Quebec: Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean, Family Winter Vacation Fun – Snowmobiling, Skating, and Snow Tubing.
Imagine a secret snowy getaway with oodles of family activities meant to be shared with kids. Part of the mix: deep powdery snow, toasty warm chalets, ice fishing, ice skating, après-ski fun and scrumptious food, dog-sledding adventures, and French Christmas carols! Here’s the scoop.
I spent a week in Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean area in September. (No, the snow had not arrived.) I discovered a secret family vacation spot that is remarkably beautiful, culturally fascinating, and best of all family friendly. Imagine combining the dramatic beauty of Norwegian fjords with the comfy atmosphere of a seaside village in Normandy. No need to imagine because Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean offers the exotic natural beauty and a delicious cultural ambiance without the jet lag. And while summertime is loaded with vacation activities there is no paucity of choices during the snowy months. So I am sharing the best of winter family vacation ideas. Looks to me like they have winter perfected family fun in the snow and on the ice.Follow the snow trails.
Most Americans head to Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean for snowmobiling because more than 2000 miles of wide groomed trails crisscross the region. Basically visitors can go almost anywhere via snowmobile. The season generally runs from the beginning of December to mid-April, so when the snow has melted elsewhere, it is likely they will still have snow. The extensive trail system is framed with plenty of warming huts and rest stops making it family friendly and easy to navigate with children along.
Fish on the ice.
From mid-January to mid-March the ice beckons fisherman. Ice fishing on the Saguenay Fjord is unique in eastern North America is popular in the area. The fjord freezes over and by mid January small colourful villages of ice-fishing huts spring up on the bays of the fjord. These ‘villages’ (many with almost 1500 huts) offer plenty of activities for families including fishing, skating, and snow sculptures. FYI:
The Saguenay Fjord is home to redfish, cod, Greenland halibut and in some places, the smelt. Fishing lessons anyone?
The Musée du Fjord operates a demonstration hut for those who don’t fish but would like to see how it is done. Each winter when ice-fishing huts begin to populate Baie des Ha! Ha!, the Fjord Aquabane (or aquahut) opens its doors so that visitors of all ages may explore, observe, and listen to sounds from the deep under the thick layer of ice. Admission to the hut is free but site access is regulated by the City of Saguenay. The Fjord Aquabane is open Saturdays and Sundays and upon reservation for groups, during the ice fishing season. Bonus points:
Hear plenty of fishing stories from the enthusiastic staff. (The Musée du Fjord 3346, boulevard de la Grande-Baie, Sud Ville de Saguenay, arrondissement de La Baie Québec, Canada G7B 1G2. Toll-free 1-866-697-5077, (418) 697-5077 or www.museedufjord.com)Cross-country skiing in Parc National du Saguenay.
From mid-December to late March sseveral outfitters rent the huts and equipment necessary for a day’s fun as does the Parc National du Saguenay. For Nordic skiing, the area of the Bay-Eternity offers a relatively short winter trail. On the north shore, part of Le Fjord Trail is also accessible to a viewpoint on the Sainte-Marguerite. The Caps trail, connecting River Eternity at L'Anse-Saint-Jean offers a marked trail well suited for an energizing adventure. Bonus points:
Count on plenty of opportunities for skating, snow tubing, and snow shoeing. The Valley of Phantoms and Mummies in the Parc des Monts-Valin receives up to 20 ft of snow – it is a very cool place to snowshoe amongst the eerie snow covered trees. (Planning details toll-free 1 800 665-6527 or www.sepaq.com/pq/sag) Ride with the dogs.
It is an amazing feeling to zip through the powdery snow and pristine forest while being pulled along by high-energy excited dogs and the region is an ideal place for a true dog-sledding experience. Outfitters provide authentic wilderness thrills for a few hours or a few days. Experienced mushers will provide families with an unforgettable experience. Young kids ride as passengers and teens and adults get the thrill of driving the sled. Vacation packages include dog sledding and a stay in a heated prospector’s tent, chalet, yurt, or hotel at the end of your adventure. The skiing is easy.
While the mountains aren’t super big but there are plenty of choices within the region. They are reasonably priced with no line-ups, making it ideal for a family trip. For example: Valinouet is renowned for having 100% natural snow, no man-made snow needed. Connoisseurs of skiing will feel the difference in the quality of the snow and the skiing experience. Mont-Edouard, located on the edge of the fjord, offers spectacular ‘sous-bois’ trails (through the forest), family condos at the foot of the hill, and Nordic spa facilities. Visit the zoo in the winter.
I am not a fan of zoos in general but
is one of my favorite spots in the area.They care about the animals and convey their passion to visitors in words and actions. The cool thing - visitors are contained and the animals run free. I had the chance to sleep in the middle of a caribou herd and to meet zookeepers with passion and commitment to balancing the planet – at least there small section. The zoo stays open in the winter because its focus is snow-loving boreal animals. The ‘train’ ride along the snowy Nature Trail offers visitors the opportunity to observe animals at play in a natural habitat. (Zoo sauvage de St-Félicien 2230, boulevard du Jardin St-Félicien, Québec G8K 2P8. Toll-free 1-800-667-5687, (418) 679-0543 or www.zoosauvage.org)Location on the planet.
Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean is only a two-hour drive from Quebec City so families can combine the best that the city offers with an escape to a secret winter family vacation playground - first-class fun with Northern lights guaranteed.Make it happen.
For more details about Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean region call toll-free 1-877-253-8387 or checkout www.saguenaylacsaintjean.caContent and images provided by Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean. Comments by Amanda Lucille Nelson-Duac based on a visit to the area. Copyright 2012.
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