What To Do in Quebec This Summer | Seven Days

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This Summer, We’re Heading to Québec

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Published May 21, 2024 at 11:00 a.m.
Updated June 5, 2024 at 10:19 a.m.


The Montréal skyline - COURTESY OF EVA BLUE/TOURISME MONTRÉAL
  • Courtesy Of Eva Blue/Tourisme Montréal
  • The Montréal skyline

Each time I drive to Montréal, I watch for the big block letters of my favorite sign. When I spot "FARINE FIVE ROSES," glowing in midcentury red atop a former flour mill on the riverfront, I know I'm nearly downtown. I'm drawn to the sign's factory-chic hulk, its faded charisma, and that mashup of French and English words — farine means "flour." As Montréal cartoonist Gabrielle Drolet once tweeted, franglais might be my love language.

In the years I've spent exploring Québec since moving to Vermont in 2009, however, my first impression of the Montréal landmark has resolved into something more nuanced. The Five Roses sign hints at the industrial history of a city whose factories and silos have ceded ground, year by year, to condos. A few such spaces have become creative hubs instead: pop-up bars, theater venues and galleries like onetime foundry Fonderie Darling, as Seven Days' new visual art editor, Alice Dodge, a native Montréaler, reports in this issue.

While Montréal was my first taste of Québécois culture, today I understand it as the literal and figurative island it is — the compact, cosmopolitan hub of an overwhelmingly rural province. Follow the map far enough to the north, and you hit polar bear country. Natural beauty, from big skies to belugas, is within easy road-tripping distance from Burlington. For this year's Québec Guide, our writers cover those places, too, some we already love and others we can't wait to explore.

Berne Broudy recounted rides along some of her favorite trails in the Québec City area; after a decade of development, the region has transformed into one of North America's most vibrant mountain biking meccas. Fiona Tapp visited the world's first International Dark Sky Reserve, which has made the Eastern Townships an astrotourism hot spot, and came back with ideas for exploring its magnificent stargazing even as some of us are still riding high on eclipse awe.

A few destinations are newly on the tourism map. Starting next month in the riverside community of Cacouna, Diane Selkirk reports, an observation deck run by the Wolastoqiyik Wahsipekuk First Nation will offer fresh opportunities to watch beluga whales, and their marshmallow-colored calves, in some of the St. Lawrence River Estuary's most sheltered waters.

Longer journeys offer commensurate rewards. I covered faraway Anticosti Island, whose extraordinary landscape of fossils earned UNESCO World Heritage recognition in 2023. I've never been to see its trilobites, shipwrecks and windswept beaches; few people have. But it tugs at my imagination, a not-so-faraway reminder of just how big and wild our corner of the world can feel.

It's not all so untamed, of course. The Eastern Townships might have dark skies at night, but sunrise reveals pretty villages, farm-to-table cafés and tidy vineyards — the cozy landscape of Louise Penny murder mysteries. ("It's so French!" Americans often say of that region. The Québécois, just as charmed, tend to enthuse: "It's just like New England!")

And, of course, there's Québec City, a place I relish from the steeply pitched rooflines of its UNESCO-listed historic center to the Inuit artwork in the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec. Seven Days food writer Jordan Barry quizzed a local foodie on the best places to savor the city's culinary culture, old and new. Her story is a reminder of just how much there is to discover in the 415-year-old provincial capital.

We crowdsourced other Vermonters' favorite spots in Québec, too, and their recs include digital art, vegan sushi and spas. We also rounded up summer events from fireworks shows to jazz and compiled a user's guide to Montréal's busy airport.

If you're looking north as summer's travel season kicks off, read on — we've got ideas of where, and how, to explore Québec, whether it's your first or 100th cross-border trip. Bon voyage.

Bonjour Québec logoThis article is part of a travel series on Québec. The province's destination marketing organization, Alliance de l’industrie touristique du Québec, under the Bonjour Québec brand, is a financial underwriter of the project but has no influence over story selection or content. Find the complete series plus travel tips at sevendaysvt.com/quebec.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Northern Lights"

Smith, a travel writer living in Richmond, Vt., curated and guest-edited this guide.

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