Canoe races on an icy river, riding a sled on Dufferin Terrace with views of Château Frontenac and the St Lawrence River, ice sculptures, a parade and a masquerade, snow and duchesses and Bonhomme; you’ll find all of these things, and more, at Carnaval de Québec — one of the biggest winter festivals in the world!

It is not a secret that winter in Canada can be harsh at times, but winter today is mild when compared to winter in the late 19th century when snowbanks could be taller than a train, and things like hot hands (those delightful hand warmers you stuff inside your mittens) were not in existence. The first winter carnival in Québec City took place in 1894, as a way to celebrate and take a break from the hardships of life in winter.

In the beginning, the frequency of the winter carnival was sporadic at best; it was postponed during both world wars, as well as during the economic crisis that took place in 1929. It wasn’t until 1954, when the city made the decision to rejuvenate the old port (which, at the time, was mostly warehouses), that plans were made to make Carnaval de Québec an annual event; the first of which took place in January/February 1955 , with Bonhomme becoming the festival mascot.

EFFIGY

You’ll notice that most activities and events require an effigy — which, in this instance, is a miniature pendant worn on your jacket. The cost of an effigy is $16.73 and can be bought at Couche-Tard,  SAQ, Uniprix, as well as select hotels and merchants.

When you buy an effigy you’ll also receive a discount booklet which offers discounts for 22 merchants in Québec City. Warning: the booklet only comes in French.

All-Inclusive-Pass – The cost for this pass is $45 and includes the effigy, as well as a Carnaval toque (hat), a stick of maple taffy, a glass of Caribou, and a coffee or hot chocolate.

ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS

Since the beginning, activities have been an important part of Carnaval de Québec, and as the years go by, activities are added or enhanced. There are plenty of activities to keep you and your family busy, and while there are several ‘official’ activities to choose from (listed below), there will also be other activities presented by local businesses. Bundle up and have fun!

Carnaval de Québec has activities and events spread across ten locations: Zone Loto-Québec at Place de l’Assemblée-Nationale, Bonhomme’s World at Parc de l’Esplanade, Camp à Jos at Parc de la Francophone, Grand Allée, Parc de l’Amerique-Français, Place D’Youville, Terrasse Dufferin, Quartier Petit-Champlain, Bassin Louise, and Upper Town.

Zone Lotto-Québec

Located at Place de l’Assemblée-Nationale, just outside the old city walls and across from Parliament, Zone Lotto-Québec is the heart of Carnaval de Québec

Graffiti Artists

SAQ Bistro & Ice Bar

Crowning of the Carnaval Queen (Jan 27th at 7:30pm)

Selfies with Bonhomme

Military Cardio

Snowga (Yoga in the snow)

Zumba

Beaver Tails

Camp à Jos

Presented by Videotron, Camp à Jos is located at Parc de la Francophone and the site all things yummy and hipstery: beer, sausage, lumberjacks… this needs to be an everyday thing.

Axe Throwing

Jos’ Cabin – beer, sausages, & more

Videotron Music Box

SAQ cocktail zone

Sugar Shack

Snow Racer Grand Prix

St-Hubert Snow Bath

Mechanical Moose

Lumberjack Challenge

Bonhomme’s World

Set-up on the opposite side of the wall from Zone Lotto-Québec, Monde de Bonhomme is in Parc de l’Esplanade and the site of all things kids and family.

Uniprix Ice Slide

Animals of the Majo Mini-Farm

Floor Hockey at Hydro-Québec Area

Christie’s Giant Foosball

DuProprio Polar Mission

Grand Allée

Grand Allée is the site of oversized activities like bowling that involves climbing into a giant plastic ball and rolling around.

Arctic Panic

Christie’s Giant Bowling

Live musical performances at Les 3 Brasseurs

Parc de l’Amérique-Français

Make time to admire the amazing snow sculptures, presented this year by Cominar.

Place D’Youville

Every winter locals and tourists flock to Place D’Youville to go ice skating, and you can do that again but with Bonhomme! You can also enjoy a variety of performances (45!) on the snow globe stage.

Skating with Bonhomme

Ville de Québec Snow Globe

Terrasse Dufferin

Located beside Château Frontenac, Terrasse Dufferin is a hub of activity all year, and even more so during Carnaval de Québec

Dufferin Slide

Storytellers

Hockey

Ice Skating

Snowshoeing

Tug of War

Maple Taffy

Quartier Petit-Champlain

Petit-Champlain is always busy, and even more so during Carnaval de Québec when the neighbourhood is packed with activities.

3D Ice Sculptures

Outdoor bar with live music

fairground style games on Saturdays

Comedy shows

Basse-Louise

Canoe Races

Upper Town

Arrow Sash weaving demonstration at Château Frontenac

Upper Town Night Parade

Other Activities

Pond Hockey at Lac Beauport

Barbers: The Schorem at Centre des Congrès de Québec

3vs3 Polar Bear Québec Challenge at Patro Charlesbourg

Blood Drive at Laurier Québec

Carnaval Breakfast at Cosmos de Lévis

Flag Football Challenge at University of Laval

St-Hubert Snow Bath

WHAT IS CARIBOU?

The partaking of Caribou at Carnaval de Québec does not mean you’ll be eating the meat of a caribou, in Québec ‘Caribou’ is an alcoholic beverage consisting of red wine, whisky, and maple syrup or sugar. While bottles of Caribou are now available in stores in Québec, most families make their own, using recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.

WHAT SHOULD YOU WEAR?

January and February are typically the coldest months of the year, and therefore it’s important to dress warmly, especially if you’re going to be outside all day celebrating Carnaval de Québec! Here are some suggestions:

Warm winter jacket

Snow/Ski Pants

Warm boots with good traction

Ice crampons – theses come in handy on Québec’s hilly streets!

Toque, scarf, mittens/gloves

Your EFFIGY!

Thermal shirt and pants under clothing to help keep you warm

About The Author

Founder

Travel writer and photographer, Pamela has a deep love of all things Travel. She is an anglophone from Ontario who prefers living in Québec. An avid city explorer and chocolat chaud connoisseur, Pamela also writes for Québec Region blog, Savoir Faire Abroad and several other publications.

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