Your Essential Guide to the Quebec Winter Carnival!
If you are going to live in a place that is covered in snow and ice for most of the year, choose a place where they throw a great party! This is your ultimate guide to Quebec Winter Carnival – the world’s largest winter festival!
The Quebec Winter Carnival (Carnaval de Quebec) takes advantage of the long, freezing Canadian winters and hosts one of the most incredible events in the world. Taking place over 10 days, more than a million people attend this winter carnival every year!
As the world’s best winter party, it gives the people of Quebec a reason to stop hibernating each year, get outside and have some fun. The Quebec Winter Carnival has activities for all ages. Ice sculptures, giant snowmen, dog sledding, ice tubes, ice slides, sleigh rides, snow baths and a whole host of other fun Canadian activities are just a few of the things Quebec Winter Carnival is famous for.
When is the Quebec Winter Carnival?
What is the 2023 date for Quebec Winter Carnival? In 2023, the Quebec Winter Carnival will be celebrated between the 3rd and the 12th of February. The Quebec Carnival is always celebrated at the beginning of February!
What is the Quebec Winter Carnival?
Carnaval de Quebec also known as the Quebec Winter Carnival is the largest winter carnival in the entire world. Essentially, it is Mardi Gras, but in a winter wonderland setting. This two-week celebration takes place during the middle of February. It is also Canada’s oldest winter festival and dates back to New France.
Why do they celebrate the Quebec Winter Carnival? Carnaval de Quebec was thrown for the same reason it still is today, to provide the locals with some relief from the harsh winter.
Where is the Quebec Winter Carnival?
The Quebec Winter Carnival takes place in Quebec City, a French speaking region located in the eastern part of Canada. During Winter Carnival, the entire city is decked out in fairy lights and ice sculptures.
The main events of the Quebec Winter Carnival take place at the fairgrounds which are located on the historic Plains of Abraham, just yards from Old Quebec. However, there are events throughout the entire city of Quebec, from balls to brunches that allow all the communities to get involved.
What is the History of the Quebec Winter Carnival?
The Quebec Winter Carnival began as a pre-Lenten carnival when early European immigrants in New France (now called Quebec), held their famous parties before the start of Lent. The celebrations were about having a good time and involved a lot of food, drink, partying and fun. The Quebec Winter Carnival officially began in 1894. Residents decided to embrace the harsh winters and create fun celebrations to warm their winter hearts.
What to do at the Quebec Winter Carnival?
There is so much you can do at the Quebec Winter Carnival! Even those who hate cold weather will find something fun to do during the carnival. There is a huge variety of events, for all ages, and you can pretty much enjoy all of them when you purchase a ticket to carnival.
From ice-skating, to sledding, to eating maple syrup treats and crazy events like canoeing through frozen ice chunks, this is the place where Canadian stereotypes come to life! Everything at this celebration is about embracing the winter.
There is an astounding number of events and activities that you can take part in during the Quebec Winter Carnival including:
• Carnival Parades
• International Snow Sculpture Competition
• Visiting Bonhomme’s Ice Palace
• The Ice Canoe Race on the St. Lawrence River
• Snow Baths
• Toboggan runs
• Ice Skating
• Dog Sledding
• Sleigh Rides
• Annual Sleigh Races
• Carnival Rides
• Toboggan Ice Slide
• Canadian food stalls
• Live Entertainment
• Human Foosball
• Snow Baths
• Ice Fishing
• Axe Throwing
• Giant Football
• Winter Wrestling
• Ride a Mechanical Moose
Quebec Winter Carnival has pretty much every single winter activity that can be done. When you combine all this with the chic restaurants, phenomenal nightlight and the historic charm of Quebec City, you can see why this is the best winter carnival in the world!
Some of the locals call the Quebec Winter Carnival the Bonhomme Carnaval in honor of this official carnival mascot. Bonhomme is a two-meter-tall snowman, made out of 400 pounds of compacted snow. This snowman can be recognized by this red hat, black buttons and arrowed sash. Every year he officially reigns over the carnival.
For the locals, Bonhomme is more than a mascot, he is as real as you and me. For many, the highlight of carnival is being lucky enough to run into and get a photo with Bonhomme, who is actually rather elusive. In the eyes of many young Quebecers, Bonhomme is even more adored than Santa Claus!
Bonhomme represents the “Québécois’ joie de vivre”, which can roughly be translated as the ” Quebecers joy of life”. He first appeared back in 1954 when the organizers were hoping to restore some wealth to the region and has appeared every year since. His name is shortened from the French word for snowman ‘bonhomme de neige’. It has even become a major tradition of carnival for the Mayor of Quebec to hand Bonhomme the key to the city, so he can reign over the carnival.
TOP TIP: The must-have accessory for the Quebec Winter Carnival is the belt that Bonhomme wears, which can be purchased at many stores in Quebec City. That will make Bonhomme very proud
FUN FACT: Bonhomme’s greatest dream is to reverse global warming and his favorite food is ice-cream.
Bonhomme’s Ice Palace
Bonhomme is a snowman with expensive tastes. Bonhomme lives a life of luxury and every year he receives a newly built 30-foot-high Ice Palace that has been custom designed just for him. It is essential that you visit Bonhomme’s Ice Palace. Absolutely everything from the floors, to the walls and even the furniture is carved in ice. Bonhomme’s Ice Palace sits opposite the Quebec Parliament Building, not too far away from the fairgrounds
You must also witness the Ice Palace at night time, when it is all lit up with colorful LED lights. The Palace also transforms into a dance club with epic DJs. Those who want to party can dance the night away, while enjoying drinks served at nearby cabanas. Not to disappoint you but Bonhomme is a bad party host and he rarely shows up to his own house parties, but keep your eyes open because you never know.
Quebec Winter Carnival Daytime Activities
There are endless activities that you can do at the Quebec Ice Carnival. But here are some of the best activities at the Quebec Winter Carnival:
- Ice Slides: This is one of the most popular and fun events at the Winter Carnival. Four people can get on a slide and slide down the hill to Château Frontenac. No steering is necessary as the sled follows a track downhill.
Human foosball: You can also try human foosball where your hands are tied to a stick while you and your teammates try to score goals using only your feet. The game is played with 18 people, nine on each team and three players per position (defense, midfield, attack) tied to the same stick, everyone must work together to coordinate. The game is very enjoyable.
- Dog Sledding and Sleigh Rides: Why not wrap yourself in some cozy blankets and hop on a dog sled or horse drawn carriage around the Plains of Abraham? It is a magical and romantic experience!
- Tubing: There is a decent, yet gentle, tube ride that can be found across from the Camp à Jos in the Christie North Slope.
Ice skating: What would a winter carnival be without ice skating? Coming to Quebec during the winter and not wearing ice skates would be a tragedy. There is a good outdoor ice rink in D’ Youville. It is a beautiful place to skate, surrounded by historical buildings. Another popular place is the historic Plains of Abraham which can accommodate up to 350 skaters.
- Become a human bowling ball: You can do crazy fun things at this carnival, like see what it’s like to be a bowling ball. You literally get into a giant inflatable bowling ball, run downhill while trying to stay on your feet, and knock over as many giant inflatable bowling pins as possible.
- Snow Bath: If you want to try something truly crazy then put on your swimsuit and jump into a freezing cold snow bath. This is not for the faint of heart. It is only for the brave and perhaps the craziest, those who have the guts to head into sub-zero temperatures. You have to be extremely daring to try it yourself and if you decide it’s not for you, then it is a lot of fun to watch. Will you try it?
- Axe Throwing: If you want to feel like an old-time Quebec logger you can try this out. If you are not up for it then you can watch some live axe throwing from the professionals.
- Ice Fishing: This might not sound as exciting as the other activities, but it is a big hit with the young ones. Cut a big hole in the ice and wait to catch trout. This activity takes a lot of patience and luck!
- Goon’s League Hockey: 4 on 4 teams dress in oversize gear which makes them look rather comical. Hilarity ensues and they struggle to play Hockey with their oversize outfits. This activity takes place at Camp a Jos and is worth a watch!
- Toboggan Rides: The Toboggan Slide au 1884 is for those wanting to experience a thrill. You also enjoy amazing views while you do it because it is located close to Chateau Frontenac. If you are a speed junkie then this is for you as the sleds can reach speeds of up to 70km per hour.
- Live Entertainment: There is plenty of amazing live entertainment at carnival from music to dances. Most of the entertainment is fun and can be enjoyed by all ages. Check out the carnival schedule closer to carnival to see what is on!
Quebec Winter Carnival Night Time Activities
- Parades: There are two nighttime parades which are the absolute highlight of carnival. The Charlesbourg Night Parade occurs first during the beginning of carnival. The Upper Town Night Parade occurs more towards the end. Ensure that you plan your trip to catch at least one of these events. Enjoy amazing costumes and performances.
- Open-air dance party at the Bonhomme Ice Palace: At night time Bonhomme’s Ice Palace transforms into a nightclub. This open-air party is fit with DJs, bars and a snow-covered dance floor, so you can party the night away.
- Masked Balls: To honor the old carnival traditions, there are even carnival masquerade balls held throughout Quebec City honoring the Winter Carnival. The most elegant masked ball takes place at the Chateau Frontenac each year and is the place to be seen.
- Quebec Nightlife: When carnival comes to Quebec, the whole city celebrates. Lots of the nightlife will host unofficial carnival events that you can attend.
- Sleep in the Ice Hotel: For the adventures, you can stay overnight in the Ice Hotel known as Hotel de Glace, which is made completely of ice. It is not cheap, costing around $300 – 500 CAD per person. You can book the Hôtel de Glace (Ice Hotel) on Booking.com. If you can’t stay the night, you can also take a guided tour. You can purchase a Hotel de Glace Entry Ticket here.
Quebec Winter Carnival – Competitions & Snow Sculptures
Quebec Winter Carnival has a contest for just about every interest. The most popular contest is the Ice Canoe Race, Dog Sled Races and the Ice Sculpting Competition, which all bring in competitors from around the world.
- Ice Canoe Race: This is possibly the most Canadian Competition ever. The annual Ice Canoe Race is held on the St. Lawrence River and features multiple boats, each with five rowers. The crews have the intense challenge of rowing across a half-frozen lake, filled with chunks of ice. This is not an easy challenge as some of those ice chunks weigh several tons. It is actually an incredibly dangerous sport as the crew must push, pull and wrestle ice as they make their way to the finish line. Sometimes the paddlers must literally get out of the canoe and put their feet in the cold water if necessary and the race demands it. This competition is the most prestigious ice canoe race in the world. International teams will actually come to Quebec Winter Carnival to compete in it, so do not overlook this event! You can even experience the thrill of ice canoeing yourself on the frozen St. Lawrence River which can be purchased here.
- The International Snow Sculpture Contest: This is another impressive competition. Every year, artists from all around the world come to Quebec to compete in the hopes of achieving snow carving superiority. The competition sees sculptors from around the world transform giant piles of snow into large works of art. You can even watch the artists turn the snow into masterpieces using chainsaws, shovels and all sorts of tools. The public is even allowed to vote for who they believe should be crowned the ice sculpture champion.
- Dogsled Race: The dogsled race is another serious competition that brings teams from around the world to compete. The teams sled their way through the streets of Old Quebec. It is a little different to most dog sled races as they actually time each team, instead of them all competing together. The team that receives the fastest finishing time for the 4-mile course will be the winner. This is a hugely popular event during carnival.
There are so many races and competitions taking place during carnival. Not all of them are official events and may take place in other parts of Quebec City, in honor of the Quebec Winter Carnival.
Some of the competitions that can be enjoyed at Quebec Winter Festival include:
- Sleigh Races
- Winter wrestling
- Snowmobile Races
- Snowboarding Competitions
- Free-style skiing
- Lumberjack Competition
- Contest to find the strongest Canadian Viking
- Ice Skating
- Ice Hockey
Children Activities at Quebec Winter Carnival
There is so much for the kids to enjoy at Quebec Winter Carnival. The Quebec Winter Carnival is a family friendly event and the kids will be entertained for hours. The Québec Carnival fairgrounds are reminiscent of a winter amusement park.
Here are some of the top things for kids to do at Quebec Winter Carnival:
- Theme Park Rides: There are lots of fun rides at the Winter Festival, like the 27-meter Super Shot that shoots you into the air. Or for a less intensive trip, you can hop on the giant Ferris wheel, which offers incredible views over the entire Quebec Winter Carnival Fairground.
- Tiny Ice Slide: For the smaller kids they even have their own tiny ice slide they can test out in the Petit Champlain area!
- Large Playground
- Petting Zoo
- Climbing Wall
- Giant Puppets
- Puzzle Games
- Floor Hockey
Where to Stay During the Québec Winter Carnival?
The Québec Winter Carnival is located outside the walls that surround the historic center. This means that any accommodation in the Vieux-Quebec is a great option because you can easily walk from the hotel to the carnival fairground.
Our top recommended option is the Hilton Québec, because this hotel sits right across the street from the carnival. Its super central location means that you can walk to all the activities and festival sites. It also offers spectacular views over the carnival and Bonhomme’s Ice Palace. The Ice Palace looks particularly beautiful at night and is best seen from the comfort of your warm hotel room.
Book the Hilton Quebec on Booking.com
Or you could stay at the famous Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. This century old hotel is straight out of a fairytale and resembles an oversize chateau with its tall central tower. It is a Quebec landmark and one of the world’s most beautiful and photographed hotels. It also happens to be extremely close to the carnival activities. You can even take a tour of the Fairmont Hotel, if you are unable to stay here.
Book the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac on Booking.com
Québec City with its European charm is also home to many boutique and charming boutique hotels like the Auberge Saint-Antoine. This is a chic French-Canadian boutique hotel that is steeped in history from the city’s early days.
Book the Auberge Saint-Antoine on Booking.com
Another charming option is the Hôtel Le Germain Québec. This century-old building in Quebec City’s Old Port retains all the cham of days gone past. The Hotel has preserved all its original stone and woodwork, but with a modern twist. You will be seduced by its luxurious and warm atmosphere. It is also close to the carnival celebrations.
Book the Hôtel Le Germain Québec on Booking.com
For a truly unique winter carnival experience, you can stay at the Ice Hotel known as Hotel de Glace. This place is literally a hotel made of ice. It is so impressive we have to write a whole section on it. Even if you’re not interested in staying overnight, it is worth a visit. You can purchase a Hotel de Glace Entry Ticket here.
Check out some great deals for accommodation in Quebec on booking.com
The Ice Hotel – L’Hôtel de Glace
Hotel de Glace also known as the Ice Hotel is an absolute must at the Quebec Winter Carnival! Trust us, you are going to want to add this experience to your bucket list, it is truly an architectural wonder to behold. This is the only ice hotel in North America. It is only open from January to March and the entire hotel is made of just ice and snow.
Every year the Ice Hotel is painstakingly built from scratch and every year it transforms into something new and unique. Staying here will offer you a one-of-a-kind winter experience. This place will easily charm you with its magical Nordic winter atmosphere. The Ice Hotel has around 45 themed rooms and its ceiling measures 21 feet. It is made out of 35,000 tons of snow and 500 tons of ice.
Even if you can’t afford to stay here, or if sleeping on a bed of ice doesn’t appeal to you, then you can still tour the hotel. You can explore the ice chapel, the rooms, suites and the beautiful Grand Hall. There is also a grand ice slide that you can test out. You can also enjoy a drink at the Ice Bar, which serves drinks in cocktail glasses made of ice. They also have non-alcoholic drinks for the kids, served in ice glasses.
Staying in this masterpiece will create a truly unforgettable experience. What will you do? Will you spend a night or just go for a visit?
You can purchase a Hotel de Glace Entry Ticket here.
What to Eat at the Winter Carnival
One of the best things to do at the Quebec Winter Carnival is to immerse yourself in trying all the delicious carnival food and drinks. There are delicious food stands all over the carnival. There are a couple of chalets on the festival grounds where you can take a break from the cold and stop in to enjoy a variety of different food and drinks being sold. Or just sit by a toasty fire and enjoy a warm drink.
Here are some of the most delicious and uniquely Canadian treats and traditional foods that you can try at the Quebec Winter Carnival:
- Beaver Tails: Have you heard of Beaver Tails? They are not what the name suggests. They’re basically just a flat donut in the shape of a beavertail and they go great with a nice cup of hot chocolate. They are one of the favorite treats at carnival! Traditionally they are garnished with cinnamon and sugar, but many places have become more creative and top them with chocolate, caramel, Oreo crumbs or cream.
- Maple Taffy: This is a tasty treat made from boiled maple syrup, which is then poured over snow. When the maple touches the snow, the sap instantly transforms into a soft candy that you can eat on a popsicle stick. You have to try this, there is literally nothing more Canadian than maple syrup and snow.
- Caribou: This is a drink that will knock your socks off! Anyone that lives in Quebec will tell you this is just about the best drink ever created. Caribou is similar to mulled wine and mostly contains red wine, brandy, cinnamon sticks, and of course maple syrup. It is served everywhere at carnival, hot and cold. Caribou is mostly drunk to protect you from the winter cold, by warming you from the inside out.
- Poutine: This is a quintessential Canadian dish. It is fries covered with gravy and cheese. What else can I say besides that it i’s delicious.
- Tourtiere: This is a French-Canadian meat pie that is only served in the winter months. French Canadian families usually have this during Christmas. The filling can be beef, wild game, veal, pork or a combination of them all.
- Hot Chocolate: While this is not uniquely Canadian, you are able to roast your own marshmallows at the winter festival to enjoy with your hot chocolate.
- A Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich: What’s so good about a Montreal smoked meat special? Well, the kosher meat is cured with a special combination of spices.
- S’more: This is a delicious campfire treat where you place marshmallows and chocolate between two crackers and roast them over a campfire.
Let’s talk about the weather!
There is an appropriate saying that goes along the lines of “there is no such thing as bas weather, just bad clothing”. The locals know that you have to dress warm to live in this part of the world. But if you are not from here then be warned that you must dress in appropriate clothing for your own safety!
You are going to need several layers of clothing to keep warm! Start with a breathable base layer that isn’t cotton. Snow pants are an excellent option to wear. Definitely wear some warm waterproof winter boots that have good grip and let you walk in the snow. Then you can add a parka, snow jacket, gloves, hats, scarf, ear muffs etc. It doesn’t hurt to bring some hand and toe warmers.
- Remember to wear Bonhomme’s arrow sash known as the “ceinture fléchée”, which is the ultimate carnival accessory. The sash can be purchased in many shops around Quebec City for about $20. They are traditionally tied around the waist with a knot on the left side. This arrow sash is a long-standing tradition in Quebec, so wear it with pride.
- You can also accessorize with the carnival cane. You will see loads of locals walking with the cane. No, the locals don’t have a limp, they just like getting into the festivities. The cane is actually hollow and can be filled with Caribou. What’s more fun than drinking liquor from a walking cane?
How much does it cost to attend the Québec Winter Carnival?
How much is admission to the Quebec Winter Carnival? Most of the activities at the Quebec Winter Carnival are included in the cost of admission. To enter the Carnival Grounds, you will have to purchase and wear a Bonhomme effigy, which is your ticket. This wearable pendant is not just a cute souvenir but it will also give you access to the main festival site for the entire duration of carnival. The effigy will cost you around $20CAD.
Or you can purchase a carnival passport for around $50CAD. This will often come with a maple taffy and glass of Caribou, in addition to your Effigy. It will also have lots of other coupons which can save you a lot of money.
The effigy/passport can be purchased in-person or online from the official website. There are loads of official ticket booths at the entry to carnival. There are even friendly volunteers selling them around the carnival site.
TIP: Remember to display your effigy somewhere visible because this is your ticket to all the carnival attractions and how security determines if you are allowed to enter.
Top Things to Do at Quebec Winter Carnival
What to do at the Carnaval de Québec? With so many activities and events going on it can be overwhelming deciding what to do. We give you 20 of the best things you can do at Quebec Carnival.
Here is our list of the best things to do at the Quebec Winter Carnival.
1. Meet Bonhomme
Many Quebecois consider meeting Bonhomme the highlight of carnival! Bonhomme is magic and he spreads his magic wherever he goes. Unfortunately, he is quite elusive so it can be difficult to find him out in the wild, but keep a look out for him. Getting a selfie with him is considered the ultimate Quebec Winter Carnival souvenir.
He will often show up for some meet and greets at his Ice Palace and you can consult the festival schedule to see where he will be found throughout the celebration. He usually makes an appearance at the big events like the parades. If you don’t feel like stalking Bonhomme, you can actually find some awesome Bonhomme statues around the city that you can have a photo op with. Two good ones are located at the Chateau Frontenac, one out the front and one inside the hotel lobby.
2. Watch the Quebec Winter Carnival Parades
The Quebec Winter Carnival hosts two-night parades and they are one of the highlights of carnival! We highly recommend planning your trip so that you catch one of these parades. The parades are extremely popular and big crowds attend them. It might feel as if the entire city has come out to watch them but all the people create an electric atmosphere.
The Charlesbourg Night Parade occurs on the first day of carnival right after the opening ceremony. The Upper Town Night Parade occurs more towards the end. Ensure that you plan your trip to catch at least one of these events.
Even if you are not a fan of parades, we recommend attending because they will surpass your expectations. You will be impressed with the colorful carnival floats, lights and costumes. Singers, dancers, musicians, acrobats, fire jugglers, live ice sculptors, trampolinists, stunt dancers and so much more will impress you, even Bonhomme makes an appearance!
3. Watch the Ice Canoe Races
This is literally one of the most iconic and popular events at Quebec Winter Carnival. This must-see event will probably be one of the most Canadian things you can experience. This tradition has been held every year since the first carnival. It takes place on the first Sunday of Carnival. Crews of strong men battle their way down the frozen waters of the St. Lawrence River, which is filled with frozen ice chunks. Dress warm and come watch the rowers from a number of vantage points. It is recommended to be at river level for the best views and atmosphere. The teams compete in one of four categories – Elite Men’s, Elite Women’s, Competitive and Sport.
You can even experience the thrill of ice canoeing yourself on the frozen St. Lawrence River. You can book Ice Canoeing here.
4. Try the Official Carnival Drink – Caribou
You must try the classic carnival drink called Caribou! We promise this drink will knock your socks off! It will also keep you warm from cold weather, warming you from the inside out. Caribou is made from hard liquor, red wine and some sweets and spices to give it more taste. It is served either hot or cold and the locals swear by it. It is similar to the mulled wine that you would try at a Christmas market.
There are red plastic canes that are sold at carnival with Bonhomme’s head on them. These canes are hollow and people fill them with Caribou to enjoy around carnival, it helps them keep you warm, and buzzed. While drinking in public is illegal, everyone turns a blind eye to it at this time of year.
5. Admire the Ice Sculptures
One of the Quebec Winter Carnival’s partner events is the Ice Sculpture Walk, known as the Parcours de Sculptures de Glace, which takes place in one of Québec City’s most iconic neighborhoods. Around 30 ice sculptures are scattered around the town for you to walk around and admire them.
If you are wanting to watch how these ice sculptures are made, you can watch the professional ice sculptors work their magic in daily demos in the Zone Loto-Québec from the Marc Lepire sculpting team. You can also watch the official competition for free in Parc de l’Amérique-Française, it attracts sculptors from all around the world!
If you are interested, you can even join an ice sculpture workshop. This activity costs extra, but it is worth spending money on because you will have a professional instructor teaching you how they make these sculptures from scratch. These workshops are actually extremely popular and sell out quickly.
6. Visit Bonhomme Ice Castle
A trip to Bonhomme’s Ice Palace is essential! Built new every year, the palace has a different design each year. It sits right across from the parliament building and has a plethora of activities from games to an ice bar. The castle is beautiful both day and night, but at night is impressively lit up with LED lights making it incredibly enchanting. It is also the perfect place to get a selfie with Bonhomme.
While you are at the castle you must slide down Bonhomme’s Ice Slide, made entirely of ice! There is always a long line for this activity but hey how often do you get to go down a slide made of ice?
7. Stay overnight at the Ice Hotel (Hôtel de Glace)
We have spoken about this a few times already. But that is because it is fabulous and what is going to be more memorable than sleeping on a bed of ice? This is something you will talk about for years to come. This fairytale hotel is made entirely out of snow and ice. It has 44 themed rooms, a majestic lobby, and all the furniture, statues, columns, ceilings, walls and even chandeliers are made from ice. You can even enjoy a drink made from a glass made from ice. You can hang by the fire in your room to stay cozy or jump in the hot tubs. At least visit this hotel if you don’t want to stay overnight. You can purchase a Hotel de Glace Entry Ticket here.
8. Go on a Winter Sleigh Ride
Step back in time and enjoy an old-fashioned carriage ride. Is there anything more magical or romantic than going on an old-fashioned horse drawn sleigh, in a winter wonderland destination. Cozy up under a blanket and enjoy the views as you pass through the gates of the Old City,
9. Party the night away at a Winter Snow Rave
Dancing is a great way to stop feeling cold! There are a few open-air parties that take place at carnival. They are all free to attend for all Quebec Winter Carnival Effigy holders. Jos’ Camp is a great party zone that has a dance floor and plenty of places serving Caribou.
The one place you have to party at is Bonhomme’s Ice Palace. Bonhomme hosts a great party with DJs, a dance floor made from snow and plenty of drink and food vendors. The elusive Bonhomme may even make an appearance at his own party.
10. Enjoy a freezing cold snow bath
If you are over 18, you can put on your swimmers and jump in an icy cold snow bath. Only the bravest or the most insane will attempt this. Even if you are not up to the challenge yourself, we recommend checking out the annual St-Hubert Snow Baths where just watching the half-naked people attempt them is pretty entertaining in itself.
11. Go Tubing
There is a tube ride found across from the Camp à Jos in the Christie North Slope. It is a 300 ft descent and is pretty gentle so it’s suited to kids and people who lack the daredevil gene. You could also visit the tube park located at Village Vacances Valcartier which is massive and has runs for everyone. Everything from nice and gentle slopes to ones that will raise your hairs.
12. Go Ice Skating
Ice Skating is one of the most beloved traditions at the Quebec Winter Carnival. Thousands of locals and tourists will enjoy ice skating during carnival. It is one of the most fun and magical activities to do on a romantic winter day. You will find a beautiful ice rink in the historic Plains of Abraham and another at Place D’Youville in the heart of the Old City.
13. Eat, Drink & Be Merry!
Carnival traditionally was originally about eating and drinking your heart out before the onset of Lent, a period of 40 days of fasting in the lead up to Lent. The carnival food you will find at this Winter Festivity is all about enjoying delicious comfort foods like poutine. You will have an abundance of food choices at carnival. Of course, we recommend trying Beaver Tails, Maple Taffy and washing it down with the carnival drink Caribou.
14. Enjoy a Caribou or Drink at an Ice Bar!
There are several Ice Bars at the carnival that are literally made out of ice, serving drinks in glasses made from ice. We highly recommend you visit an Ice Bar, because it is the quintessential winter carnival experience. There are usually about two ice bars set up at the main site and a smaller one in Bonhomme’s Palace.
Besides the carnival drink Caribou, you can also warm up with a carnival cocktail named “Ponce Du Carnaval” which comes in a keepsake souvenir mug and provides some needed relief from the cold. It is made from Chic Choc Spiced Rum and Bonhomme’s special red syrup. Or try a ‘Bonhomme Cosmo’ which is also made from Bonhomme’s special syrup and a shot of vodka.
15. Enjoy a Toboggan Ride!
The Toboggan Slide au 1884 is a lot of fun and recommended for those that enjoy more thrill-seeking activities. Hold on tight because the toboggan can reach speeds of up to 70 km/hr. This century old slide is located close to the iconic Chateau Frontenac so on your way down you will have beautiful views over the chateau and St. Lawrence River.
This classic 3 track toboggan slide is not included with your carnival effigy, but it only costs $3 per person. You can purchase a ticket at the nearby kiosk, which will also provide you with a toboggan.
16. Go Dog Sledding
This is another classic winter activity that you can partake in at carnival. We highly recommend this dog sledding adventure. Feel the cool breeze on your face as you are pulled through snow with sled dogs. And don’t worry about the ethics of this ride, the sled dogs love running and being outside in the snow. The dog-sled companies in Quebec have very high standards and take great care of the dogs.
17. Chanel your Inner Lumberjack and Throw an Axe
If you are looking for a fun and exhilarating activity then this is it! It is also a great way to get out some stress and test out how agile you are. The staff will give you a tutorial first so that you can learn to throw safely. Then you have five tries to hit a bullseye.
18. Play Human Foosball
This is highly recommended! Human foosball resembles a real-life foosball table. 12 participants are strapped into a harness with a metal pole that stretches between them. Players can only move side to side instead of up and down, mimicking a real foosball table. Here you have the extra challenge of playing on snow. It is fun to play and funny to watch. Watch out though, it can get competitive!
19. Play Mini Golf with a Hockey Twist!
This is another activity that is uniquely Canadian! You can play a mini golf style course, but with a hockey stick, balls and nets. These tiny courses may look easy, but they are way more difficult than they seem. It is also extremely competitive!
20. Watch the Dog Sled Race
When winter kicks off, dog sledding starts in every corner of the region. The Quebec Carnival Dog Sled Race is one of the most popular events at the festival. It is a serious competition with competitors flying in from all over the world and a lot of fun to watch!
Book your Hotel and Flight for the Quebec Winter Carnival
Quebec Winter Carnival Tips
Here are some of our top tips for Quebec Winter Carnival to make it easier for you to decide what to bring. A few pointers can also help you plan your visit to the Quebec Winter Carnival so that you have the most enjoyable time!
- You will need to wear your Effigy, where it can be seen by security, to gain access to all the carnival events.
- Dress warm! You need to wear lots of layers and good shoes. Everything needs to be water resistant!
- Arrive early for all the must-do attractions. Some activities are more popular than others at carnival like the tube sliding, tobogganing and the Bonhomme Palace Ice Slide.
- Have a look at the program closer to carnival and get an idea of what events you want to see and what time they are on.
- Pack wet wipes or hand sanitizer. Between the maple syrup treats and the porta potties, you are going to want to properly clean your hands.
- The porta potties aren’t great, so take advantage when you are in restaurants and cafes. Maybe you are lucky enough to stay in a nearby hotel room.
- If you want to get a great spot at the parade, then go closer to the start of the parade route where it is less crowded. You will also have to go early to get a prime spot.
- Take hand and foot warmers with you! They work so well and can keep your hands and feet warm for hours.
- We recommend strapping ice spikes to your shoes or boots. It can be extremely steep and icy around these parts, so these can be a godsend!
- Don’t try to tackle the entire carnival in one day. Your effigy will give you access to every day of carnival, so you can spread the activities out over a few days.
What to Do and See in Quebec
Quebec is an amazing city that sits on Cape Diamond with views over the St. Lawrence River. It is famous for Vieux-Québec, which is the old city. In fact, this charming city is even considered to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its historic buildings and European charm. It is the only walled city in North America with French explorers creating a fort over 400 years ago. Its city walls, historic fortifications, French charm and stone buildings draw tourists from all around the world!
If you’re planning a trip to Quebec City for carnival and want to check out more of the city you will be delighted to find amazing shops, museums and bars offering you a break from the carnival and the weather!
Here are some of our top suggestions of what to do in Quebec City:
- Admire The Majestic City Walls– As soon as you enter Old Quebec you will notice the spectacular and historic walls. You can explore the 4.6km wall and fortress.
- Explore Vieux-Québec – Wander through the charming European styled streets admiring the beautiful architecture. A great place to explore is Rue du Petit-Champlain. This area is filled with chic, boutique shops selling local and regional goods. We recommend going on tour like this Old Quebec City Grand Walking Tour
- Check out the Ice Hotel – I know we mentioned this before, but this hotel is as magical as it sounds. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience and it won’t disappoint!
You can purchase a Hotel de Glace Entry Ticket here.
- Take an Icy Ferry Ride on the St. Lawrence River – Feel like you are on the Titanic as you cross this river, cutting through sheets of ice. It is a unique experience and you can enjoy the beautiful views of Quebec from the river.
- Visit Marché Du Vieux-Port – This is the local market and thanks to its French influence, it is absolutely amazing, a gastronomic sensation!
Québec Winter Carnival Map & Carnival Sites
Quebec City is a pedestrian’s paradise and you can easily stroll around between the carnival site, slides, skating rinks and Upper and Lower town.
1. Zone Loto-Québec located at Place de l’Assemblée-Nationale
This massive area is situated straight across from the Parliament building and it is where Bonhomme’s Ice Palace and ice slide is located. There are a few ice bars here and food options.
2. Camp à Jos Videotron (AKA Jo’s Camp) located in Place George V
Jo’s Camp is where most of the popular carnival activities and entertainment take place. There is also an epic ice bar here and the cozy Chalet Unibroue. Many of the carnival shows and performances take place here.
3. Versant Nord Christie (AKA Christie North Slope) located in Parc de la Francophonie
This area is directly across from Jo’s Camp. Christie’s North Slope is where all the tube slide attractions are, even the one for the little kids. There are also loads of chill out areas and food trucks.
How to Get to Quebec Winter Carnival?
You can fly into the Montréal–Trudeau International Airport (YUL) or the Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ). From there, there are plenty of taxis or public transport options to take you into downtown Quebec.
How to Get Around at the Quebec Winter Carnival?
One of the most amazing things about Quebec is how walkable it is. The Quebec City Winter Carnival is close enough that you can easily walk there. You can also take a taxi or Uber, or catch a bus. Cars are inconvenient and not needed if you are staying in the heart of the city, everything is best explored on foot. The Ice Hotel is a 20-minute drive from Quebec City, so you can take a Uber/taxi there or catch Bus 384 or 584.