Québec City Winter Carnival

This past weekend I attended Québec City’s impressive Winter Carnival, and I’m still winding down from all of the excitement. The Carnival runs for three weeks in a row, and I’m almost tempted to head back for the final weekend!

Obviously, that’s not going to happen, but perhaps I will return next year. In the mean time, I would love to share my whirlwind weekend with you.

Between snow rafting and sculpture-viewing or the ice canoe races on the frozen St. Lawrence river, you definitely won’t find a moment of boredom at the Carnival.

The weekend (beginning on Thursday) started off with a bang, as I was greeted by the infamous Bonhomme, just as I stepped off my flight. The Carnival’s snowy mascot gave me a hug and sent me on my way.

It was only two short hours later that I met Bonhomme again, before my dinner at Café de la Paix. This was just the beginning… Bonhomme seemed to have a permanent presence over the entire festival, and I would continue to encounter him throughout the weekend.

Events and activities were pretty much a constant during the whole weekend, but the main events seemed to be saved for Saturday and Sunday.

First thing in the morning, we headed straight to the Carnival. You could literally see the grounds from the hotel, so it was a very quick walk.

Entering the gates, we made our way up a path that was lined with incredibly detailed snow sculptures. Some of the them were completed, others were still being worked on in front of my very eyes.

I watched for awhile as teams of artists from different countries carved away at the snow with various tools.

I walked from piece to piece, trying to figure out which one was my favourite. They were all pretty impressive, so it was a tough choice. In the end, I had an overload of photos of the Swedish roses, so that might be my answer.

Pulling myself away from the snowy-artwork, we all made our way into the middle of the grounds. Bonhomme’s ice castle came into view.

It was only late morning, but the place was already getting busy. Visitors lined the small attractions around the sides, and children seemed to be everywhere.

I found myself wishing that I had the chance to attend the Carnival as a kid, because I would have gone nuts. Maple snow taffy, sledding and sliding, and the whole idea of Bonhomme’s castle… I was almost feeling like a kid, just being here now.

Drawing myself away from yet another distraction, I headed around to the side of the ice castle. We were going to ride the snow rafts.

After a quick hike to the top of the hill, we were at the top. I could see the entire festival from up here, and the crowds stretched on forever. I could also see far into the distance, in all directions.

Too excited to pay attention to the view, I hopped into the large yellow raft. I sat on the edge, clutching my bag in my lap and my video camera in the other hand.

I had forgotten to hold onto the raft itself, so when it launched forward, I thought I was going to fall backwards.. but other people were holding both arms up in the air.

We zipped down the hill and hit three large bumps on the way down. Everyone screamed, and I couldn’t stop laughing. Eventually we slid to a stop and stepped back out onto the snow. I wanted to go again.

Back up the steps, and into the line up. This time we were going to try the “tornado“. This was a circular raft that would spin the length of the hill. I didn’t think twice, I just hopped in.

This time, I held on tight as we spun and spun. I screamed like a school girl and was thrilled with the rush of it all. If it weren’t for the hike up the hill, I probably would have gone over and over again. It was a lot of fun.

I wandered back over to the main area and took a look around. A Ferris wheel rose high above my head, carrying dozens of smiling faces into the air, and really standing out against the clear blue sky.

Various booths were offering warm food and drinks and music played from all directions.

People were starting to crowd around the main stage of the ice castle, and a low buzz seemed to generate in the busy atmosphere.

It was time for Bonhomme to greet the crowd.

Soon everyone on the grounds had bunched into one tight space. They were all here to see Bonhomme. Children sat on their parents shoulders and looked like tiny dolls bundled in their snow gear.

The crowd packed in tighter, and everyone was chanting for their beloved snowman.

Bonhomme stepped onto the stage. Everyone went wild. Children were nearly dancing in the air, parents were taking photos and everyone else just seemed genuinely happy to see Bonhomme.

Eventually Bonhomme said his goodbyes, and the crowd dispersed. Events are activities went back into full swing and the carnival was well under way once again.

I spent a good hour wandering around checking out the different booths and displays. I headed back over to see the sculptures again, and discovered some that I had missed on the first lap.

Finally, I decided to head back to my hotel. Saturday had been a great day, but I was feeling a bit tired from all the action. Stay tuned for a post about the nightlife activities of Québec City Winter Carnival!

Sunday was spent at the riverfront for the highly anticipated annual frozen river ice canoe race. We had previously received an inspiring speech from Eric Fraser of Team Chateau Frontenac, which completely pumped us up for the race.

I was quite interested to learn that the history of the race had essentially started over a drunken brawl during a past Winter Carnival. Basically, two feuding families wanted to prove that they were the best and fasted canoe drivers, and so they set to the river. Families and new teams have been racing ever since.

I leaned over the rails of the mouth of the starting-Bay, and listened for the start of the race. A horn sounded and the racers were gliding across the ice, toward the semi frozen waters. before long, the canoes were whizzing past my location and into the open waters.

Racers paddled furiously and kicked their legs onto floating ice chunks. As opposing teams battled for the same position, boats banged together and pushed each other out of the way.

There were three heats of racers, all with separate starting times. Once all of the heats were into the water, they all looked like tiny rice grains in the distance, battling for the lead.

Canoes re-approached our location, and batted a large balloon to make their next leg. After a large triangular form was completed, they speedily headed back to the entry point.

The crowd cheered as teams re-entered the Bay, and the winners could be identified. Reigning champions Team Chateau Frontenac had won the race!

The Québec City Winter Carnival is a weekend filled with both fun and excitement. There is literally something to see or do at any time of the day, and you will never find yourself looking for something to keep you busy.

Dress warm, bring some friends, and go explore Québec City Winter Carnival!

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14 Responses to “Québec City Winter Carnival”

  1. julianne hertfort
    February 10, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    i couldn’t believe people actually had that much outdoor fun in the winter time! awsome! I am going to québec because my husband love winter sports but to be i was quite not motivated to do a vacation rental over there because of the cold… but i am positive sure that my children will just love to have a carnival time on ice lol!

  2. Eileen Ludwig
    February 10, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    Love this. Always wanted to go and visit during the carnival. Nice to be able to see this through your eyes. Did you carry that tavelocity gnome everywhere. It seems awkward. Are they the sponsor of your trips?
    Eileen Ludwig recently posted..Exciting Universal Macy’s Holiday Parade Memories Past Present Future

    • Seattle
      February 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

      Well, I hope that you can eventually make it there yourself 😀
      Nope! The gnome was with someone else. He just seemed to end up in most of my photos, whether I wanted him there, or not.. hehe :p

  3. Amanda
    February 10, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

    Ooo, this looks like so much fun!!! I’m so jealous of this trip of yours.
    Amanda recently posted..Travel Photos: My 7 Super Shots

    • Seattle
      February 11, 2012 at 12:48 am #

      hehe.. perhaps you should have stayed in Ottawa longer.. not too far from there :p

  4. Gavin
    February 11, 2012 at 1:37 am #

    Greetings. I write this as I sit in Quebec City right now for the final weekend of Carnaval de Quebec. Most happy to read about your experience at the festival … I’ve come up four years in a row now, making the effort to find people to come, rent a car, and make the 9 hour plus hike from New York City … it is definitely worth coming back for the last weekend so you can experience the night parade on Saturday.

    There’s nothing quite simply like Carnaval – and I highly recommend you check out the summer music festival, too.

    Come to NYC!


    • Seattle
      February 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

      @Gavin – I have to admit, I’m jealous of your current location :p
      I did have the chance to see a night parade last weekend, but I understand that there are two different ones. I’d like to see both :]
      And yes, I certainly hope to head back for the summer festival.. it sounds just as good 😀

  5. Patricia39
    February 11, 2012 at 3:21 am #

    This definitely looks awesome! I want to try this too, someday…
    Patricia39 recently posted..movers Arlington

  6. Alouise
    February 11, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

    What a great way to break up winter, and have some fun. This festival looks like a blast.
    Alouise recently posted..Photo Essay – Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden

  7. Alyssa
    February 13, 2012 at 5:27 am #

    I love the photos you have here for us and I am sure this can be a big help too…
    Alyssa recently posted..Office Tower 3: 531sqm/5716sqft Immediate

  8. raenze
    February 13, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    What a fabulous scenery. I like those ice carving. I hope I can join the Carnival next year.. I am very amaze of it.
    raenze recently posted..disabled cars

  9. Tinna
    February 15, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    I was really amaze with the photos alone..What more if I see it personally?Awesome!
    Tinna recently posted..Best Muscle Building Protein – How To Build Muscle Fast

  10. karla
    February 17, 2012 at 7:13 am #

    Quebec is really a great place to visit. The photos that you have shared with us is awesome. And i wish i could visit this place someday. Thanks for sharing your trip with us.
    karla recently posted..Happy New Year To All Of You And Hope You Like The Aquarium Fish Photos Here …

    • Seattle
      February 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

      No problem. I hope that you get to visit too 😀

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