10 Reasons to Take the Family to the Quebec Winter Carnival

Mother Nature took my plan to stop hibernating and embrace winter this year way too seriously. We have been experiencing record snowfalls and bone chilling cold in New England this winter. In fact, since early January my daughter has only had one full week of school — and today is yet another snow day. Yet despite the cold and snow, I knew there must be fun alternatives to hiding out inside under blankets.

For 60 years, the Quebec Winter Carnival has been giving Quebecois families a reason to get outside, celebrate winter, and have fun. This year, our family was invited to join them. The carnival, which runs for 17 days from the end of January to mid-February (it will be held next on January 29 – February 14, 2016), started off as a rowdy, pre-Lenten celebration; but has recently evolved into a true family event and the largest winter carnival in the world today (and 3rd largest carnival overall.)

10 Reasons you should take your family to the Quebec Winter Carnival -- and one of them is NOT to take a snow bath (but you can do that too)!

As the largest festival in Quebec City, it draws in some 500,000 visitors each year, 47 percent of which are tourists from outside of Quebec City. Many of these visitors are from New England and Ontario, in fact, waiting in line to go dog sledding we met someone that literally lives around the corner from us in Rhode Island. However, we also met visitors from as far away as France, Texas, and Illinois.

When I saw the weather forecast for our weekend in Quebec, I started to get second thoughts. With expected -25 degree Fahrenheit lows and highs for the weekend peaking out at 7 degrees, I wondered what I was getting our family into. As we drove through Eastern Quebec on our journey to Quebec City, our car thermometer registered -20, and that was without the wind chill. But listen, while our toes and fingertips got pretty numb after five hours outside, it was fun, really fun — and perfect for families.

Throughout the festival we saw families with babies, toddlers, and young kids — many of which were being pulled through the area on sleds (I guess that’s the Quebec version of a winter stroller.) And unlike those carnivals in Rio or New Orleans — this one isn’t crowded at all. I guess not too many people are brave enough to face the cold. If you are a family that sleds, skis or ice skates, you can totally do this, and here is why you should:

10 Reasons to go to the Quebec Winter Carnival

1. Bonhomme — Since 1955, the towering Bonhomme has been the mascot of the Quebec Winter Carnival, making this giant snowman a favorite among the children and as popular as Santa Claus. Bonhomme makes appearances throughout the Carnival, including at both night parades, but you are most likely to find him welcoming you at his Ice Palace.

10 Reasons you should take your family to the Quebec Winter Carnival -- and one of them is NOT to take a snow bath (but you can do that too)!

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2. Ice Palace — Any Frozen fan will be fascinated by a real life ice palace located just across from the Parliament building. Your $15 Effigy pass to Carnival gets you into all the activities for the full length of the festival, and lets you explore the Palace and possibly meet Bonhomme. Each year the castle is constructed differently, using 300 lb. ice blocks brought in from Montreal. This year the Palace featured six rooms, spread out in the shape of a snowflake, and included a spa area, Bonhomme’s office, a reception room, a museum room with artifacts from previous carnivals, a children’s playroom and a gym.

10 Reasons you should take your family to the Quebec Winter Carnival -- #2 Visit with Bonhomme in his Ice Palace!

3. Maple Taffy — I’m not sure how I got to 44 before trying maple taffy, especially after years of vacationing in Vermont with a grandmother that did her own sugaring; but now that I’ve been turned onto this sticky, sugary goodness it won’t be the last time. Made by heating maple syrup to a blistering 234 degrees and then pouring it in thin strips on freshly packed snow, it is as fun to watch them make as it is to eat. After letting it cool for a 20 to 30 seconds, you press a flat popsicle stick onto one end and slowly roll it up to create a taffy pop. Kids and grown ups alike will love this tasty treat — we were mighty glad that our little one got her braces on “after” the trip.

10 Reasons you should take your family to the Quebec Winter Carnival -- #3 Enjoy the sticky, sugary sweetness of maple taffy made by pouring boiling hot maple syrup on freshly packed snow.

4. Ice Slides & Snow Tubes — Your Effigy pass gets you full access to Le Monde de Bonhomme, with all of its many delights for families, including the ice slide and multiple snow tubing and tobogganing runs. The lines at these attractions might be a bit longer than some other attractions, but nothing was too long.

5. Ice Fishing — Your kids can also experience a true winter activity that you can’t do just anywhere — ice fishing! Within the main carnival area, they have set up a small, stocked trout pond with circles cut into the ice. The size pretty much ensures your success. No long hours camped out on the ice, they hand you a baited rod, you pick a hole and viola. I barely had time to take out my camera before my daughter hooked a fish. Once caught, you have a choice of donating it or having them cook it for you to eat directly.

10 Reasons to visit the Quebec Winter Carnival --#4 Ice fishing (trust me, it is easy!)
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19 Comments on “10 Reasons to Take the Family to the Quebec Winter Carnival

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  1. Oh my gosh. This post makes the freezing cold look fun! I love the ice palace and ice fishing and I would love to visit Quebec!

    I need to find my way to Quebec. Living in the Boston area- I have no excuse. I can hop in my car and get there in a few hours. This winter carnival looks like a blast. Next year I’m in!

      We ended up driving instead of flying from Boston (more on that later) and it took 8 hours in rush hour. Coming home was less than 8 all the way to RI.

    I have never heard of this festival! It looks so fun (cold notwithstanding) and I have long wanted to go to Quebec… perhaps a 2016 trip for my family. Thanks for the tip!

    LOVE this! I’ve always wanted to experience the Quebec Winter Carnival and though I really didn’t need any convincing, you’ve only served to motivate me even more 🙂

      Great! It can be a hard sell for everyone so sick of winter but it really is a great time.

    Looks like a fabulously chilly time! I live in Canada and I’ve only been to Quebec once as a kid. It was during the spring so I was able to experience the Cabane a Sucre at its most festive but this looks like a lot of fun! Count me out of the bathing suit portion lol.

    I LOVE Quebec City! Thanks for sharing, I have always wondered about their winter carnival. I love how they not only embrace winter there, but they celebrate it! What an awesome place and event!

    Mt husband and I were JUST talking about visiting Quebec. This festival looks amazing! I am all about that dog sledding activity. Looks so fun! I’m pinning this for next year.

      Great! I would love to visit in the summer too but you have to appreciate how they don’t let the cold slow them down.

    I would LOVE to visit the Winter Carnival! Quebec is such an awesome place anyway but I could imagine it would come alive even more during a festival like this

    I’ve had thoughts about visiting Quebec for a long time….but though summer or spring would be a better season. Now I’m doubting 🙂 Dog sledging looks pretty affordable and I’d love to try the maple taffy!

    This looks so fun! I have been trying to embrace the cold this winter and visiting Quebec’s Winter Carnival sure would be a good way to do it! The dog sledding looks so amazing! I haven’t been to Quebec since I was in high school!

    I’ve always wanted to go to this. The closest I’ve been is Quebec City at Christmas which was beautiful.

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