There may be snow on the ground but spring break is right around the corner. Not sure what to do? We’ve put together five options for a vacation, all at different price levels to suit any budget.
Many like to think of Canada simply as our 51st state, but the truth lies much farther from that. If you’re willing to venture north of the border in early spring, you’ll find there is much to be done in the largest country in the Americas (where, wonderfully enough, the drinking age is just 18).
Start with a trip to the province of Quebec, with its old-world feel and French influence. Often referred to as Paris without the jet lag, Montréal is a city which has made a name for itself as an edgy cultural melting pot. Driving is an option, and allows for freedom within the city. If you have a car and choose to drive, the trip takes about 10 hours from the District and passes through Philadelphia, New York and several other potential, fun pit stops (especially if you have friends living in the area). Or, if you choose, there is Amtrak service to Montreal. The total trip is around $75 each way, and about 15 hours from D.C. Flights run quite expensive to Montréal, rivaling road trip flights to Europe, so look at the longer journey as a road trip and save hundreds of dollars.
Once in Montréal, check out La Ronde, an amusement park on an island in the St. Lawrence River, or indulge yourself with some shopping on Sainte Catherine Street, the main thoroughfare. Relax afterwards over drinks and classic French cuisine in the old quarter at Restaurant Toqué or Aix. Give yourself at least three days to really explore the area.
Check out what is often cited as the hippest district of Montréal, Plateau du Mont Royal. Lonely Planet says it “boasts arty residents, great bars and restaurants, and a bohemian vibe. The distinctive architecture, characterized by spiral staircases and colorful old Victorian houses, is what makes this area so cool.”
But undoubtedly the most enchanting place in the Francophone province is Québec City. From Montréal, spend $40 on gas and three hours on Autoroute 20, or take the Via Rail train for around $50, to get to this fascinating blend of old and new. Once there, check into the Chateau Frontenac, a majestic hotel dating back to 1893 that stands tall on a cliff rising above Rue du Petit Champlain, which is said to be the oldest street in North America. Eat at L’Auberge du Trésor across the rue from the Frontenac, or check out L’Astral, a revolving rooftop restaurant in the Loews Le Concorde. And be sure not to miss The Battlefields Park, an urban green space comparable in size to New York’s Central Park.
If you get sick of the city, the area around Montréal is full of ski resorts, so ask your hotel concierge and get ready to hit the slopes.
How much is a trip to Canada, including Montréal and Quebec?
Average Hotel price in Montréal for three days: $240 (up to four in a room)
Average Hotel price in Quebec City for two days: $200
Food and entertainment per day for six days: $180
Transportation: Car: $230
Trains and taxis: $300
Total: $850 (Car), $920 (Train)
– Hadas Gold, Max McGowen, Miranda Green