Baby it’s cold outside, but that’s no reason to stay in. Quebec City comes alive in the winter, with festivals and attractions that will make you forget all about the weather. Whether it’s watching people fly down a track on skates or going to bed in a structure of ice, the city’s hottest winter events will leave you all warm and fuzzy.
The Quebec Winter Carnival
Ice carving, dogsled races and maple syrup are all key elements of the world’s largest winter celebration: the Quebec Winter Carnival.
The carnival comprises 17 days of non-stop festivities. Feel the excitement as canoes race across the ice-choked St. Lawrence River and back. Watch artists from 30 international teams compete in creating giant, fantastical sculptures from a remarkable 360 tons of ice. Stare in wonder as a dogsled race winds through the narrow, snowy streets of the Old City.
Or, if you’d rather, just keep it casual on a carriage ride through cobblestone streets. Listen to fiddle music to keep warm outside a towering palace made of ice. Smell the sugary aroma of warm maple syrup and stop in for a sample. Skate in the shadow of the ramparts of the only walled city north of Mexico. Then stroll streets lit by Victorian lamps before dining in a cozy gourmet restaurant on local Quebec cuisine.
The Quebec Winter Carnival is big enough that there’s always some new experience to try. So put on your toque and come get a furry bear hug from mascot Bonhomme Carnaval.
Jamboree is a huge snowboard and skiing festival that takes place right in downtown Quebec City. You can literally walk a few blocks from your hotel and come across massive snow jumps that have been built alongside of the highway.
The highlight of Jamboree is the Big Air World Cup, during which some of the world’s best riders try and perform groundbreaking tricks high above the crowd. Even if snowboarding isn’t your thing, you can join in on the partying. This past year, Jamboree hosted Igloofest, a one night outdoor dance party during which spectators don crazy winter outfits and dance the night away outdoors.
Ice Hotel (Hôtel de Glace)
Sleeping on ice takes on a new, much more positive meaning at the fairytale-esque Hôtel de Glace. Located just steps from downtown Quebec City, this is the only ice hotel in North America, and has provided guests with the story of a lifetime for the last 15 years. An astounding 15,000 tons of snow and 500,000 tons of ice are used to make the hotel and its 44 theme rooms and suites.
Step inside what feels like a glacier and marvel at a majestic lobby where statues, columns, even chandeliers are made of ice. Slip on a glove to pick up an ice champagne flute sparkling with ice cider. Spend an hour in the outdoor spas and sauna, and then head to your room where the walls are ice, the ceiling is ice, and, yes, the bed is also ice. Thankfully, you can cozy up in front of your room’s fireplace, and not worry too much about the cold.
Even if you’re going to have to layer up to stay warm, there really is no other experience quite like a night in the Ice Hotel. Between January and March, drop by for a visit or spend a night in this work of art.
It really doesn’t feel like the holidays until those colored lights start shining. Festi Lumière takes care of that in extreme fashion.
This light festival, hosted by the Quebec Aquarium, uses more than 500,000 lights to create a magical display among trees and sculpture. You’ll walk along an outdoor path through “the Enchanted Forest,” gazing at so many reds, greens, blues and yellows that you’ll forget that it’s nighttime. The Festi Lumière also has an outdoor bar, fire pits to keep you warm, and music to get you dancing. A great, casual event to enjoy a winter night in Quebec City.
Red Bull Crashed Ice
Have you ever wanted to strap skates to your feet and fly down a challenging downhill ice course at 30 mph? Me neither, but it sure is fun to watch.
Red Bull Crashed Ice is a pretty extreme event hosted right outside the Quebec City Parliament Building. Competitors battle with each other and with the course, which includes big drops, hairpin turns, gaps and jumps. Just watching the participants fly down the course is enough to get your adrenaline pumping.
Note: This event rotates between Canadian cities. Be sure to check the Red Bull website to see what city it's in this year.
Quebec City’s German Christmas Market
A little taste of Germany right at city hall? That’s what on the menu at the annual Quebec City German Christmas Market.
A small village of wooden kiosks appears outside of city hall, the entire area covered in Christmas decorations and lights. As you walk through the market you’ll smell bratwurst cooking, you’ll taste mulled wine and gingerbread, you’ll head choral singing as you browse a variety of Christmas-themed gifts and souvenirs. Stop for a drink at the Lufthansa WinterBar and don’t forget to say hello to the man in the big red suit. The entire event is “exquisitely European.”
Learn more about these and other exciting events on the Quebec City Tourism Website.