What: 56th Annual Québec Winter Carnival
Where: Across two major sites: Place Loto-Québec (located in front of the Québec Parliament) and Place Desjardins (located on the Plains of Abraham)
When: From January 29 to February 14, 2010
Why: Because celebrating the holidays felt more like work than vacation, and this is the second best thing to a European getaway. No other event in the world can compete with this big daddy of all winter carnivals: imagine an ice palace, sleigh rides, outdoor dance parties with hip hop, disco, and Latin music, a snow sculpture competition, and canoe race, all within a charming, historic downtown district.
The largest winter carnival is sure to attract another one million attendees this year with the addition of live outdoor concerts, and we don’t just mean DJs—though they’ll be there too. Heated stages will usher the hottest local and global music talents out into the 20 degree weather to rock the mic before 25,000 people. (Remember to squeeze the head, shoulders, knees, and toes every so often, folks, to keep the circulation going.) “New financing granted to our event will allow us to offer a variety of high-quality interactive activities designed for carnival-goers from around the world,” said André Roy, president of the Québec Winter Carnival.
Over 17 days, families will enjoy a wide array of original entertainment, including the St-Hubert Derby, Mr. Christie/KRAFT Village, snow rafting, dog sledding, and of course, the majestic mascot, Bonhomme Carnaval himself.
Carnaval de Québec is the coolest (quite literally) way to ring in the new year. After touring the beautiful streets of Old Québec and exploring the medieval ice castles and art at the Painting Symposium, unwind at one of these six carnival-affiliated hotels offering great deals and packages during the two weeks: Château Frontenac, from $229, Hilton Québec, from $199; Delta Québec, from $190; Château Laurier, from $179; Loews Concorde, from $179.
The carnival has not forgotten about you crazy nightlife enthusiasts, you. Get all gussied up for the Bonhomme Ball, pair craft beer and cheese at the English pub-like SAQ Bistro, enjoy the night parades, and relax at the Arctic Spa Village. In addition to over 300 carnival events, you will always have heart-thumping music and dancing at Place Loto-Québec to end each day. How can we say this any better; it’s like Cirque du Soleil meets Disneyland meets the Meatpacking on a Saturday night.
When in Québec. . . Joyeux Carnaval!
Cost: Effigy (the carnival pass) costs $12 and offers access to most of the activities, excluding the dogsled and sleigh rides.
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)
The co-founder and editor-at-large at offMetro, Lauren is a sustainable travel specialist and freelance journalist with frequent bylines in National Geographic, Bicycling Magazine and Shape. Follow Lauren’s adventures at @laurenmati.