
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