Springing into a boom season for Quebec City tourism
Written byTaylor Ireland
In Quebec City, spring is the season when, just as the sweet sap starts flowing from the dormant maples, tourists start flocking to the city. This influx is the initial wave of what people are saying will be one of the biggest years ever for tourism in the old city.
Naturally, the « sweetest » attractions this time of year, are the dozens of sugar shacks – cabanes à sucres – that abound in the region, many within a few minutes drive from the downtown.
Quebec is the world’s largest supplier of maple syrup products, so it’s a real thrill for tourists from around the planet to see how and where the sweet elixir is made They can also tuck in to some of the tasty, filling and oddly-named cuisine – pets de soeurs, oreilles de crisse (nun’s farts, and Christ’s ears) that goes along with the sugar shack experience. This year’s late spring, with snow still in the woods, means cabane à sucres time is longer than usual.
This is also the time of year when, as the school term nears its end, hundreds of student groups begin descending on the city from all over. The city is well set-up to welcome large groups of young people, with restaurants and hotels offering special rates. It’s amazing when you meet grown-up tourists, and many residents, who first fell in love with the city on a student visit.
As I mentioned, the student wave is just the beginning of what is expected to be a phenomenal tourist summer in the Quebec capital. The benchmark for such projections is the summer of 2008 when the city put on a dizzying series of events to celebrate its 400th anniversary, ranging from hosting the World Cup of Hockey to a spectacular free concerts by Celine Dion and Sir Paul McCartney.
One reason for the ever-increasing popularity of Quebec City as a tourism destination is the current value of the Canadian dollar. It makes a visit up north a great bargain for Americans, at the same time it’s a wonderful option for Canadians seeking better value for their travel dollar than a trip to the United States.
Another powerful driver of tourism traffic is the consistently high ratings Quebec City gets from a variety of travel websites and publications. The latest of these global accolades is from the hugely popular website Expedia, which ranked Quebec City the second best destination in North America, just behind Wailea, on the Hawaiian island of Maui. It was the top Canadian destination ahead of Victoria, British Columbia, and Calgary, Alberta. The rankings were determined by analysing actual comments from tourists.
So, what kind of special events will be drawing people to Quebec City this summer? For starters, 2017 happens to be the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada, and Quebec City, the scene of the crucial talks that led to Confederation, is one of the best places to celebrate. Admission to Parks Canada sites across Canada is free this year, that includes such fascinating historical sites as Artillery Park and the Fortifications of Quebec, the Chateau Saint-Louis excavations on the Dufferin Terrace, as well as the Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site on the St. Charles River.
The big event for the 150th will be the Rendez-vous 2017 tall ships regatta, a once-in-a-lifetime happening for naval buffs and anyone who likes to be part of history. A fleet of 40 tall ships from many countries, including a Spanish galleon, will be sailing Canadian waters. They’ll be putting into host ports along the Saint Lawrence River culminating in a grand gathering of all the ships in Quebec City, from July 18 to 23.
There will be ship tours, thematic activities on the docks and a host of other free family adventures for the general public. The RDV2017 events in the old city are being organized by the team behind the massive Festival d’étè (FEQ) music festival, so you can be sure they will be novel, thrilling and entertaining.
The FEQ itself is celebrating a milestone this year. Fifty years ago a group of young artists organized a n event to showcase theatre and music, mostly local. Their motivation was to bring some activity to a city that was somewhat moribund culturally in the summer. Five decades later the FEQ has grown from a folkloric happening to one of the biggest, and certainly the most affordable, summer music festivals in the world, featuring one of the most spectacular stage settings, on the Plains of Abraham.
A wide variety of celebrations will mark the 50th anniversary, while some of the big names on stage this year, from more than 200 shows, range from The Who, to Metallica, to Muse, Pink, Lady Antebellum and Kendrick Lamarr.
These are just a few of literally an endless list of summer attractions and activities in the Quebec City region – the local tourism office has a quick checklist of some 55 exceptional things to see and do. On top of that are temporary events and gallery and museum exhibitions. And, of course, just walking the old city streets is a wonder in itself.
Another big engine driving tourism in Quebec City is the boom in cruise ship visits. Last year the city earned the Best Destination Experience distinction from the prestigious Cruise Insight magazine. This year the port is expecting another impressive influx of ocean liners – 131 ships are booked to dock in the city from the beginning of May to the end of October, bringing 220,000 passengers.
The Port of Quebec has invested some $90 million in improvements and expansions in the harbour area, to allow it to comfortably accommodate increasing numbers of visitors as they take in the breath-taking views of this city of wonders.
This is just a quick overview of Quebec City’s attractions for visitors of all types. For more detail check out the website of the city’s tourism bureau: www.quebecregion.com.