What: 57th Annual Québec Winter Carnaval
Where: Across two major sites: Place Loto-Québec (located in front of the Québec Parliament) and Place Des Jardins (located on the Plains of Abraham)
When: January 28—February 13, 2011
Why: Because the gifts are unwrapped, the tree is put away, and the glow of the holiday season has subsided into a general feeling of overeating-induced, holiday-hangover ennui. And the temps continue to drop.
Leave it to the friendly folks of Canada to give us a reason to actually celebrate the frigid weather. Enter the largest winter carnival, complete with sleigh rides, sugar shacks, outdoor dance parties, a snow sculpture workshop (and competition) and activities from snow rafts to ziplines.
Join Bonhomme, king of Carnaval, in all things wintry. Nightlife fiends will get their groove on at the outdoor dance parties at Place Loto-Québec and catch live performances from some of Canada’s favorite bands on the Hydro-Québec Stage. Intrepid types can brave the ominous-sounding snow bath, while those not so fond of the cold have plenty of opportunities to keep warm among the gaiety. A good long soak in the hot tubs of Arctic Spas Village should do the trick.
Food (and drink)-wise there’s SAQ Bistro with myriad bliss bites as well as steaming cups of hot cider. Or pick up a hot chocolate from the Metro tent or stands at the bistro on Plains of Abraham and Place Loto-Québec. More adult minds should keep their fingers crossed that the rumor is true about some stands will drop cider for Sortilège, a maple-flavored whiskey.
For the pint-sized snow bunnies (and big ones alike) there’s the Ice Universe of incredible arctic sculptures and the animations and activities at the Mr. Christie’s Kraft Village. Then there’s the big wheel on the Plans of Abraham, which is also the site of a skating rink and—on weekend two—a hockey festival. But front and center in 2011 are the games galore: Think winter sports, brain teasers, zany challenges. In short, a little something for everyone. Convinced yet? If not, we have eight words: parades, pancake breakfasts, soapbax derby, treats, treats, treats.
Are you packing up your snow cloths yet? Get in on the winter wonderland action by booking a hotel package that will save you money and provide a cozy place to warm up after a long day in the snow. We like the packages at Auberge L’Autre Jardin (a green inn!) from $140, Hotel Clarendon from $209, Hotel Pur from $209, Auberge ed Chalets Refuge du Faubourg from $113, and Couette et Cafe Champlain from $242.
Cost: A Carnaval pass, called an “effigy,” costs $12 and offers access to most of the activities over 17 days. A family package costs $36 for four effigies. Many hotel packages, including those above, include at least one effigy.
How to get there: After landing at Jean Lesage Airport in Quebec City, rent an eco-friendly hybrid and head towards the Pierre Laporte Bridge (20 East). Take the Boulevard Laurier exit and keep going straight until you reach Old Québec, where the carnival is held. If you come from 40 East, head straight until you reach Dorchester Road, where you turn right on Dorchester, and eventually end up in front of the Parliament, where there is plenty of parking nearby. For a full activity program, visit the website. (Québec Winter Carnival, carnaval.qc.ca)