Ours to Discover: Laval, Sample the best of Quebec on one island

Laval is a like a smaller version of the entire province and is packed full of rural charm and city life

By Dean Lisk Wheels.ca

Jan 23, 2023 7 min. read

Article was updated 8 months ago

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In this four-week series, we take readers on a road trip through Quebec, learning why La Belle province is ours to discover this winter. In this installment, we spend three days exploring Laval.

If you want to experience all Quebec has to offer but have a limited amount of time, then head to Laval. The third largest city in the province, Laval occupies Île Jésus and the smaller Îles Laval, all situated north of Montreal. The community is a mix of vibrant urban attractions, natural areas and laid-back rural experiences, offering a taste of everything the province has to offer in one central location.


In the morning: Arriving in Laval, make your first stop Les Minettes, a small boutique in the old Sainte-Rose neighbourhood that sells only Quebecois products – many produced in the city. Its selection includes everything from cheeses and jams to ciders and soaps. Minettes also produces its own line of food delicacies, like its Mirabelle plum jam, citrus marmalade, onion confit and fig, olive and fennel crackers.


After filling your basket with a selection of local products, head to the Sheraton Laval Hotel and check in for your stay. Located next to Carrefour Laval, a large mall, the hotel and convention centre recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renewal. Its open-concept main floor is now home to a restaurant, bar, meeting spaces and seating areas that can be adapted for different uses.

Around noon: The hotel’s lobby area is also the site of Comptoir Gourmand La Spesa, which offers a selection of fresh take-out meals, coffee and snacks – including several gluten-free options and a selection of Les Minettes products. Grab a quick lunch option to keep you energized for an afternoon of exploring.

In the afternoon: Spend time visiting some of the Laval’s producers, such as Serres Sylvain Cleroux, one of the largest greenhouses in the province with more than 1,000,000 square feet of space. In the days leading up to Christmas, the facility and showroom are full of poinsettias destined for sale across the province – but there is always a wide selection of tropical plants, cactuses and flowers to be admired and smelled at any time of the year.

Next, make the short drive to Château Taillefer Lafon, a winery producing whites, roses, reds, sparkling and fortified wines. Enjoy a tasting of its Chardonnay or Riesling before sipping one of the fortified options, which has the scent of molasses. The winery has a château designation as every step in the winemaking process, from the grape growing to the bottling, takes place on site.

In the evening: Enjoy a meal of seasonal fare at Le Mitoyen, a local dinning institution where residents of Laval have gathered to celebrate important events and enjoy culinary creations by Chef Richard Bastien. Settle in for one of his multicourse meals featuring dishes like a rack of Kamouraska lamb served with jus – Bastien is well-known for his house-made sauces – or veal tenderloin with celeriac risotto and Charlevoix sausage with a sherry sauce.


In the morning: After breakfast at your hotel, get ready for a day experiencing Laval’s active side. Start by making the short drive over to AeroSim Experience to learn how to fly an airplane, fighter jet or helicopter.

Begin your flying adventure by opting to dress in an airline pilot uniform or a military-like flight suit before getting a short briefing from one of AeroSim’s instructors. You will then be taken to the Boeing 737 simulator, which looks and feels like the inside of an actual cockpit. Once strapped into the pilot seat your will lean how to take off, manoeuvre and land the airplane at a virtual version of a real-world airport.


Then, strap into the pilot’s seat of a fighter jet to experience what it is like to fly at supersonic speeds while shooting at enemy planes. Or, for a calmer experience, help to pilot a helicopter on a scenic afternoon flight.

Around noon: Stop for lunch at LOV Centropolis, a vegan restaurant where you can indulge in some of the best plant-based cuisine the city has to offer. Try the fried dumplings stuffed with mushroom and vegetables or opt for The Harvest, made with spaghetti squash, brussels sprouts, peanuts, pickled red onion, peanut sauce, roasted cauliflower and cilantro.

In the afternoon: After learning what it’s like to be a pilot, it’s time to learn how to be an astronaut. Laval is home to Cosmodôme, a museum and education centre dedicated to outer space. Begin your visit by touring the permanent exhibits, which include replicas or rockets, an actual spacesuit from an Apollo NASA mission, pieces of meteorites and an actual rock that was brough back from the moon.


Once you are briefed on the history of space exploration, you can participate in a mission. Start with one of the training experiences that replicate specific conditions astronauts experience, like disorientation, weightlessness or special distortion. Then, you can go on a space adventure, from heading to the outer limits of the cosmos to journeying to Mars.

In the evening: End your busy day by relaxing at the Sheraton and dining at its restaurant, La Piazza. Order the grilled salmon or tuna poke bowl, the lamb chops or the pan seared black cod with sauteed rapini, potato puree and Quebec tomato salsa.

After, take a seat at La Cupola, the adjoining bar, and order one of its house cocktails, like the Sheraton Manhattan made with bourbon, sweet vermouth, amaro and bitters, or the Spritz de Montréal with Rosemont Sureau and Orange Électrique – two locally distilled liquors – Prosecco and soda.


In the morning: Start your day at the Musée de la santé Armand-Frappier to learn more about the human body. The mission of the museum, which is about to reopen in a new space next to the Cosmodôme, is to explain the sciences related to human health.

The newest exhibits – they open at the end of January – include “4, 3, 2, 1… Cheers!” that explores molecules, cells, people and different populations, and the timely “Pandemics: Challenging Humanity.” Both exhibits include lab activities where museum visitors can learn more using actual scientific instruments.


The museum is named after Armand Frappier, a Quebecois physician, microbiologist and expert on tuberculosis who died in 1991.

Around noon: Stop for lunch at Pizzeria Sofia, a restaurant next to the Grand Times Hotel Laval – Centropolis. Order one if its wood-fired pizzas to enjoy on your own or share, such as the house-named Sofia topped with nduja (a paste made using pork and peppers), Italian sausage, French shallots, oregano and Parmigiano Reggiano.

In the afternoon: Pass your afternoon staying active at one – or more – of Laval’s parks and nature areas. Located on the north side of the island, Le Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles offers opportunities for skating, sledding and snowshoeing. Aventure Mille-Îles, a local outfitter, can even organize an ice fishing experience on the river.

Other options include Bois de l'Équerre, an urban forest with 10 kilometres of trails, and Bois Sainte-Dorothée, which is home to six kilometers of winter trails perfect for hiking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

In the evening: End your three days in Laval by experiencing the city’s most colourful attraction, Illumi. Now in its fourth year, the experience features more than 20 different themed areas illuminated by 25 million lights.

You can either enjoy the experience on foot or by car, heading from one themed zone – among them are airplanes, dinosaurs, horses and pirates – to another. Along the way there are warming stations along with food trucks, and even a sugar shack serving maple syrup treats.

For the drive

Spend your time exploring Laval listening to High Klassified (Kevin Vincent). He started his career creating music in the basement of his mother’s house in Laval, has worked with The Weeknd and Future on the song “Comin Out Strong,” and produces his own material.

Next week

We conclude our road trip by visiting the Montreal area.

The Toronto Star has partnered with Bonjour Quebec to bring you this road trip series. The writer travelled as a guest of Bonjour Quebec, which did not review or approve this article.




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