Quebec City has the right idea when it comes to winter fun! The season starts with the Winter Carnival featuring the adorable ambassador “Bonhomme”. The festival, one of the world’s biggest winter festivals, recently celebrated its 60th anniversary. Last year it drew over 600,000 people from across the globe to the city. Beyond the Winter Carnaval, there are many fun activities for the visitors to embrace winter along with Quebecois society’s spirit of simply bundling up in layers and going outdoors.
An interesting fact about Bonhomme, he has his security detail, just like the secret service. Tall and imposing, he wears the arrowhead sash (inspired by the Amerindian culture) as he appears all over the city during the celebration. People love this friendly character and in some cases, children hold him in higher esteem than Santa Claus in Quebec City.
Here are a few ideas on how you can embrace your winter spirit in Quebec City:
Plains of Abraham
The “Plains of Abraham” was the site of many clashes between the French and British Empires during Canada’s early history and the scene of the 1759 Conquest, which changed the fate of North America and kept control of the St Lawrence Seaway shipping lanes with the French.
Today the park is one of the prime locations of the Quebec Winter Carnaval with slides, Ferris wheels, international ice sculptures and plenty of places to eat and drink. All winter you can ski, skate, and snowshoe for free on the Plains of Abraham, if you don’t have the equipment then rentals are available.
Hotel de Glace
The Hotel de Glace is open from January 3rd until March 23rd, 2014. Staying the night inside the icy walls takes a braver soul than I where ambient temperatures stay between -3 to -5 C. Staying the night requires advance bookings and some basic training in how to sleep well in your arctic surroundings.
A team of artists from North America and Europe worked on creating this ice masterpiece, including the ice sculptures that explore themes of myth and legends from around the world.
The coolest bar is located in the hotel and the perfect place to warm up with a “Caribou”, a potent alcoholic drink which contains brandy, vodka, sherry and port. Caribou is available at most bars and liquor stores.
Take a tour inside via PHOTOS.
Rejuvenate at a Scandinavian Spa
Although a bit leery at first, I locked away my clothing, put on my bathing suit and stepped outside to a winter wonderland at Siberian Spa Station. The Scandinavians have the right idea when it comes to winter outdoor spas. The process of thermotherapy, alternating hot, cold and rest, reduce stress, eliminate toxins, relaxes muscles so you build your immune system and sleep better.
The spa is open year around, there is nothing more relaxing than sitting in a hot tub surrounded by winter. Bath robes and towels are provided with a bottle of water.
Winter Thrill Seekers
Just 20 minutes outside of Quebec City you can challenge your adventurer spirit at Valcartier Villa Vacances, the largest winter playground in North America with more than 35 snow slides and activities for the family. Take note that some of the slides can get up to speeds of 80 km or more.
Eating well in Quebec City
No visit to Quebec City is complete without a visit to North America’s oldest grocery store – J. A. Moissan opened its doors in 1885 and is located at 699, Saint-Jean Street. The store retains its historical charm and features some of Canada’s best gourmet products.
After a thoroughly enjoyable frozen day a good meal should be on your agenda. Quebec City’s myriad of good restaurants, cafes and bars offer hearty meals to haute cuisine. Some stand-outs are;
Casse-Crepe Breton features the best traditional Quebec crepes.
Paillard for delicious sandwiches, soups, hot meals and sweet treats.
Chez Ashton for your poutine fix.
La Cremaillere for upscale dining, featuring exquisite French and Italian cuisine.
For more information, visit the Quebec City website: http://www.quebecregion.com