What to do at the Quebec Winter Carnival

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Quebec Carnival with @DownshiftingPRO

What to do at the Quebec Winter Carnival

Would you drive 11 hours to go to a winter carnival?  We did!  Last year, we spent a few days in the beautiful city of Quebec to celebrate the best winter carnival in the world.  Full of music, outdoor activities, night parades and a giant outdoor slide, you must make a trip to Quebec City at least once in your life.  The last time I was here for Carnaval I was in University and it was much, much colder with more of a never-ending party.  It was also very different, the current rendition is all about a great family experience and making it memorable for all. Get ready for this year’s REFRESHING! Carnival as this year’s edition will run February 8 –17, 2019.  There is much to see and no reason to stay home.  Be sure and take in these great events. 

2019 Effigy for the Carnival du QuebecWhether you are sliding down the giant slide on a toboggan, watching the ice canoe races, taking a romantic caleche ride or attending the nightly dance party, there is something for everyone at the Quebec Carnival. 

The Carnival has different venues.  Access to some of the events requires an Effigy pass, while others are free to watch and experience. It is well worth getting a pass so that you can visit the winter castle (a new design and theme every year). 

What to do at the Quebec Winter Carnival

The Royal Court

There are certain traditions that you can expect at the Quebec Carnival: amazing snow and ice sculptures, a castle and of course, the iconic national treasure- Bonhomme. Bonhomme is as important and as ‘real’ as Santa Claus in la belle province. This year’s Royal Court is called Bonhomme’s Dream and within the court, you can watch giant shadow puppets dance, visit the experiential ice towers and witness the enormous, 30-feet high snow sculpture (a Carnival first).  There is also a light and music show that will surely impress.  Watch Bonhomme’s Dream, a 10-minute, a perpetually moving experience which was specially adapted from Lucion Média’s ShadowPlay for the 65th Carnival.

The masterful members of  Marc Lepire ice sculpting team invite you to discover their shared passion at the Loto-Québec Royal Court! Discover the world of ice sculpting and ask any questions you might have during live demonstrations at the Loto-Québec Royal Court ice towers on weekdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Snow and ice sculptures being made at the Carnaval de Quebec

The Night Parades

There are not one but two-night parades (each of 2 Saturday nights during the Carnival). 

Held on the Grand Allee, you can walk around and see the different stations.  This year there will be six different stations where a variety of performers will entertain and D.J. will also be playing some tunes.  The activities start at 6 pm and the parade starts at 7 pm.  If you wear your Effigy (plastic pass of Bonhomme) you get a few bonuses including a cup of hot chocolate!

Canoe Race

On the first Sunday be prepared to watch something you have not likely seen before: a canoe race across the snow, ice and a very cold, river.  Over 60 teams in four different race classes tackle the crossing of the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City to Levis (and back again).  These canoes can be manned by men, women or a combination of both.  There is also pre-race activities.  The race starts at 1 pm.

Photo Credit: CDQ2017_©GillesBaribeau_18 - Course Canot Carnaval #18

Jos’ Camp

The first time I threw an ax was at Jos’ Camp.  Not something I thought I would do but it was fun, exhilarating, really.  Back again this year, I highly recommend this activity!  Jos’ Camp has music performances, grab some food, enjoy a happy hour with expert mixologists, cut some wood, and visit the log driver camp. There are plenty of things to do every night at Jos’.

Jos' Camp Carnival de Quebec

Sapporo EDM Evening

If I’ve learned one thing in my last few visits to Quebec City is that this city is passionate about music.  Live concerts (like the 11-day Festival d’état in the summer) and its love for EDM (electronic dance music).  This year’s Carnaval will not disappoint with the Sapporo EDM Evening.  Featuring six women DJs from all over the world, the show starts at 6 pm on Friday, February 15, 2019.  This event will take place on rue Jacques-Parizeau, between de la Chevrotiere and rue d’Artigny.  Entry is free for and limited to Quebec Carnival Effigy owners.  That event alone has my name all over it!

Christie Frost Garden, DuPropio Ice Village and the SAQ Bistro

Prove your dexterity on the reimagined mini-golf course of the Christie Frost Garden, where traditional golf balls are replaced with small soccer balls!  Three levels of difficulty are available for players, who can also get their picture taken or relax by the fire in a delightfully colourful atmosphere.

With a history of building ice palaces and sculptures, try your hand at building structures using ice blocks! Create your own masterpieces and display them proudly.

Carnaval de Quebec 2018 @DownshiftingPRO (12)

Last year after walking around we took a break here to warm up, have snacks and sip some hot chocolate.  The SAQ Bistro also features comfort food:  French onion soup, vegetarian chili, European hot dog, smoked meat and the famous Quebec poutine! You can also have a light libation in the SAQ Bistro or walk over to the Ice Bar for a shot of Caribou (Caribou is a sweet Québécois alcoholic beverage composed of red wine, hard liquor, and maple syrup or sugar) served in a glass made of ice.  We loved this! 

Toboggan Slide on Dufferin Terrace

Iconic images of Quebec City in the winter are the toboggan slides on Dufferin Terrace by the Château Frontenac. Although it was very cold the day we went, we could not miss out on this Québécois tradition.  Grab your toboggan at the base and trek up to the top.  Your ride will be quick as can be but so much fun.  We stopped by the cafe at the base and warmed up with a lovely tea.  If you are looking for a cup of java, there is a Starbucks at the Chateau Frontenac.  It is small and very crowded but will let you get access to one of the oldest (and luxurious) hotels in Canada.  The Frontenac celebrated its 125 anniversary in 2018!Carnaval de Quebec 2018 @DownshiftingPRO (16)  Carnaval de Quebec 2018 @DownshiftingPRO (15)

I would love to return to the Quebec Winter Carnaval again.  There is much to see and do.  There is no reason to keep indoors during winter because we are Canadians after all, there is no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing – a lovely French Canadian told me that once.  Dress warmly (leave your jeans and fashion boots at home), put on your snow pants, ski jacket, your toque and a beautiful arrow sash and tie it tight around your waist.  Take your family or go with friends, this winter tradition is in its 65th year and there is no sign of stopping.  If you cannot go this year, here are the dates for the next three:

Feb. 7 – Feb. 16, 2020
Feb. 5 – Feb. 14, 2021
Feb. 4 – Feb. 13, 2022

Trips outside of Quebec City

Although you came for the Carnaval don’t forget to make a few side trips.  Drive up to Montmorency Falls and see them in the winter.  The snow, ice and frozen mist will be enchanting.  Go dog-sledding.  With some of the best skiing in Quebec nearby, drive over to Mont. Ste. Anne or Le massif de Charlevoix.  You can make a quick stop at the Shrine of Ste. Anne de Beaupre. A spectacular Catholic basilica.

You can go skiing at two local ski resorts: Mont Ste. Anne and Stoneham Ski Resort. Both provide ample ski experiences for both beginners to black diamond expert hills.

If you want to experience a full winter wonderland, you may want to visit the beautiful Hôtel de Glace (ice hotel) in St. Gabriel de Valcartier (check out my full video review).  It is a series of hotel suites, bars and lounges built entirely of snow and ice. It is a sight to see (and experience).

Village Vacances Valcartier hotel de glace ice hotel @Downshifting PRO 2018 1

A little too cold to stay at the ice hotel?  No problem, you can stay at the beautifully appointed suites in the Village Valcartier Resort.  They have a series of snow tube runs that are THE BOMB!  If you are more of a beach type, not a problem, they have a huge indoor waterpark, Parc Bora, that you will LOVE!

Insider’s Tip: Although there are many hotels in the downtown core, if you are a family I would strongly suggest you drive to Valcartier and stay at the Village Valcartier (also the home of the Hotel de Glace The Ice Hotel). It is a full-service family resort with a wave pool to warm up your cold body after a day out in the snow. They also have fantastic snow tubing, snowshoeing and other delightful winter activities. The rooms are spacious and the location is close to Stoneham Mountain for some downhill skiing. It is a gem! Have a look at my video it gives you a full tour of the rooms!

Village Valcartier Hotel de Glace in Quebec

There is no question you will need a few days to take in all that this region has to offer. I was here three times in less than a year! 

All about the Carnaval du Quebec - Quebec Winter Carnival @DownshiftingPRO
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Disclosure: As part of a media event hosted by Quebec Tourism, I won a prize package which included two passes to the Carnaval de Quebec, a city pass and accommodations in Valcartier.  I purchased my meals, souvenirs and drove to Quebec City.  No other remuneration was received.

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Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for DownshiftingPRO.com and other online media outlets.

1 thought on “What to do at the Quebec Winter Carnival”

  1. I am not one to leave Canada while traveling so this trip to Quebec really appeals to me. As a family we are just trying to decide what month to go but the Carnaval looks like way to much fun to miss.

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