Quebec City Winter Carnival

Carnaval de Québec

We attended the Quebec City Winter Carnival during the last weekend of January this year. Next year the carnival will run from the 1st to 17th of February – it pays to book your accommodation early during this busy time in Quebec City.

The carnival normally lasts at least three weekends with various main events happening on the weekends. Smaller events and qualifying competition rounds happen during the week.

While the carnival festivities can be enjoyed from all around the Old Town area of Quebec City there is a main area where you need to pay an admission fee (Around $12 CAD). The admission fee covers entry for the duration of the carnival. When we attended, our admission ticket was in the form of Bonhomme – the official ambassador for the festivities.

The carnival first ran in 1894 to bring excitement and celebration during the harsh winter period. It ran sporadically with the world wars and the Great Depression up till 1954 when the idea was again re-launched and Bonhomme was elected the carnivals representative.


Bonhomme de Neige (snowman) is his full name, he is Lord of the Ice Palace but in shadier circles he has also been voted 3rd most creepy mascot by The Magazine. We had to agree he does look a lot like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.

Stay Puft and Bonhomme

The highlight of my Quebec City Winter Carnival experience was watching (and photographing) the dog sled race through Quebec Cities old town. Dogs, competition, sleds, snow, crowds, speed, exertion and endurance – dog sled races really seem to have it all. Unfortunately all those elements seemed to work against me in my quest to get a decent photograph and I really struggled.

Dog Sledding

Dog sled race Quebec City

Dog Sled Competitor Close Up

While we saw a lot during our weekend at the Quebec City carnival we missed the parade and the canoe race across the Saint Lawrence river which no doubt would have been awesome. Apparently there is also a traditional bikini snow bath event which sounds cold but highly entertaining – if you’ve been and have photos that I could put up here do let me know!

Here is the ferry crossing the Saint Lawrence river, looking down from a distance you can see the arc the ferry needs to make into the current to ensure it doesn’t get swept down the river and miss its landing point on the other side. Imagine canoe racing across this semi frozen river!

Saint Lawrence River Ferry Crossing

We caught the belated opening ceremony for the festivities which included a fireworks display.

Fireworks Display over Carnival Village

Snow sculpting competitions occur and are displayed throughout the carnival festivities with some really impressive and intricate pieces being made.

Snow Sculpting Competition

Walking around the old town we enjoyed exploring a new city with its different sights, sounds and smells.

Protecting My Camera in the Snow

At times it was quite cold (with wind chill), but overall the weather  for the 2012 Quebec City Winter Carnival was superb. It snowed the evening we arrived so we got to see the old town covered in beautiful fresh snow. It promptly stopped snowing and we had pleasant temperatures around zero or above for both days of our weekend stay. Be warned however Quebec can be freezing cold at this time of year, come prepared with warm clothing!

Sledding in Old Town Quebec City

View of Quebec City skyline and Château Frontenac from the top of the sledding track.

Château Frontenac

Finish a day with a good meal and a decadent desert at one of the many great restaurants in the area. We dined at a place called La Hobbit which we both enjoyed.

Decadent desert in Quebec City

Overall the Quebec City Winter Carnival is well worth a trip.
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  1. This looks really cool. I’d love to go to something like this. I love the pics of the dogs. Awesome!