Bundle up and Head for the Winter Carnivals in Québec!
Quebecers embrace their winters with a “joie de vivre” and there’s no better evidence of this than the spectacular winter carnivals that take place each year in Québec City and Montréal. Québec City hosts the world’s largest winter carnival from the end of January to mid-February, Carnaval de Québec, and Montréal en Lumière takes place from the end of February to mid-March. Each event offers a very different experience and each city has its own decidedly French or international flair. Bundle up and be a kid again and visit one or both of these cities in 2017 to experience a winter wonderland like no other.
Watch this brief video taken at the 2016 Carnaval de Québec, and Montréal en Lumière:
Carnaval de Québec – Québec City
Québec City offers an old world vibe in their celebration of winter, with the first-known large outdoor carnival dating back to 1894. Originally created as a way for Quebecers to stay warm and get together during the long harsh winters, the carnival of today is a spectacular event with canoe races on the frozen St. Lawrence River, magical evening parades, ice palaces, and the world famous temporary mayor of the city, Bonhomme. A beloved figure that’s been associated with the carnival since 1955, Bonhomme is the snowman come to life that Quebecers fondly remember from their childhood.
Taking place across the city from January 27 to February 12, 2017, there are over 200 activities for all ages, including snow sculpture competitions, sleigh rides, live music, and sporting events. Bonhomme’s Ice Castle is one of the highlights and is located across from Place de l’Assemblée-Nationale, Quebec’s Parliament Building, and just outside the entrance to the main festival site. An Effigy (or passport) with Bonhomme’s image is the magical ticket to visit the main site and attend many of the activities and entertainment that takes place over the 17 days of the festival. The Effigy comes in the form of a small button that you wear on your jacket or outerwear, showing your carnival spirit. Another way to join in the festivities of carnival is to don a classic ceinture fléchée (arrowed sash) that is a symbol of 19th century French-Canadian clothing and is worn by Bonhomme and carnival guests during the festival.
Wander the busy snow covered streets of Old Town and listen to live bands and watch performers in traditional costumes and furs as they entertain with log cutting exhibits and lively French-Canadian songs. Then wander up to the top of the hill or take the funicular to the Terrasse Dufferin boardwalk next to the iconic Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. Here you will find one of the oldest attractions in the city, the Toboggan Slide Au 1884. Be a kid again as you zoom down the slide at 70 km/h while overlooking the icy St. Lawrence River. Don’t miss your chance to try a tire d’érabler, or Maple Syrup Taffy, a Québécois-style treat. Made by boiling the syrup and cooling it on snow, the taffy is rolled on a stick and eaten while still pleasantly sticky and slightly warm.
For a side trip, head just a few miles outside the city to the only Hôtel de Glace (Ice Hotel) in North America. Wander through the icy hallways to see the impressive snow vaults and crystalline ice sculptures, followed by a cocktail in their bar, served in carved ice glasses, of course. For the more adventurous, book one of their 44 rooms or theme suites for an evening and learn how to stay warm through the night while sleeping on a bed made of ice in a Nordic sleeping bag.
Also nearby is Villages Vacanes Valcartier. Known as “America’s Largest Winter Playground,” there are activities for all ages and thrill thresholds at this incredible collection of ice skating paths, snow tubing and rafting hills and slides, and a children’s playground. You can stay at their hotel, dine at several restaurants, or purchase warm gear in their shops, if you need more layers to play outdoors. In the summer months, this same area becomes a huge indoor and outdoor water park.
One of things you’ll notice at The Carnaval festivities is that Quebercers make quite a fashion statement with their hats. If you have to bundle up, you might as well make it fun!
And after a long day of playing in the snow, head indoors by the fire to enjoy a traditional Québécois beverage, Caribou. A fortified alcoholic drink made of red wine, hard liquor (usually whisky), and maple syrup, it’s their secret weapon for taking off the winter chill.
Click on “Continue Reading” to learn about Montréal en Lumière