Quebec City’s Carnaval de Québec (winter carnival), which spans two weekends in early February (February 2-11 in 2024). It is the largest winter carnival in North America. During this festive week, the already beautiful City is quite visibly transformed into a winter sports festival.
Quebec Carnival : the history
The primary attractions are the large Ice Palace that is built annually just outside the St. Louis Gate. The main entrance to the Old City, and across the street from the Assemblée Nationale . (the ornate, Second Empire-style provincial parliament building). The international ice and snow sculpturing competitions a few steps away on the historic Plains of Abraham. More than 100 sculptors gather from all over the world. Here they come to Quebec City every winter to create giant snow sculptures there.
In addition to evening parades, there are events like the “Bain de Neige” (Snow Bath) during which participants in bathing suits jump into the snow. The Carnaval ends with canoe races, in large, five-man canoes. They run and paddle across the ice flows of the mostly frozen, mile-wide St. Lawrence River. This is 300-feet below the toboggan slide on the Quebec City boardwalk outside the Chateau Frontenac. Wintertime canoe races are an annual Canadian tradition that began in Quebec City more almost 70 years ago. They now take place at winter carnivals all across Canada.
Record Breaking Battle in 2024!
In 2024, the Carnaval organizers hope to establish a world record (currently, 5,834) for the largest snowball fight. With 6,000 participants wearing helmets and ski goggles blasting each other with snowballs. This event takes place on Thursday, February 1, the evening before the official opening of the Carnival.
It’s been known to snow in Quebec City in February. It can be quite windy and cold! We encourage ll travelers to pack for frigid temperatures with appropriate layers of winter clothing. And plan on a pair or two pairs of warm, weather-proof shoes or boots.
How to plan for the Quebec Winter Carnival:
Here are a few tips for planning your trip to the Quebec Winter Carnival:
- Book your accommodation early: The Quebec Winter Carnival is a popular event, so it’s important to book your accommodation early, especially if you’re planning to visit during the peak season.
- Dress warmly: The weather in Quebec City during the winter can be cold and snowy, so it’s important to dress warmly. Be sure to pack layers of clothing, a hat, gloves, and a scarf.
- Purchase a carnival passport: A carnival passport gives you access to many of the carnival’s activities, including the night parades, the Bonhomme Carnival Village, and the snow and ice sculpture competition.
- Plan your itinerary ahead of time: There are so many things to see and do at the Quebec Winter Carnival, so it’s helpful to plan your itinerary ahead of time. This will help you make the most of your time and avoid missing any of the events you want to see.
Here is a sample itinerary for a 3-day trip to the Quebec Winter Carnival:
Day 1 Quebec Carnival
- Arrive in Quebec City and check into your hotel.
- Visit the Plains of Abraham to see the snow and ice sculptures.
- Attend the night parade on the Grande Allée.
Day 2: Quebec Carnival
- Visit the Bonhomme Carnival Village to participate in winter activities and see live entertainment.
- Visit the Quartier Petit Champlain to shop and sample local cuisine.
- Attend a winter sports competition at one of the many venues throughout the city.
Day 3: Quebec Carnival
- Visit the Old Port to see the snow and ice sculptures and enjoy the views of the St. Lawrence River.
- Take a walk through the Upper Town to visit the historic Château Frontenac and the Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral.
- Attend the closing night parade on the Grande Allée.
If you are on a 4 day trip or more, consider an outing to the Ice Hotel in Valcartier.
This is just a sample itinerary, and you can customize it to fit your interests and budget. The Quebec Winter Carnival has something to offer everyone, so you’re sure to have a great time no matter what you choose to do.