Québec is an outdoor playground for families looking to get back to nature and be adventurous. The second largest region in Canada, Québec features more than 30 national parks and over 14,000 square miles of protected wilderness area to explore.
For your next family vacation, head north of Montréal to Laval and the Lanaudière region. These two lesser known gems are perfect for your next trip. Find out where to go, what to see and where to stay when you are here.
Disclosure: This article is brought to you in partnership with QuebecOriginal and its regional partners. Accommodations and activities were provided for research purposes. All opinions are our own.
This summer, my son and I traveled to Québec for five days of active fun and food. We flew into Montréal’s Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau Airport and crossed the St. Lawrence River into the city of Laval. After a few days there we went on into the heart of the Lanaudière region to Sainte-Émélie-de-l’Énergie and Rawdon. Both of these areas are filled with fun things to do with kids. Each offers a range of outdoor and indoor activities, as well as educational opportunities that are actually fun for the whole family.
Laval Family Attractions
Just north of Montréal, the city of Laval offers families a nice range of indoor and outdoor activities and sites for all ages. There are several can’t miss experiences here including the urban nature park in the city center, an indoor climbing gym with over 40 themed walls, and one local business’ new take on Family Game Night. Let me share a few of the Laval attractions we did while we were there this summer, as well as where we stayed and where we ate.
The newly renovated Sheraton is the perfect central point for families. It offers 244 room and 12 suites, indoor heated pool, dry and steam saunas, full gym, and on-site restaurant. It’s just 20 minutes from the airport and is centrally located to many family-friendly attractions like the ones below.
Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles
This urban park is an outdoor escape at the heart of the city. Situated along 26 miles of the Mille Îles River, it is a natural habitat for area wildlife and aquatic animals. The newly opened Exploration Center is a great place to learn about these animals, the history of the area, river ecology and more. If you want to head out into the park, you can rent kayaks or canoes at the center’s rental desk.
If you’d rather get a guided tour, take a Guided Family Fishing Tour with one of the park’s guides. This is what we did and it was great fun. Our group paddled a canoe out to Île de Kennedy, a small island along the river, to go fishing. The guide highlighted landmarks along the riverbank, pointed out native wildlife we encountered, educated us more on river ecology, and described the changes this area has seen in the past few decades.
Ferme Vaillancourt (U-Pick Farm)
Berry picking is a fun family activity and one I really enjoy doing with my kids. We usually eat as many berries in the field as we actually bring home. Just a few minutes outside of downtown Laval, find this family owned U-pick farm that has been in the area for over 300 years. Park at the farm stand, then climb aboard the tractor-pulled wagon to head to the fields where you can pick strawberries, raspberries and other vegetables.
Escaparium Escape Room
In my generation it was Clue and trying to figure out if it was Colonel Mustard in the library with a candle stick. Today, it’s an escape room where you have to solve clues to get out and escape in time. Escaparium Escape Room was started by a husband and wife team who LOVE escape games. They have traveled extensively to take part in games around North America. They offer fully immersive scenarios including some with virtual reality.
Family Game Night will never be the same after a visit to Premier Joueur. Think of this place like an arcade, but instead of video games they offer over 1000 board games you can play. Employees can make recommendations based on the types of games you want to play, length of time, age of players, etc. They’ll explain the rules and let you play as many games as you like. Their full kitchen offers pub style food so you can play all day and into the night.
Clip ’n Climb
For those that want a more active outlet for their competitive spirit, head to this indoor climbing gym in Laval. Here there are 34 themed walls offering a variety of climbing difficulties. Race family members to the top of a 33-foot-tall wall, race the clock or just test your agility.
Being just north of Montréal, Laval has many annual events that bring people to the area. During our mid-July visit, we attended Festival des bières de Laval (Laval Beer Festival). This family friendly annual celebration highlights the area’s microbrews and regional food. There are workshops, live music, and areas for the kids. When you plan your visit, definitely check out the local calendars for current happenings.
La Bête à Pain
Québec is filled with wonderful French bakeries. But it’s this bakery, La Bête à Pain, that you must try. Translated as The Bread Beast, this local bakery has three locations. Each is a place that gathers the community and serves up food you’ll want to return to again and again. It’s a must for their fresh baked pastries, bread and dessert.
Lanaudière Family Attractions
Canada’s Lanaudière region is a natural playground for adventure seekers. As you leave Laval, you really are leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind. The communities are smaller, and the landscape is green, very green. It feels like you are a world away, but you are close enough for a quick weekend getaway. By car, you can be in the heart of it all in about an hour. Here you are more likely to find lakeside spa hotels and family friendly resorts that offer the relaxation you are seeking.
L’Auberge du Vieux Moulin in Sainte-Émélie-de-l’Énergie
This family owner resort offers guests the opportunity to get away from it all and have fun together. Located just 75 minutes north of Montreal, the resort sits on its own private lake. Guests can enjoy a variety of lakeside summer recreation including swimming, kayaking, canoeing, stand up paddleboards, water trampoline, beach volleyball, badminton and fishing. During the winter months, guest can go ice skating or ice fishing on the lake.
On land, families can lace up their boots to explore 25 miles of marked trails on foot or mountain bike. While on the trails, you can stop and feed the resident deer or see the resort’s elk herd. During the winter, hit the trails for excellent cross-country skiing, snow shoeing or tubing.
L’Auberge du Vieux Moulin offers a range of accommodation styles ranging from Amerindian Tipis and luxury suites to cottages. Recreation activities are included in your stay (except for the tipis). Therefore, families can play to their heart’s content. In addition to outdoor recreation, the resort offers a heated indoor pool, outside spas, dry sauna and steam bath.
The highlight of a stay here is the on-site Gastronomic Restaurant. Resort owner and head chef, Yves Marcoux, spent 16 years as a Quebec Restaurant and Hotel Tourism Training Institute professor. He brings his skill and expertise into the kitchen to deliver meals you will never forget. Using the freshest local ingredients, guests can enjoy breakfast and dinner with your stay.
Explore Nearby Rawdon
You could easily spend your entire Lanaudière vacation at the inn. Yet it would be a shame not to get out and explore nearby Rawdon, just an hour’s drive from L’Auberge du Vieux Moulin. This region has a rich supply of local food producers and outdoor recreation opportunities. Visit a few of the small farms, cheese makers, and/or food producers to see how food is grown and taste your way through the region. You won’t regret it!
La Terre des Bisons
During our visit, we toured La Terre des Bisons, a local farm that raises bison and elk for market. Guests are welcome to explore the farm, learn about raising big game and sample their products.
The three-room Wild Game Center is educational and very interesting. It tells the story of the region’s wild game and bison dating back to prehistoric times. There are artifacts to see, an informative video, bison themed art and more. If you have a kitchen during your stay, be sure to pick up some bison or elk steaks in the shop.
Outside, visitors can walk the ¾ mile trail past the bison and elk herds. From the trail you’ll see the herd and be awed by their size and strength. You may even see Buffy, a bison bull that was hand reared by the owners. For a longer hike, the farm can provide you with a map of their full 3 mile hike. During the winter months, you can snow shoe this trail with snow shoe rental and toboggan lending for the kids ($6 CAD).
Dorwin Waterfalls (Parc régional des Chutes Dorwin)
Any hike that includes views of a waterfall is a family must (in my opinion). Dorwin Falls is a 60-foot waterfall on the Ouareau River. There are several observation points for visitors to view the falls along the 1.55 mile ecological trail. It’s an easy hike for all ages and the picnic area next to the playground is a great spot to enjoy a box lunch.
For those looking for more extreme activities, head to Abraska, a treetop adventure park with over 100 games and activities. Here guests ages 5+ can clip in and explore the aerial course that includes zip lines, hanging bridges, Tarzan swings and suspended obstacles that range in difficulty from easy to expert. For younger guests, Arbre-En-Ciel Village is for them. This treehouse themed playground has smaller scale bridges, mini obstacles and slides for them to enjoy. Families can easily spend all day here because there really is something for every age here.
Québec’s Lanaudière region and the city of Laval really do offer families ample opportunities for family fun. Whether you are seeking outdoor adventure or indoor games, you will find it and so much more here. Need more help planning your next trip, visit the Quebec Original website.
Nicky Omohundro of LittleFamilyAdventure.com is an active family lifestyle and travel writer. She encourages families to get outdoors any way they can to have #NoChildLeftInside. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @lilfamadventure.
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