The beautiful Old City of Québec, built in 1608, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and fascinating place to visit year round. But in the dead of winter the city comes alive as it celebrates the annual Quebec Winter Carnival, the largest such winter festival in the world. About 670,000 people attended the three-week long event last year and the upcoming Carnival, the 59th (February 1-17), will have Quebec City hopping day and night defying, and indeed welcoming, the cold of winter.
More than 300 outdoor shows and activities take place during the Winter Carnival, including snow canoe races, ice car races, outdoor concerts, day and night parades, dog agility competitions and an outdoor “Snow Bath.” There are also amazing ice sculptures from around the world displaying extraordinary designs. Families can enjoy spirited indoor and outdoor games, riding snow rafts down slopes, ice fishing, ice climbing, horse drawn carriage rides, Scandinavian hot tubbing, dog sledding or even being a part of a giant human Foosball game. “Bonhomme,” the snowman icon, is a "living" symbol of the Winter Carnival can be seen cavorting all over the city. With his bright red bonnet and sash, the slightly weird, chubby Michelin-man-like character is both odd and very funny.
Of course, this French Canadian city is known for its outstanding dining, and superb restaurants are everywhere. Don't miss the romantic “Restaurant Le Saint-Amour” for a very special experience. Or try the lovely “Panache Restaurant,” the cool “Toast,” and “Le Café de la Terrasse” in the historic Fairmont Chateau Frontenac. This city is also a great place to stroll and explore artisan shops.
Another well known Winter Carnival attraction is the Ice Hotel or Hotel de Glace. The 36-room Ice Hotel is (of course) below freezing, and all walls, floors, and furniture are made out of huge blocks of ice. It’s an icy blast to see. Heavy duty arctic sleeping bags are provided to all overnight guests—but it’s still freaking cold—yet sells out every night!
Charming year round, the dead of winter may be the time when Quebec City is at its most eloquent. Many people might think it's crazy to stand in the cold at night to view a parade, but it can be wonderful. "We've learned to embrace the cold, not fear it," said Nicole Bergeron, a native Québécois, watching the colorful floats and bands pass by. Despite February’s chill, Quebec City emanates from the people who breathe color and life into the cold, dark Canadian night.
If you go
Many airlines fly to Quebec City including Air Canada. www.aircanada.com
Where to stay
Quebec City is tourism friendly with a huge assortment of places to stay.
Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, www.fairmont.com/Frontenac
Hotel Pur, www.hotelpur.com
Auberge Saint Antoine, www.saint-antoine.com
Ice Hotel, www.hoteldeglace-canada.com
Where to Dine
Restaurant Le Saint-Amour
Quebec City Winter Carnival