Its historic French architecture, fabulous restaurants and spoken French give the city a European-style charm unique in North America, but it’s truly Canadian in many ways too — particularly when it comes to having fun when the temps go below freezing.
Toboggan on The Terrace
Topping the long list of winter-only attractions is the incredible toboggan run that swoops down to the historic Dufferin Terrace boardwalk in the heart of the city. First installed in 1884, it offers the chance to hurtle down at speeds of up to 50 mph aboard toboggans that can carry up to four passengers each (Au1884.ca/en). Throughout the winter there’s ice skating on outdoor rinks, horse-drawn carriage rides, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on trails in city parks, and spectacular views of the icy St. Lawrence River.
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Forget images of scantily clad revelers under the Rio sun! Bundle up and experience one of the biggest and best winter carnivals in the world (Carnaval.qc.ca), from Jan. 29 to Feb. 14. It’s centered on a huge Ice Palace on place de l’Assemblee-Nationale, but celebrations occupy a dozen or so city streets and squares. There are colorful after-dark parades with live music and dancing, an international ice sculpture competition, and some just plain silly stuff, like stripping down to a swimsuit and taking a bath in the snow. On the St. Lawrence River, 50 teams from Canada, the US and France compete in an exciting ice-canoe race.
Accommodations in the city range from cozy bed-and-breakfasts in historic homes to the iconic Château Frontenac to a spectacularly converted 17th-century monastery with luxury spa and a mission to promote wellness (Monastere.ca). But there’s one option you won’t find anywhere else in North America: the Hotel de Glace. Constructed afresh every year, this amazing ice structure is decorated with glittering ice sculptures and furnished using blocks of ice (including the beds, but they’re well insulated). The bar, made of ice, serves drinks in glasses made of ice. After dark you can enjoy an outdoor sauna under the twinkling stars. Even if you don’t stay here its worth calling in for a drink on one of the daytime tours (Hoteldeglace-canada.com).
Snowsports outside the city
Just beyond the city limits, Village Vacances Valcartier (Valcartier.com) is North America’s biggest winter playground, where you can zoom downhill on various runs aboard inflatable tubes and rafts, or enjoy the long skating path. Just about every winter sport is available in easy reach of Quebec City, including skiing and snowboarding, ice climbing on frozen waterfalls and dog-sledding. For more information, visit Quebecregion.com.
For more travel tips go to Insightguides.com.
- by Penny Phenix