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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Break a Sweat in Québec City

Known for its stately European charm and rich history, Canada’s oldest city turns into a sporty traveler’s paradise in the winter.

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1. Where to Stay

Intrepid travelers can curl up by a fireplace (or in a heavy-duty sleeping bag) at the Hotel de Glace.  

Rest up before hitting the snow at the elegant Manoir Victoria (doubles from $135) in the heart of Old Québec. Dating back to the 1830s, it was completely destroyed by a fire in 1902, but an $8 million renovation gave new life to the historic property. Skip the unremarkable (though cheaper) traditional rooms in favor of those in the contemporary category, with minimalist-chic gray-and-white color schemes, flat-screen TVs, and, in the suites, heated bathroom floors and sleek ambiance fireplaces. After a day out, curl up in a purple high-backed chair with one of the books in the airy lobby’s library, then grab dinner at the hotel’s Chez Boulay. Opened in 2012, the upscale bistro has become a go-to spot among locals for Nordic-inspired, seasonally driven cuisine such as confit bison cheeks ($25) and seared black cod ($32), plus desserts like black-currant crème brulee ($7).

Immerse yourself in the culture of the province’s First Nations people (descendants of the original inhabitants of Canada) at the Hotel-Musée Premieres Nations (doubles from $143), about fifteen minutes east of downtown. Run by the Industry of Tourism of Wendake, the imposing boutique hotel was designed to look like a longhouse native dwelling. All 55 rooms have views of the Akiawenrahk River from French-style balconies, plus authentic First Nation décor (dream catchers, beaver-fur cushions) juxtaposed with contemporary touches like flat-screen TVs and iPod docking stations. Take a guided tour of the small but well-curated museum for a quick overview of the area’s Huron-Wendat natives (free for guests), or stroll along the nearby trails and gardens. End your day at the hotel’s award-winning La Traite restaurant, which showcases traditional local ingredients like forest berries, bison, and house-smoked salmon (three courses, $36; six courses, $67). After dinner, sip a nightcap by the outdoor fire pit and glowing ice bar under a starry sky.

For some serious bragging rights, chill out—literally—at the Hôtel de Glace, or Ice Hotel (rooms from $199 per person), a 30,000-square-foot expanse of interconnecting, Game of Thrones-esque caves that’s built anew every year out of snow and ice. The indoor temperature hovers between 19 and 26 degrees Fahrenheit, but have no fear—you’ll learn how to stay warm during a mandatory orientation before soaking in communal hot tubs and eventually snuggling into sturdy North Face sleeping bags (rated for -22 degrees) that top mattress-covered, ice-base beds. Standard rooms are sparsely decorated, so choose one with frosty features illustrating this year’s theme, “Myths and Legends of the World.” The Pegasus room has a Greek-columned ice bed frame and depictions of the Greek myth carved into the wall; if you’re bringing little ones, try the recently unveiled “Frozen” suite, modeled after the bedrooms of Disney characters Anna and Elsa.

Published on Feb 6, 2014 as a web exclusive.

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