The Quebec Winter Carnival (known locally as the Carnaval de Quebec) is an annual event that takes place in Quebec City, Canada. It’s the largest winter festival of its kind in the world. While some may prefer to spend a weke partying in the heat of the reknown Carnaval in Brazil, hundreds of thousands of people enjoy the festivities in this colder climate.
Criteria for Enjoying the Festival
If you want to come celebrate and take in the festivities in historic Quebec, I believe there are three main criteria you need to agree to:
1. You Enjoy Festivals. This is an easy one! Everyone who comes to the Quebec Carnival is looking to have fun during the day and take in some nightlife.
2. You Enjoy Novelty. There are a lot of games and activities that you’ve probably never seen before from human foosball games to dogsled races in the streets. It’s a lot of fun!
3. You Can Handle the Cold. Ah yes, the cold. This year happened to be one of the coldest on record during the opening weekend. With temperatures dropping to -32C (-25F), it got really cold at times. Still people were in a festive mood and came out with their friends, babies, and whoever else would brave the low temperatures.
I went up to Quebec City to attend the opening ceremonies of 2010 Carnival which launched on January 29th (and stayed for the weekend). You can read my review of the Quebec Hilton hotel in case you want to visit and you’re looking for lodging (in that review I added some driving info as well). I must say that I was really impressed by the spectacular show that was put on during the opening ceremony and throughout my stay. Dancers and DJ Champion and his G-strings (a DJ and his guitar players) were the main attractions during the opening ceremony. The dancers grooved to music which was all coordinated with fireworks blasting overhead. It was really something to experience. The second night featured a bunch of other performers on various stages. I stayed mainly in front of the ice palace where DJ Stefie Shock was playing.
The Famous Mascot!
The carnival’s mascot is the ever-popular Bonhomme. He appears at different activities for brief periods of time as everyone swarms around him as soon as he shows up. He wasn’t some lame mascot that just does goofy things like fall down to make kids laugh. In fact, he’s a “500 pound snowman” who is agile and dances a lot. He also talks! Yes, this is a talking mascot!What to Do ThereThere are activities going on all the time and there’s a lot to see and do. The main carnival area is right near the Old Quebec gates so you can always visit that area while you’re there. Here are just some of the amazing activities at the festival.
Check out the ice sculptures
Visit the ice palace (or ice castle – yes, a palace that is made of ice!)
Watch snow sculptures being created (teams came from all over Canada)
Dog sled racing (trust me, you’ve never seen anything like this!)
Relax in the outdoor hot tubs (anyone can jump in – bring your bathing suit!)
Canoe race on the St. Lawrence River
Visit The Plains of Abraham (site of a historic 1759 battle between the English and French)
And the list goes on and on…
At night you can party hard – outdoors on the grounds or at the nearby nightclubs, bars, and restaurants. Depending on the night, there are DJ’s spinning tunes in different areas of the festival. Also, some activities that you can do during the day are open at night like the outdoor hot tub. There are even outdoor bars where you can drink the popular (and great tasting) Caribou drink. You absolutely have to try this delicious drink and make sure they serve it to you in a glass made from a large ice cube, and hang out at the ice bar. Yes, everything here is made of ice!
Interview with Carnaval de Quebec President Andre Roy
I had a chance to meet with the André Roy who is the President of the Quebec Winter Carnival.
What’s the significance of the carnival?
It’s the 56th edition of the carnival and it’s a tradition for Quebec City. I think that for the people from Quebec it’s something very important. There’s usually around 800,000 people and we have more than 1,500 volunteers who take care of the carnival.
What are the big events for tourists?
We have some classics – some very traditional activities in the carnival. Everything from the international snow sculpture competition to the ice canoe race and we have the two night parades. This year we also have a day parade on the first weekend with giant character balloons. That’s something that people have asked for for a very long time so this year we have it. We also have a new stage by Hydro-Quebec with very popular artists (musicians, etc) from Quebec and fireworks displays. We have the ice garden full of ice sculptures from Club Penguin sponsored by Disney. We also have a 400-foot ice slide. It’s just at the entrance of the Plains of Abraham so it can be enjoyed by people who are already in the festival atmosphere.
What nightlife do you have?
We are trying to offer more nightlife and have 12 shows at night during the 17 days of the festivities. There are DJs and we have a lof of different types of music – Salsa, Hip Hop, Traditional and we try to cover everything.
Should You Go?
Yes! It’s no wonder that the Carnival is such a hit among locals and tourist from around the world. Some of the management team members include Patrick Lemaire, Andree-Anne Stewart, and Laila Boulasri, all of whom clearly excelled at what they do. Thanks to their talents, ideas, and orgnizational capabilities, the carnival was once again a success this year. If all Quebec Winter Carnivals are held the way the 2009 one was (and I have no reason to doubt that they are!), this one party you should attend.
Quebec Winter Carnival 2010
If you’re into good times and the outdoors, this is one festival you won’t want to miss. Here’s looking forward to a great carnival next time ’round!