There is still plenty of winter left in Canada so if you're searching for a great place for the family to get away and have some fun in the snow then the village of Montebello, Québec, located midway between Montréal and Ottawa in the Outaouais region of Western Québec, should be at the top of your list.
We love spending a few days at the Fairmont Château Montebello which has a full slate of winter activities for guests of all ages. Even someone like me, who really hates winter, can have fun here because there is so much to do.
At the very least, a stay at Château Montebello earns you the right to boast that you have slept in the world's largest log cabin. The stunning red cedar log château was built in 1930 and was a private retreat for the next 40 years until it was taken over by the Canadian Pacific hotel chain. Today this resort is owned by Fairmont hotels and is famed for its rugged luxury and the abundance of year-round activities it offers to its guests.
The lobby of the chalet-style resort is dominated by an inviting stone fireplace that guests gather round to enjoy a warm drink, a chat with friends or to cozy up with a good book. The 211 rooms in the resort are modest in size but, since your family will be spending most of the time outside participating in the extensive activities, it really won't matter.
The main dining room at the resort is Aux Chantignoles which serves delicious food along with a beautiful view of the Ottawa River.
There are supervised evening movies for children and teens on weekends and during school breaks and summer holidays as well as supervised activities for both during school breaks and summer holidays. In-room babysitting is also available at an extra fee if needed. It's nice that there is an organized program for the kids but really the outdoor activities that families can enjoy together are the big draw at Château Montebello.
Winter Activities at the Resort
Château Montebello is a popular resort because it has so many activities available year-round. Winter sport activities include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice-skating. The resort has 7 groomed cross-country trails (totalling 18.5km) available for guests to use and the trails are graded in terms of skill level from beginner to expert. Lessons are available for anyone who is new to the sport or needs a refresher course.
When the kids are tired of all the physical activity then head to the tube sliding hill for some good old-fashioned fun on a large inner tube. A tube lift even does the hard work of getting it back to the top of the hill for the next slide.
Anyone who has always wanted to learn the great Canadian sport of curling can sign up for a lesson in the arena and try their hand at throwing a few rocks and sweeping them down the ice - just be forewarned that it's harder than it looks.
Perhaps my favourite activity of all is dog sledding. The feeling of pure exhilaration as the excited dogs pull your sled across the snow-covered trails is worth every penny of the cost of the experience.
Another great family activity is a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the woods of the resort. Guests can bundle up under blankets and enjoy the winter landscape as the sleigh goes dashing through the snow.
Indoor Resort Activities
When everyone has had their fill of the great outdoors then the indoor heated 75 foot swimming pool (which is apparently the largest in a hotel in Canada) is the perfect place to head. There is also a spa when mom and dad need a little pampering and a health club/fitness centre which includes a whirlpool and two dry saunas as well as indoor squash and tennis courts.
The Village of Montebello
Our favourite attraction in Montebello is Omega Park which is located about 10 minutes from the resort. The safari park has a 10 kilometre winding route that visitors can drive to see wildlife roaming freely in their natural habitat. Don't forget to purchase a bag of carrots at the entrance so you can feed the elk from your (slightly) rolled-down car window.
When it's a few days of winter fun that your family needs then consider an activity-packed break at Château Montebello. If a winter-phobe like me can have a great time there then it has to be fabulous.
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