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Quebec

Cold Weather, Hot Festival: A Guide to Quebec City’s Winter Carnival

The Winter Carnival is one of the biggest events in Quebec and its events celebrate the cold months with activities like snow baths, ice canoe races, night parades and more!  Winter in Canada is long and cold, so why not celebrate when it is ends with a rollicking festival? This event has been held Feb. 1 – 17 since 1894 and is how the city lifts its spirits in the dreary cold.

These days, the festival brings an estimated one million visitors to Quebec City every year and it has been named by Reader’s Digest as “Canada’s Best Winter Festival.” It is one of the biggest cultural events of the year in Quebec City and an essential Canadian travel experience.

The following are some tips for enjoying this chilly festival:

Dress Warmly

This might seem obvious, but the number of people who you will see trying to be fashionable in thin leggings will prove otherwise. Remember, you will be outside for most of the day in freezing winter temperatures. You will need to wear your warmest winter boots and your biggest coat, as well as a scarf for your face, some gloves and a toque to cover your ears. You will also want to wear shoes or boots that have soles with good grips, because the ice along the sidewalks can be slippery and dangerous.
Even if the temperature isn’t far below zero, being outside for most of the day without adequate clothing will really make you chilled. When you are comfortable and warm, you will be able to enjoy the festivities more.

Check Out the Nightlife

When the sun goes down, this cool winter festival heats up with a great party scene. You can listen to DJs in the ice palace on Friday and Saturday nights, and the frenzied dancing will keep you warm. Several local restaurants serve special menus and unique dishes during the Winter Carnival. If you want to enjoy a swanky night, the Bonhomme’s Ball is traditionally held near the end of the festival. It is a formal event, so make sure you dress to the nines.

Go Skating With Bonhomme

An essential must-do at the Winter Carnival is having your photo taken with Bonhomme, who is the eight-foot-tall festival mascot. He is an enormous snowman (Bonhomme de neige means “snowman” in French) and he is dressed in traditional Quebecois dress with a red cap and an arrowhead-fringed sash.
However, most of the time you will have to wait in line for ages to take a photo with Bonhomme. Instead, you can go ice skating with him on Thursday and Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. for 45 minutes at the skating rink at Place d’Youville.

Drink the Local Beer

The Brasee Du Carnaval allows you the chance to taste some locally brewed beers in a cozy, heated tent at the Place George-V. There will be approximately 30 local microbreweries and restaurants showing off their food and beverages here. Visitors will be able to sample a multitude of delicious products. If you want to reserve your drinks early and save some money, you can preorder online and sale up to 40 percent.

Learn the Language

French is the main language in Quebec and menus, signs, brochures and other written materials will be primarily in French. If you don’t speak the language, you will need to bring along a French/English dictionary or download an app so you can look up words when you are trying to navigate around.

Most locals will speak both French and English, so don’t worry too much when speaking to people. They will usually be able to tell you are not a native French speaker. An apologetic smile and a friendly demeanor always help.

These are just a few tips for making the most of the Winter Carnival in Quebec City, one of the coolest (and coldest) travel experiences you will ever experience!
Image from Flickr’s Creative Commons

About the Author: Elise Wilson is a travel agent who lives in Quebec City and loves to help her clients find great Quebec City hotels online so they can enjoy this beautiful Canadian city.

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