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.
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.
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
SAQ Bistro & Ice Bar
Crowning of the Carnaval Queen (Jan 27th at 7:30pm)
Selfies with Bonhomme
Snowga (Yoga in the snow)
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.
Jos’ Cabin – beer, sausages, & more
Videotron Music Box
SAQ cocktail zone
Snow Racer Grand Prix
St-Hubert Snow Bath
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 is the site of oversized activities like bowling that involves climbing into a giant plastic ball and rolling around.
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.
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
Located beside Château Frontenac, Terrasse Dufferin is a hub of activity all year, and even more so during Carnaval de Québec
Tug of War
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
Arrow Sash weaving demonstration at Château Frontenac
Upper Town Night Parade
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
Warm boots with good traction
Ice crampons – theses come in handy on Québec’s hilly streets!
Toque, scarf, mittens/gloves
Thermal shirt and pants under clothing to help keep you warm