This March Break, head to the Eastern Townships for some winter fun
March Break week is a perfect time of year to escape the daily grind and check out what Quebec’s Eastern Townships have to offer.
Sherbrooke is the heart of the Eastern Townships – but the area also has many quaint villages such as Granby, Magog, Bromont, Cowansville and, a little farther east, Lac-Mégantic, all with bilingual-friendly downtown areas.
Best of all, it’s not too far from home – only about four hours drive from Ottawa and eastern Ontario. There is no shortage of things to see and do.
First of all, you and the family need a place to call home and settle in. Why not consider staying at a ZooBox, a 100 percent self-sufficient eco-chic autonomous private loft (i.e. yurt). What a cool and humble way to make your (March) break from city life.
What is a ZooBox? More glamping than camping. “Unlike zoos, it is humans in the box and not animals,” says Danie Béliveau of the Eastern Townships tourism office. “And there (are) plenty of windows in the ZooBox so people can see the animals and nature.” Book early, however, as they will fill up fast. Check out www.levertendre.com for more information.
If skiing is your thing, you and your clan have more than a few options to do that in and around Sherbrooke. There’s Mount Sutton, Bromont, Mont-Orford and Owl’s Head, just to name a few. All are a part of the northern Appalachian mountain range.
Want to try them all AND save up to 40 percent? Purchase a L’EST GO card. It’s new and offers highly discounted lift tickets redeemable at the four resorts above. Visit www.lestgo.ski for info and to buy.
There’s also vast network of snowmobile routes, not to mention dozens of cross-country ski, snow shoeing and winter walk trails, if that’s your cup of tea.
The Granby Zoo is open all year, too. Tigers, lions and 1,500 other animals in an outdoor winter setting. All the zoo’s pavilions will be open in March.
Once you’ve had your snow fun, make some time for a family meal. Then visit a museum. Let the kids help decide where you go.
In Valcourt, there’s the J. Armand Bombardier Museum of Ingenuity. Bombardier was the brains behind many innovative products, the most famous, perhaps, being the snowmobile. Try some interactive games and then hit the ‘Fab Lab’. For CAA members there is a special rate of $30 for two adults and two children.
Working up a hunger?
If a big breakfast is your style, try the Restaurant Chez Papie in Orford, says Ottawa-area resident Isabelle MacNider, who travels to the region often.
For a hearty family dinner, head to one of the 20 micro-breweries in the Townships.
The Microbrasserie Coaticook boasts about their decadent fish and chips. And the area, too. Coaticook “not only has the best ice cream, we brew a pretty mean beer, too.”
Also located in Coaticook is Parc de Gorge, which is open all winter. (Tip for summer visitors to Parc de Gorge: Foresta Lumina is a ‘magical, one of a kind’ experience, adds MacNider. “You feel like you’re in a nighttime fairytale.”)
Further east, the Astrolab at Mont-Mégantic National Park is also open in March (check www.astrolab.qc.ca for rates and dates) is an breathtaking place for the entire family. Astronomy fans will love seeing the stars.
Want to work in your hockey fix? Check out the Sherbooke Phoenix, one of the best junior hockey teams in Canada this season. The Phoenix have several home games scheduled in March as they gear up for, potentially, a long playoff run. The most interesting of those games, perhaps, will be played on Saturday, March 14, as Sidney Crosby’s old team, the Rimouski Oceanic, play at the Palais des Sports Leopold-Crolet in Sherbrooke with NHL 2020 Draft top prospect (and Team Canada star) Alexis Lafreniere in tow.
But first things first. The best way to get there? Driving, of course. Pro Tip: Take the Serge-Marcil Bridge across the St. Lawrence River directly to the Autoroute 30 (A-30) on the South Shore to save time by avoiding traffic congestion in and around Montreal. It’s 100 percent worth the $3.20 toll. Prefer to take the train or bus? Don’t. “The car is your best friend in the Townships,” says Béliveau.
Although the area is predominantly French-speaking, you’ll never have trouble finding bilingual Townshippers. Adds Béliveau, “there are lots of activities, good food and it’s a perfect opportunity to practice your French, if you wish.”
The Eastern Townships is a perfect March Break (or weekend) get-away destination for you and your family. The forecast is for mild days and cool nights. Quand est-ce qu’on arrive?