With a majestic castle, river and cobblestone streets, Quebec City, Canada is a magical destination any time of the year. But for six weeks in January and February, the city is in full party mode with theme parks, parades, and quirky competitions. For 62 years now, the Quebec Winter Carnival has been the biggest winter festival in the world offering over 200 activities for all age groups. This year’s carnival takes place from January 27th to February 12th.
Here are 10 experiences you don’t want to miss at the Quebec Winter Carnival …
Take a Snow Bath
Would you volunteer to shed your clothes down to your bathing suits in 0° F weather? Festival attendees can participate in the snow bath party and dance on stage in front of cheering crowds for about half an hour. Many come prepared with funky costumes and props. Note, you will first need to sign a waiver, exercise for a bit and take a dip in the sauna to get yourself ready.
Walk Through a Life Sized Snow Sculpture Park
The International Snow Sculpture Competition of Québec is the oldest snow sculpture competition where artists carve in the outdoors at bone-chilling temperatures. You can walk through giant sculptures of angels, animals, people, and modern art motifs that are made entirely of snow and ice. Oh, and visits to the snow sculpture park is free.
Canoe on a Frozen River
The annual canoe race is one of the most popular events at the carnival, where teams from different countries walk, paddle and drag their canoes across the frozen waters of the Saint-Lawrence River between Quebec City and Lévis. Other fun activities include snowboarding, ice skating, ice sliding, ice hockey, and snoga (yoga in the snow).
Eat Hot Maple Candy
Head over to the Sugar Shack to taste local maple products, including its famous maple taffy. You can even make your own by twirling a popsicle stick around hot maple syrup poured on cold snow.
Dance in an Ice Disco
The best way to stay warm in the Canadian winter is to dance the chill off in a club made entirely of ice, while listening to local DJs and contemporary musicians and grooving under the glow of a light-up Videotron Music Box. There is plenty of craft beer and cocktails available, including the Carnival’s official beer, the Fléchée. You will find the place packed on Friday and Saturday nights.
Caribou is not only an animal, it is actually Quebec’s local drink, similar to mulled wine. It is generally a mixture of red wine, maple syrup, and liquor such as brandy, whiskey or vodka, and is available hot or cold.
Watch the Night Parade
Huddle with 165,000 visitors from around the world in Quebec City on a cold, dark night to watch the colorful carnival parade. Floats with giant plants, miniature cars, snow princesses, and funny clowns are just a few of the magical creatures that light up the streets.
Hug a Snowman
Bonhomme is the official mascot of the carnival. At 7 feet tall, he is a living replica of a snowman and recognizable by his red hat and arrow sash. Though he is found walking around throughout the festivities, the best place to meet him is at his hand-carved Ice Palace.
Sleep in an Ice Hotel
Just a few miles from the carnival venue is Hotel de Glace, one of the largest ice hotels in the world. The entire structure houses 44 bedrooms, a chapel, bar, lounge, and slides. It is constructed from ice every winter and melts down by spring. Daytime visitors are welcome to tour the spectacular hotel rooms where everything, including the beds, side tables, sofas, and wall art, is carved from ice. Once you get inside the cozy sleeping bag, you won’t even realize that it is 20° F in the room.
Have you been to Quebec’s Winter Carnival? What was your favorite experience there? Tell us in a comment below!