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Guide to the Québec City Winter Carnival

There's nothing like a trip to Quebec City to experience one of the world's largest winter carnivals. The annual Quebec City Winter Carnival celebrates the best things about the Canadian winter. Nearly 400,000 visitors attend each year, enjoying a variety of events. There are activities for all ages, such as night parades, snow sculpture contests, and ice skating. This family-friendly winter celebration occurs in the provincial capital of Quebec City. Visitors can also spend time exploring historic Old Quebec, which feels like it could be in Europe.

Bonhomme, a snowman mascot, on stage during an evening at the Quebec Winter Carnival

The experts at Canadian Train Vacations have helped put together this guide to the Quebec City Winter Carnival. If you want to attend, they can help plan your trip.

Here's everything you need to know about attending the Quebec City Winter Carnival 2024, along with some Quebec Winter Carnival facts.

What is the Quebec Winter Carnival?

Carnaval de Quebec is also known as the Quebec Winter Carnival. It is one of the world's largest winter carnivals. It's like Mardi Gras but set in the winter wonderland of Quebec, Canada. This two-week celebration occurs in the middle of February every year.

It is the oldest winter festival in Canada. The Carnaval de Québec has been held in some form since 1894. Since 1955, it has been an officially recognized annual tradition. You may wonder, what is the purpose of the Québec Winter Carnival? Well, the carnival celebrates the joys of the winter season with games and competitions.

When is the Quebec Winter Carnival?

The Winter Carnival in Quebec City is usually held in January or February. In 2024, the carnival will run from January 25th to February 11th. 

Where is the Quebec Winter Carnival?

The Quebec Winter Carnival is held in Quebec City. It's the capital of Quebec, a French-speaking province in Canada's eastern region. Most festival activities take place at the fairgrounds in Old Quebec on the Plains of Abraham. This public park has many exciting attractions to offer. You can enjoy ice workshops, a crazy-bikini snow bathing event, snowshoeing, ice skating, and more.

During the carnival, the entire city is decorated with ice sculptures and fairy lights.There are also smaller carnival events throughout the city that allow all neighbourhoods to be part of the festivities. 
 

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What is the History of the Quebec Winter Carnival?

The Quebec Winter Carnival started as a pre-Lenten carnival in New France (now known as Quebec). The Quebec Winter Carnival first ran in 1894 and has always been a festival of all things French-Canadian. Residents chose to embrace the season by organizing fun winter celebrations. The Carnival's program has grown throughout the decades to include thrilling winter sports and activities. This fest also includes traditions honoring the city's French-Canadian roots.

Cold winter temperatures do not deter the 400,000 visitors who flock to this iconic event each February, making it one of the world's largest winter festivals. 

Quebec Winter Carnival mascot

Bonhomme Carnaval is the approved mascot and ambassador of the celebrations. He was presented to the public during the first modern version of the Carnival in 1955. Bonhomme is considered the Canadian cousin of Frosty the Snowman and the formal representative of the Quebec Winter Carnival. You can see Bonhomme throughout the carnival festivities. He proudly wears his favorite red tuque (cap) and traditional Québécois arrow sash. His personality is meant to embody "la Joie de vie," a motto that is dear to Quebecers.

Every year, on the first night of the festival, the mayor of Quebec City hands over the keys to the city to Bonhomme. For the Québécois, Bonhomme is more than a mascot. He is the depiction of the province's proud and joyful spirit. You can pay him a visit at his Ice Palace or see him in one of the parades. He speaks French and English, and even though his name means "good man," he can be a bit mischievous.

What to do at the Quebec Winter Carnival?

There is so much to do at the Quebec Winter Carnival. There are various events for all age groups. You can try all the Canadian stereotypical activities such as ice skating and sledding. If you're feeling adventurous, you can head to crazy events like canoeing through ice chunks!

Everything about this celebration revolves around the various things to do in Quebec City in the winter. During the Quebec Winter Carnival, you can take part in a vast number of events and activities.

Here's a list of things to do at the Quebec Winter Carnival.

Quebec Winter Carnival Daytime Activities

Here are some of the most popular daytime activities at the Quebec City Winter Carnival that you can try:

  • Ice Slides
  • Human Foosball
  • Dog Sledding
  • Sleigh Rides
  • Tubing
  • Ice Skating
  • Axe Throwing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Goon's League Hockey
  • Toboggan Rides
  • Live Entertainment and more.

You must also check out the carnival plan as the event approaches to stay updated on what's going on!

Small ferris wheel and fairground in the snow during the day at the Quebec Winter Carnival

Quebec Winter Carnival Night Time Activities

Many activities take place during the night as well, so you can plan according to your preference:

  • The two nighttime parades that are the absolute highlight of the carnival are the Charlesbourg Night Parade and the Upper Town Night Parade. You can participate in them to enjoy the spectacular costumes and performances.
  • You can also join the open-air dance party at the Bonhomme Ice Palace. It transforms into a nightclub at night.
  • There are many carnival masquerade balls honoring the Winter Carnival held throughout Quebec City to honor the old carnival traditions.
Crowd of people watching the night parade in the Quebec Winter Carnival

#1 Travel tip: Make time for a food tour

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Enjoy local delicacies, meet with food artisans and find out what makes Québec City a top foodie destination on a guided tour.

Blog Author - Athena McKenzie
Athena McKenzie
Content Manager

Children's Activities at Quebec Winter Carnival

The Quebec Winter Carnival has many activities for children that will keep them entertained for hours. Here are some of the top things at the Quebec Winter Carnival for kids to try:

  • Theme Park Rides
  • Tiny Ice Slide
  • Large Playground
  • Petting Zoo
  • Wall Climbing
  • Giant Puppets
  • Entertaining Shows
  • Puzzle Games
  • Floor Hockey

The fairgrounds of the Quebec Carnival are similar to a winter amusement park and shouldn't be missed.

Small children sliding down an ice slide in a toboggan at the Quebec Winter Carnival ice palace

Quebec Winter Carnival – Competitions 

The Québec Winter Carnival has competitions for almost every interest and attracts contestants from all over the world. The Ice Sculpting Competition, Dog Sled Races, and Ice Canoe Race are some of the most famous competitions at the carnival.

  • Ice Canoe Race- The St. Lawrence River hosts the annual Ice Canoe Race. The race features many boats, each with five rowers. The crews face the laborious task of paddling across a half-frozen lake. It is a risky sport in which the team must push, pull, and wrestle ice to reach the finish line. This competition is the world's most prestigious ice canoe race, attracting international teams.
  • The International Snow Sculpture Contest- Every year, artists from all over the world travel to Québec to compete for snow-carving dominance. Sculptors transform huge piles of snow into large works of art. You can watch the artists transform the snow into art using chainsaws, shovels, and other tools. You even get a chance to vote on who you think should be crowned ice sculpture champion.
  • Dogsled Race- Another serious competition that attracts teams from all over the world is the dog sled race. The sled teams slide through the streets of Old Québec. It differs from most dog sled races, as each team is timed individually rather than competing as a group. The team with the fastest 4-mile course finishing time will be declared the winner.

Apart from these, there are many races and competitions that you can see at the carnival. Not all of them are official events. Some may take place elsewhere in Québec City in celebration of the Québec Winter Carnival.

Events such as winter wrestling, snowmobile races, snowboarding competitions, and Canadian Viking competition are all noteworthy events to attend at the Québec Winter Festival.

Large snow sculpture of Fairmont hotel, bears and person in canoe

Where to Stay During the Quebec Winter Carnival?

For your convenience, we have chosen hotels with good amenities and conveniently located near the festival venues.

These hotels offer many amenities. They are located near restaurants, shopping, attractions, and Québec Winter Carnival venues.

1. Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac

An opulent heritage hotel, this is located in Old Québec, near many popular destinations and Winter Carnival venues. The hotel boasts stylish rooms that offer breathtaking views of the St. Lawrence River. Large windows, a bathrobe, a coffee maker, free toiletries, air conditioning, cable TV, and a hairdryer are standard in all rooms. A fantastic spa offering a variety of services, a hot tub, three onsite restaurants, an indoor pool, a sauna, concierge services, a fitness center, and an onsite Starbucks are among the amenities you can avail of. There is a fee-based public parking garage on-site, as well as a valet service.

    View of Fairmont le Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City and St. Lawrence river on a snowy day

    #2 Travel tip: Tour the Hotel du Glace

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    Even if you aren't staying at the famous ice hotel, you can book a tour of the impressive structure.

    Katherine Foxcroft
    Product Manager, Tours and Vacations

    2. Hotel Boutique Ophelia

    The Hotel Boutique Ophelia is one of the finest hotels in Québec. It is only a 2-minute walk to a handful of the main venues of the carnival and less than a 10-minute walk to the Plains of Abraham, where other events are taking place. Accommodations at the Hotel Boutique Ophelia include air conditioning, free toiletries, a fridge, a safety deposit box, a coffee machine, a flat-screen TV with streaming channels, a minibar, free Wi-Fi, and robes and slippers. This fantastic boutique hotel has an onsite ATM as well as two restaurants serving dinner and cocktails. Cookies in the lobby and small locally-made welcome kits are a nice extra touch to your stay. There is also on-site parking for a fee.

    3. Hotel Palace Royal

    You are just steps away from the fortress walls of Old Québec. The walls are located next to the ice skating rink at Place d'Youville. The air-conditioned rooms at Hotel Palace Royal include a flat-screen TV with cable channels, toiletries, a coffee machine, free Wi-Fi, and much more. Some units include a dining table, a separate bedroom, and an internal balcony with views of the pool. An indoor swimming pool with a hot tub, sauna, fitness center, shared lounge with concierge service, vending machines, an onsite gift shop, a TV area, and an onsite restaurant are among the amenities. For a fee, onsite parking and valet service are also available.

    4. Hilton Québec

    The Hilton Québec is only a 5-minute walk from Old Québec's walled city. Many touristic spots, as well as Winter Carnival venues, are within walking distance of the hotel. Hilton Québec rooms are well-appointed and include a flat-screen TV with cable channels, free toiletries, a refrigerator, a coffee maker, and a hairdryer. Many of the Hilton's rooms have views of the Laurentian Mountains and the St. Lawrence River. A rooftop heated outdoor pool with a fitness center, currency exchange, a bar, a concierge desk, a sauna, and one onsite restaurant are among the amenities. For a fee, onsite public car parks and valet services are available.

      Hilton Quebec, tall buildings and green trees against a blue sky in Quebec City

      5. Auberge Place d'Armes

      The Auberge Place d'Armes is situated on the corner of Québec's only two pedestrian streets. It's close to several popular attractions. The Auberge Place d'Armes provides air-conditioned guest rooms. It's equipped with a refrigerator, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a coffee maker, Wi-Fi, a hairdryer, and free toiletries. The Place d'Armes rooms also have luxurious goosedown comforters for guests to enjoy. The amenities also include a concierge service, a tour desk, and an onsite restaurant. There is free public parking available nearby.

      6. Hotel Clarendon

      The Hotel Clarendon, built in 1870, is a historic hotel in the heart of Old Québec. You can take advantage of the area's wonderful restaurants, boutiques, and shops. This Hotel provides air-conditioned rooms with a TV, a coffee maker, free Wi-Fi, and more. Every room has a comfortable seating area. A concierge service, baggage storage, and an onsite restaurant are among the amenities.

      View of steps in front of Hotel Clarendon in Old Quebec

      Frequently Asked Questions

      What are the 5 activities worth partaking in at the Québec Winter Carnival?

      The 5 activities out of the many at the Québec Winter Carnival are- 1. Meeting Bonhomme 2. Visiting the Ice Palace 3. Enjoying a glass of Caribou, a sweet Carnival cocktail 4. Watching the ice canoe races 5. Checking out the Night Parades

      What happens at the winter carnival in Québec?

      Key events at the carnival include ice canoeing, snowshoeing, and other winter activities that have long been a part of Québec culture. There is also night parades, snow-sculpture competitions and music shows.

      Where in Québec City is the winter carnival?

      The fairgrounds on the historic Plains of Abraham serve as the main venue for the Québec Carnival. The fairgrounds are a short walk from Old Québec's streets.

      How much does it cost to go to the Québec Winter Carnival?

      To enter the festival grounds, you must usually buy an effigy. It usually costs around $15–25 depending on when you buy it. It is a cute little necessary trinket that you carry as proof that you paid the admission fee. You can also buy a carnival passport for about $50. Besides your effigy, this will usually come with maple taffy and a glass of Caribou. It will also contain a plethora of other coupons that can save you a significant amount of money.

      What do you wear to a Québec Winter Carnival?

      Dress in layers, beginning with a thin, wicking layer. Then progress to fleece and a waterproof shell. Wear a hat, scarf, mitts, warm socks, and insulated and waterproof boots as well.

      About the author: Athena McKenzie is the Content Manager at Fresh Tracks Canada. An experienced lifestyle journalist, she has written about travel, design, arts and entertainment. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Zoomer Magazine, Elle Canada and... Read more

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