Joyeux Carnaval in Quebec City!
By Liz Fleming
If you want to banish your bah humbug aversion to the season and recapture your childhood love of playing outside in the snow, bundle up, head for Quebec City and join in the fun with the nearly one million other revelers expected to celebrate the 57th annual Quebec Winter Carnaval.
The first Carnaval was held in 1894 and although the festivities were celebrated for the next four years, financial difficulties ended the project. It was revived in 1955 and has..ahem… snowballed to become the world-renowned celebration it is today. Generating more than 31 million in tourist revenue for local hotels, restaurants and businesses each year, the Winter Carnaval has been voted Canada’s best winter event by Reader’s Digest Magazine and listed among the 1,000 must see destinations in “1,000 Places To See Before You Die”. Reuters ranks it among the world’s top ten best winter festivals and the “Wall Street Journal included the Carnaval on its list of Things To Do in 2010/2011.
Given those stellar endorsements, shouldn’t you be part of the festivities this year?
The first parade of the Carnaval has already been held – a giant balloon-filled lineup punctuated with marching bands and a host of costumed characters – two more are yet to come. Scheduled for the next two Saturday evenings, the Night Parades will pull more than 80,000 visitors to see costumed characters, spectacular floats, musicians, dancers, pyrotechnics, and more. Quebec City’s parade-making team of 42 artisans, costume makers, carpenters, welders and electricians has become so famous, in fact, that they are hired to produce the Montreal Santa Claus Parade each year, making all the floats and costumes etc., and then transporting them by truck in time for the big day.
Family fun is everywhere at Place Desjardins on the Plains of Abraham during the Carnaval . From the Westet Zipline that sends you flying through the crisp air, to the Loto-Québec Ferris Wheel, to the giant, living foozeball game, to the inflated rafts filled with laughing riders rocketing down a snowy hill, to the new Natrel Giant Slide – a slick ice track made for any speed demon ready to grab a plastic sled.
Be sure to meet Bonhomme, the world’s only talking snowman and the Carnaval’s charming giant ambassador! Huge, soft and funny, this is a snowman you’ll warm up to right away – your kids will adore him. His Ice Palace, in front of the Parliament Buildings, is made of more than 6000 individually cut blocks of ice and takes 15 workers more than a month to build. It’s gorgeous any time, but save the photos for night, when it glitters with beautiful lights.
The best news for families planning a visit to this year’s Quebec Winter Carnaval is the price. For just $12, you’ll receive a tiny Bonhomme, referred to as an ‘effigy’ to hang on your coat as your ticket into just about everything, for the entire duration of the Carnaval. It’s the best deal around!
If You Go
Because the best events take place outdoors on the Plains of Abraham and at Bonhomme’s Ice Palace, in front of the historic Parliament buildings, it’s important to wear the right gear. A warm jacket, hat, mitts and solid boots are all must-haves, of course, and the wise reveler will also be sure to pop a couple of hot-pads into the mix. Stick them in the toes of your boots and the tips of your mitts and you’ll be cozy for hours.
Stay Close and Stay Warm
Quebec City is filled with great hotel choices, of course, but two that are particularly good are the Hilton and the Chateau Frontenac. While the Hilton is a little less swanky, it’s very comfortable and offers the advantage of being the closest to both the Plains of Abraham and the Ice Castle – an easy five-minute walk. The Chateau Frontenac, reputedly one of the world’s most photographed hotels is a little further from the main sites, but is in the picturesque old city. If the budget has a bit of stretch in it, you might want to see what it feels like to sleep in a wintry castle!
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Liz Fleming's Travel TalesLiz Fleming writes a weekly travel column for www.tripatlas.com so be sure to check in for articles on everything from soft adventure to learning travel!
Located: St. Catharines Canada
Likes: soft adventure, health and wellness, learning