A true winter wonderland, Quebec City’s winter carnival dates back to 1894 and is the largest winter carnival in the world today. Not to mention, it’s third on the list of top carnivals after the famous carnivals in Rio and New Orleans.
If you’re one that can embrace winter, chilly temperatures and can hang with Bonhomme (more on that later), this is the place for you.
Quebec City offers a little taste of Europe thanks to its strong French feel. And it’s not just because they speak French. We don’t know any French beyond “bonjour” and some other dirty words that our in-laws from northern Maine taught us, but we found our way around just fine. Designated a World Heritage treasure by UNESCO, Old Québec is the only walled city north of Mexico. As the cradle of French civilization in North America, it’s a living history lesson with a remarkable mix of architecture, heritage, art, and culture.
The historic winter carnival runs for 2 weeks, starting at the end of January and runs through the beginning of February.
The most famous attractions of the winter festival are the night-time and daytime parades led by mascot Bonhomme Carnaval. The parades wind through the upper city, decorated for the occasion with lights and ice sculptures.
Other major events include:
- The opening and closing ceremonies taking place at the Ice Palace before thousands of participants, Bonhomme and the mayor of Quebec.
- A masquerade ball with up to 400 participants at the grand ballroom of the Château Frontenac.
- Outdoor sport events (snowboarding, ice canoe, snowshoes, hockey, dog-sledding, etc., some of them part of World Championship tournaments) inside and outside the city.
Here are some other unique activities in Quebec City you don’t want to miss:
GET A TASTE OF MAPLE TAFFY AFTER IT’S POURED ON CLEAN, WHITE SNOW
You have to try the maple taffy that you can find throughout the city. Maple taffy is a sugar candy made by boiling maple sap past the point where it would form maple syrup, but not so long that it becomes maple butter or maple sugar. It is part of traditional culture in Quebec, Eastern Ontario, New Brunswick and northern New England. It is SO yummy!
TAKE A TOBOGGAN RIDE WITH CHATEAU FRONTENAC IN THE BACKGROUND
The traditional toboggan run is one of the very oldest attractions in town. Zooming down at speeds of up to 43 mph is quite a rush! The three icy runs are open from mid-December to mid-March, or even longer if weather permits. Up to four passengers per toboggan. So hang on to your hat and away you go!
HEAD 10 MINUTES OUT OF TOWN TO FIND THE HôTEL de GLACE
The only ice hotel in North America is open from January – March, weather depending. Made entirely of snow and ice, this architectural marvel is a wonder to behold. Explore the beautiful Great Hall, Chapel, ice slide, exhibitions and Ice Bar. You can spend the night in one of the themed suites (and get to use the outdoor spa and sauna) or try a delicious cocktail served in a glass made of ice. The Hôtel de Glace is perfect for a wintry romantic retreat or a get-together for family or friends.
Exploring Quebec City’s winter carnival is perfect for couples and families alike. There are so many family friendly activities to take part in. There’s just something magical seeing ice sculptures and castles, people lining the street bundled up while sipping hot chocolate and fun toboggan/winter roller coasters overlooking the St. Lawrence River. Don’t miss out!