Quebec Winter Carnival – Frosty Fun For All
Hosted by the lively winter spirit Bonhomme,
the Quebec Winter Carnival is a once in a lifetime, family-friendly experience. This traditional snow festival, taking place February 7-16, 2020, dates back to 1894, and is thought to be the inspiration of 19th century Canadians looking for a way to celebrate (and not just survive) the long winter. Situated in the old city in the heart of Quebec, guests can walk the carnival grounds in search of Bonhomme, who is just as popular with locals as Santa Claus, and take in the welcoming nature and beautiful sights of Quebec’s capital city, all while celebrating winter’s delights. Featuring an ice palace, winter sports and games, carnival rides, and a plethora of traditional Quebecois winter foods, there is fun for everyone.
What To Do
With so much fun to choose from, you won’t have any trouble filling your time! Start your day at Bonhomme’s Winterland, which features a wide range of family-friendly activities, including a giant ice slide, carnival rides (check out that ferris wheel!), games like giant foosball, and a professional snow sculpture competition. Then, head over to the ice palace, where you can meet and selfie with the (snow)man himself! At night, you can return to the ice palace for a dance party to keep the fun going while you wait for the night parades to start. The hour-long parades feature music, dancers, and illuminated floats, and are a Carnival must-see.
What To Eat
At the Quebec Winter Carnival, what you eat is just as important as what you do! While you walk, be sure to nosh on a stick of maple taffy. A staple at this snow festival, a taffy maker will drizzle cooked maple syrup over snow; the snow will then begin to harden into a gooey, delicious candy, which is then rolled up onto a stick for you to enjoy! When the cold bites, adults can enjoy a mug of warm Caribou, a traditional mixed drink of brandy, red wine, spices, and a dash of – of course! – maple syrup. For the little ones, a hot chocolate will warm up those chilly fingers.
What To Wear
Quebec in winter is very cold, so pack those warm layers! You’ll be certain to want a hat and gloves, and in addition, many Carnival-goers don a traditional 19th century arrow sash. Its unique arrowhead weaving design is credited to indigenous Canadians and thought to be a combination of Native American and French-Canadian weaving techniques; the Winter Carnival has kept this piece of local history alive, and they can be purchased at many shops across the city and at the Carnival for a bit of extra festive flair.
Prices, Travel, and Accommodation
Visitors age 12 and up need an official Carnival Effigy to access most events. Effigies can be purchased online or at participating Couche-Tard shops ($10 through 1/19, $20 from 1/20 onwards) or on site at the Carnival. For $45, a Full Carnival Pass includes the Effigy and a Carnival tuque (knit hat), maple taffy, a glass of Caribou (or nonalcoholic equivalent), and either a coffee or a hot chocolate. Once purchased, the Effigy can be used across multiple days for the entire duration of the festival.
Getting to Quebec is easy, with international flights landing daily from most major cities. From the airport, a taxi to the city center is around $60, or budget-savvy travelers can take a bus for only $3. Once in old Quebec, it’s easy to get around by taxi, uber, or on foot. While the Quebecois are very proud of their French language (further enshrined by many laws requiring its use) almost everyone a tourist will encounter speaks English as well.
Hotel options are abundant across all budgets. Within in the Old City, luxury travelers may enjoy the classic, posh Auberge Saint Antoine ($350/night) while budget minded visitors may prefer Hotel Le Priori ($175/night). First time visitors with a taste for the historic should consider the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac: a historic grand railroad hotel and main feature of Quebec’s skyline, no trip is complete without a visit and tour, and at around $175 a night, guests can immerse themselves in this 1893 masterpiece without breaking the bank. Regardless of where you stay, it’s best to book now – the Winter Carnival is one of Quebec’s most popular attractions, and hotels fill up quickly.
Whether you’re a solo traveler or a family of ten, Quebec’s Winter Carnival has something for everyone to enjoy!