Go Euro in Quebec City
Think of a weekend jaunt to Quebec City as a Euro-trip — with killer food, culture, and easy-to-access nature — minus the jet lag or the sticker shock.
Leave your car with the valets at the Wes Anderson–worthy Fairmont le Château Frontenac, a grand late-19th-century-railroad hotel that's fresh off a $75 million renovation (from approximately $209 a night). Le Château sits high on the city's promontory, and the best rooms offer epic views of the Saint Lawrence River. Tourists swarm its base, in the middle of Old Town, the only walled city that remains in the Americas north of Mexico. Take in the district's churches and cobblestoned backstreets in an afternoon, then cap off your tour with a low-high locavore take on the Québécois classic, poutine (french fries, gravy, and cheese curds) at Le Chic Shack.
Many visitors barely make it past the city walls, but the best stuff lies beyond. Walk 20 minutes toward the neighborhood of Saint-Roch and Old Town's tourists disappear, replaced by bistros, breweries, and galleries. The tiny kitchen staff at L'Affaire Est Ketchup on Rue Saint-Joseph turns out adventurous fare made from fowl, venison, and vegetables sourced from nearby forests and farms. Wander down the street to see what's going on at Le Cercle, a popular bar-restaurant-music venue, or grab a local pint at Macfly, a retro bar-arcade.
The next morning, explore where all this amazing local food comes from: Drive 15 minutes from Old Town across the Pont de l'Île to Île d'Orléans, a bucolic island almost three times the size of Manhattan in the Saint Lawrence River. Once called Quebec's breadbasket, the island is filled with farms, cideries, creameries, and breweries, which flank its single route, the Chemin Royal, a 42-mile loop road. Stop at the Microbrasserie de l'Île d'Orléans and down an amber ale tinged with local maple syrup.
And bring your hiking boots, because just a half-hour outside the city is Jacques-Cartier National Park, a stunning glacial valley, home to foxes, moose, and bears. In warmer months you can kayak or canoe its watershed; in colder ones you can hike or snowshoe along more than 60 miles of trails, surveying the nearly untouched valley as Cartier, a French explorer, did more than 500 years ago. Except afterward you can hop in your car and make your dinner reservations back in Saint-Roch.
Daily nonstop flights from five U.S. cities, including New York (1.5 hours), Chicago (two hours, 20 minutes), and Philadelphia (one hour, 45 minutes).