As Canada's largest province, Québec is bursting with things to see — especially when the weather is warm. It’s home to charming European-style metropolises, like Montréal and Québec City, as well as sparsely populated plains, dense forests, and rich wildlife reserves.
But it’s impossible to truly experience a place as vast and as varied as Québec by seeing the sights alone; you must immerse all of your senses in a destination to create the sort of memories that are still palpable long after you’ve returned home.
From Québec’s largest lavender fields to its booming jazz festivals, here are five ways — and dozens of experiences — to soak up this summer.
Québec's forests are at their most vibrant from June to October. Foresta Lumina, in the small town of Coaticook — an easy stop for those driving across the U.S.–Canadian border — brings that vibrancy to a near-supernatural level on a multimedia walking-trail. A bit more than a mile long, the path is lit by a cacophony of lights, which illuminate the trees and other surroundings.
Further north, Les Grands Feux Loto-Québec hosts six unique fireworks presentations on Wednesdays and Saturdays from August 6 to 24; tickets are free. For something more whimsical, watch some of the nation's most talented acrobats and dancers perform at the Montréal Cirque Festival from July 7 to 17.
On the shores of the St. Lawrence River, Echoes of a Proud Nation Pow Wow (July 9 and 10) features a colorful mix of costumes, dance, food, and artwork spread across 75 different kiosks. If you’re up for the drive, it is still possible to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights in the province’s northernmost towns. If you've never witnessed the surreal blue and green Aurora Borealis, it's well worth the added travel time.
Let nature's soundtrack be your guide through Mont Tremblant National Park (Québec's largest) and La Mauricie National Park; both offer miles of walking trails on which the only sounds come from the rustling trees, trickling streams, and wild fauna.
Summer is also host to three of the most popular music festivals across Québec. Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, from June 29 to July 9, is the largest jazz festival on the planet, comprising some 800 concerts, the vast majority of which are free. Festival d'été de Québec picks up soon after (July 7 to 17), when hundreds of performers take the stage on an outdoor venue that spills throughout the city; and the Tremblant International Blues Festival comprises 10 days of more than 100 free shows (July 8 to 17), with a mix of global headliners and local artists performing among the region’s rolling green hills.
Locking arms with a friend during a concert is one thing; a falcon landing on your arm is another. Visitors can get up close and personal with wildlife at Québec’s litany of zoos and aquariums, from Mont-Tremblant's Falcon Environmental Services to Montebello's Parc Oméga. Montreal is home to the Ecomuseum Zoo as well as Montréal Biodôme, where visitors will find replicas of North America’s four ecosystems. Thrill-seekers should head to Bonaventure in Northeastern Québec to see more than 40 indigenous species in the wild at Bioparc de la Gaspésie.
For a more tender touch, Refuge Pageau, in the city of Amos, is home to a shelter that cares for orphaned, sick, or wounded wildlife with the mission to release them back into the wild. It counts moose, bears, wolves, deer, raccoons, and birds among its residents.
A scenic three-hour drive from Québec City takes you to Rivière-Éternité, home to Saguenay Fjord National Park. Here, you’ll find larger-than-life granite walls (some nearly 1,000 feet tall), sand dunes, and sterling water to run your fingers through.
Bleu Lavande in Eastern Townships is the largest lavender farm in Canada and the second largest in North America. Stroll through the more than 100,000 lavender plants and visit the distillery where the certified lavender essential oil is extracted.
City dwellers seeking a bit of fresh, clean air can escape to one of the province's hunting and fishing outfitters. With more than 600 inns, cabins, and even boats to rent, visitors can unwind far from the hustle and bustle and wake to vast, unfettered forests and lakes.
For a burst of fresh air — and adrenaline — Québec is home to more than 25 aerial adventure sites, where novices and daredevils alike can challenge themselves to a treetop adventure course. Most of these are just a few hours from Montreal and Québec City and host stunning suspension bridges; the bridge at Canyon des Portes de l’Enfer is Québec's highest at nearly 207 feet above ground, while the one at Parc de la Gorge de Coaticook is North America’s longest at 554 feet long.
Round out an aromatic adventure at Gaspésie’s Reford Gardens, a horticultural wonderland, home to some 3,000 varieties of native and exotic plants.
When it comes to Québec’s food scene, maple syrup and poutine are just the tip of the iceberg. The region has become quite popular for microbreweries, from Montreal’s Le Cheval Blanc to Gatineau’s Les Brasseurs du temps, located on the former site of one of the region’s oldest breweries (opened in 1821).
For oenophiles, Québec offers a number of scenic driving routes that lead you to wineries throughout the countryside. If you’d rather let someone else do the driving, KavaTours offers departures from Montreal and Bromont. For a route with a different flavor, the Montérégie Cider Route is just as fun and celebrates one of Québec’s cottage industries.
Those who appreciate the art of cheese-making (and the taste of cheese consumption) Fromages fins du Québec provides a list of exhibitions, storefronts, and farms across the province where you can try cheese of every kind. (You might want to work a few of these stops into your wine route).
For food of all kinds, Terroir et Saveurs is the largest network for gourmet food and food tourism in the province. You’ll spot its seal at shops, restaurants, hotels, and B&Bs across the province that carry artisanal products from local farmers and purveyors — all of which you can order through their website to savor back home.