When you’re viewed in one particular light by the masses, it’s often hard to change public perception. Ask most folks in the U.S. to describe Quebec in a few words and we bet you an order of Ashton’s poutine that phrases like “cold weather” or “good skiing” will come up. And while those aspects are certainly a part of the Canadian province’s maple-flavored make-up — according to Quebec City Tourism figures, 762,000 people visited the province in the winter of 2012 — they’re not the only ones. In fact, many natives will tell you that summertime in Quebec is tremendous. Any number of reasons could explain the declaration: some sort of festival occurs nearly every weekend; there’s hiking, canoeing and a host of other activities to get into; and you have plenty of high-end hotels for resting your head after all the outdoor excitement has ended. So, do yourself a favor and stow those skis and pull out the shorts because the sun is beaming and Quebec is open for business.
Le Massif de Charlevoix is such a special destination that you won’t mind the 50-minute drive to sleepy Baie-Saint-Paul from Quebec City’s Jean Lesage International Airport. An absolute wonderland when there’s snow on the ground or not, the resort area from the mind of Daniel Gauthier, a former Cirque du Soleil executive, is composed of intimidating slopes, an irresistible hotel and an innovative light-rail train connecting it all. And for the next few months, the mountain’s calendar will be filled with endurance tests (Spartan Race, June 20 to 21) and fresh produce (farmers market, Sundays through October).
With its rustic accents (wood-paneled walls, handmade swinging chairs), environmentally conscious sensibilities (geothermal energy, local timber used during construction) and subtle cosmopolitan flair (an onsite art gallery), Le Massif’s Hôtel La Ferme feels like some sort of 22nd-century pastoral paradise. (Well, the hotel does sit on what was once a working farm.) But the charming property doesn’t merely stop at a peaceful exterior; thanks to an onsite spa specializing in thermal experiences and Nordic rituals, Hôtel La Ferme keeps you in a constant state of internal relaxation as well.
When you need replenish the stomach, the hotel provides three dining options, Restaurant Les Labours, Restaurant Le Bercail and Café du Marché. Le Bercail may be a casual setting (with the occasional weekend DJ set), but its earthy, three-mushroom pizza is divine. Les Labours, the hotel’s slightly more formal dining experience, showcases an array of freshly picked herbs, slowly cooked flank steaks and just-caught trout. Should you sit at the long bar overlooking the kitchen in the center of the space, thank the culinary team yourself for the meal.
The fare at Hôtel La Ferme is delicious, but if you’re unable to get to Baie-Saint-Paul on your trip, there is an abundance of exemplary eating to be had in Quebec City. Trendy spots such as iX Pour Bistro and family haunts like Cochon Dingue will undoubtedly have patrons lined up through the season. If you’re staying at the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Auberge Saint-Antoine, though, you at least won’t have to worry about leaving for dinner; the Four-Star Panache is mere feet from your room. The refurbished 19th-century riverside warehouse has wooden beams in the ceiling and bygone-era lamps at the table. The artistry from chef Louis Pacquelin’s kitchen can be best described as high-end French-Canadian comfort food. Look for French toast paired with pears and apple butter at breakfast, and items like grilled foie gras or pan-seared scallops come evening.
Taking a similarly proud approach to Quebec’s terroir is Jean-Francois Belair, the chef at Le Bonne Entente’s Monte Cristo L’Original. The culinary crew at the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended hotel channels most of its creative energies into delivering dishes that speak to the area as well as the season. Radishes and eggplants flourish around the region during the summer, so expect the wild black sea bass or one of the more gamey entrées to be garnished with either vegetable.
Montreal, roughly a three-hour drive southwest of Quebec City, is known as “Canada’s Festival City.” Quebec City flaunts a summer itinerary that’s impressive in its own right, though. No matter if your interests are comedy (ComediHa!, June 11 to 28), Paris (New France Festival, August 5 to 9) or games (Expo Quebec, August 14 to 23), the city has a gathering for you. But even with all of that going on over the next few months, Quebec City’s most anticipated annual event is arguably still Festival d’été de Québec, a music extravaganza that will spotlight headliners like The Rolling Stones, Keith Urban and Foo Fighters between July 9 and 19. Should you call Auberge Saint-Antoine your temporary home, make sure you reserve the Summer Festival package, a deal ensuring you one night of elegant accommodations and two festival passes—that way, when you get back home, you can tell your loved ones that Quebec not only rocked but it did so with style.