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Quebec City in itself is pretty much a secret within North America. It's a city with less of a reputation than Montreal and it's a bit further out of the way so fortunately less visited. The fact that it's less visited has kept it with the same French flavor you'd pay to fly to Paris for. Of course, Paris doesn't have a winter carnivale but that's a different story.
So if you're going to do Quebec City, here's my secret 10 tips for free (or near free) fun. These are in no particular order.
1) Outdoor Art. Walk and see the free art. There's murals throughout the old town, statues and art everywhere. This is a city for walking so get out and explore! At night the city lights up throughout the winter and of course you have a well known exhibit in the winter, Aurora Borealis where they illuminate the grain silos.
2) Go Shopping. There are malls surrounding the town so if it's a bad weather day, these mini-cities are great escapes. You can spend some extra money at La Gallerie and take the kids to the indoor amusement park, or you can go to St. Foye where they have a free coupon book for visitors.
3) Drive to Ille D'Orleans and just circle around. There are fruit stands, wine stands and just great sites to see ... and all of that is free unless you buy something.
4) Walk around Joan of Arc Garden. It's in the Plains of Abraham which you'll certainly pass. It takes up half the city, but this particular garden has rotating plants and decorations for each of the seasons. It's well worth a free walk through this botanical garden.
5) Go biking on Le Verte Route. It's a green trail of reconverted railroads to paths which go through the city and neighboring areas. It's a great way to see the city. The last time I did this I was surprised by how often people were fixing and maintaining the paths.
6) Go jogging (or cross county skiing) in Battlefields Park. Again, it's 100% free and it's great to see the locals working out.
7) Visit the National Museum of Fine Arts. The museum has world class art and is completely free for just the main exhibits. It's a little known secret but a great place to stop at.
8) Visit some art galleries on Rue St. Paul. Rue St. Paul is filled with Art Galleries and Antique Shops and is a great, free way to see some artists.
9) Visit some churches. Quebec has some churches that are a few hundred years old. If you've ever seen churches in Europe and wondered where they are in the Americas, this is the place to look. The oldest church in North America is here at Place Royale.
10) Go to a Museum. In the winter, the museums are free on Tuesdays. You can visit the Museum of Civilization, New France, Place Royale and more ....
And for a bonus, you'll have to spend a dollar here but it's a great trick.
11) Have dessert. Go to L'astral for dessert. Every city seems mandated by law to have a rotating restaurant in the sky and this is no exception. The reason I say to go for dessert is sometimes they have this dessert buffet and for basically under $20 you and your loved one can be high above the sky seeing the city at night.