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Celebrate Winter: The Quebec Winter Carnival

View of Fairmont Chateau Frontenac. Photo: Claude Huot

By Lori Sweet

Instead of wanting to hibernate when you hear the word winter, why not embrace it? One of the many enjoyable events in Canada to do so, is the Quebec Winter Carnival.

The winter carnival takes place each year in historic Quebec City.The first large winter event took place in 1894. It continued until it was interrupted by two wars and an economic crisis. The Quebec Winter Carnival as it is now, officially started in 1954.   This year’s event will be the 64th Edition and you can be guaranteed that they know how to do it right!

Why You Should Go

This year, the family friendly event runs from January 26-Feb 11, 2018. You could go every day and find something to do but it is best to check out the schedule of eventsonline. The Carnival night parades are spectacular. The Charlesbourg Parade is on Saturday February 3, 2018 at 7:00pm and the Upper Town Parade is Saturday February 10, 2018 at 7:00 pm. The canoe races run on Feb 3, 2018.  

Bonhomme Enjoying the Snow Sculptures

Bonhomme Enjoying the Snow Sculptures

Photo: Carnaval de Quebec

Bonhomme: King of Winter

Don’t be surprised when you see a large snowman sporting a red tuque and arrow sash walking around saying hello and “Merry Carnival”. This is the official King of the festivities. You will receive your own version of Bohomme when you purchase your admission. It is called an Effigy and has been used since 1955. Each year’s Effigy is a bit different from the previous year and has become a collectible. It is meant to be worn as a pendant on your coat, throughout the event.

What to Do


Ice Skating at Place D’Youville                                                                                  

Photo: Yves Tessier, Tessima

The Quebec Winter Carnival offers a diverse program of over 200 activities. Spread out over several locations both inside and outside the fortification surrounding Old Quebec, everything is within walking distance.

Start at Bonhomme’s Ice Palace, a sight to behold when the sun highlights the glistening ice or at night when the light show is sure to dazzle.  Watch artists at work as they perfect their breathtaking snow sculptures. Join in or watch a game of giant foosball. Take a turn at axe throwing or move your body to the sounds of the music. There are plenty of activities for the young and young-at-heart.

Ways to Warm Up

While Bonhomme can handle wearing just a tuque and a sash, you on the other hand will want to dress warmly. There are many warm restaurants and shops to pop into, but that is not where all of the action is.

Canoe Racing

Canoe Racing                                                                                                                 

Photo: Carnaval de Quebec

While you are taking in the Canoe races, parades or watching your family and friends hurtling down the Grande Alléein a giant inflatable ball, you might want to partake in the traditional drink called Caribou. This alcoholic drink is served in glasses made of ice or for ease of transportation, it can be carried around in a long plastic tube in the shape of a cane. It can be enjoyed cold or warm. If you are looking for a non-alcoholic warm drink, various locations serve drinks such as hot chocolate.  

Aerial view of Old Quebec City

Aerial view of Old Quebec City                                                        

Photo: Jean Francois Bergeron- Enviro Foto

Another place to visit is the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac.This year, the most photographed hotel in the world will turn 125. Just walking through its recently renovated lobby where historical artifacts dating back 400 years are displayed, is a stroll through history. Consider taking a guided tourand be immediately transported to an elegant time gone by. You will discover the famous people and events that shaped the identity of this iconic hotel.

While you are there, take a stroll outside on the Dufferin Terrace. Built in 1879, it’s a beautiful terrace with great views in any season. In winter, if weather permits, the more than a century-old slide will be in operation. You and up to 4 passengers can enjoy a toboggan ridedown the ice slide at up to 70km/hour (43 miles/hour). Hold on to your hats!

Dufferin Terrace Toboggan Ride

Dufferin Terrance Toboggan Ride                                                                           

Photo: Luc-Antoine Couturier

If something at a bit slower pace is more your style, head down to Lower Town and visit the Petit-Champlain district and Place Royale. You could walk down the “Escalier Casse-Cou” (the Breakneck Stairs) or take the Funiculaire du Vieux-Quebec.The funicular (a type of cable railway), has linked Lower Town to the Dufferin Terrace for over a hundred years.  

Rue du Petit Champlain in Lower Town

Rue du Petit Champlain in Lower Town                                                                            

Photo: Ville de Quebec

Here as well as various locations throughout the carnival venues and Quebec City, keep a look out for traditional treats. Having maple taffy poured onto pristine snow then rolled onto a stick for a sweet treat, is sure to bring a smile to your face. Try any of the hearty meat pies, poutine or the now world famous Queues de Castor. These are better known as Beaver Tails, the fried dough pastry covered in sweet condiments. They are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.  

Maple syrup on snow 2

Maple Taffy on Snow                                                                                                                     

Photo: Lori Sweet

Whatever activities you choose to participate in, you will enjoy the atmosphere and local cuisine. Don’t worry if you do not speak French, although learning how to say hello...”Bonjour” and thank you...”Merci”, will go a long way.

When You Go:



Photo: Xavier Dachez

Purchase of Effigy:

On-line sales start December 1, 2017. Cost: $10, after Jan 1 $15

VIP Packages are $49.99 CAD taxes and service fees are extra

Where to Stay: The Quebec Winter Carnival website has a very comprehensive list of accommodations, several of which are offering packages

How to Get There:


Montreal 253 km (151 miles)

Ottawa 450 km (270 miles)

Toronto 766 km (476 miles)

Boston 610 km (381 miles)

New York 839 km (524 miles)

Plane: Several airlines fly into Quebec City Jean Lesage International Airport.

Train: VIA Rail Canada has service to Quebec City. If you are travelling from the USA, you can come into Montreal via Amtrak then transfer to VIA Rail Canada then on to Quebec City.

Bus: There is an intercity transportation network as well as Orleans Express which provides daily service between Quebec City, Montreal and other destinations in the province. If you are travelling by bus from the USA, come into Montreal via Greyhound, then transfer to Orleans Express bus for Quebec City.


Lori Sweet

Lori Sweet Photo for Hawaii Article WMB

Lori is a freelance travel writer and travel photographer based in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. She has had a life-long passion for travel and for learning about other cultures, while travelling on and off the beaten path. Taking detours along the way has enriched her experiences immeasurably.  Lori enjoys writing and photography, so it was a natural fit to combine this with her love of travel.

Lori was in education for 30 years. She was able to combine that with 14 years of part-time work as a Tour Director for a travel company that provides motor coach trips across North America. Upon retirement from teaching, she moved into the tour company office as a tour planner. She now spends her time working on other interests.  She has kept a travel journal for over 30 years!

Lori has taken online and live travel writing and photography workshops and is a member of the International Travel Writers and Photographers Alliance (ITWPA).


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