Are you planning a family adventure to Québec’s Winter Carnival? Here are a few tips to help you enjoy the world’s largest and most famous winter festival: Le Carnaval D’hiver de Quebec!
First, Some History:
Keeping warm and happy in the winter months was vital in the icy-cold colonies of New France. The first official winter festival was held in Quebec in 1894, but the celebration you know today was first held in 1955.
Since then, Quebec’s Winter Carnival has been growing and growing…but always under the watchful eyes and welcoming arms of its jolly ambassador, Le Bonhomme, who wears the traditional French red hat and arrowhead sash. These days, Le Bonhomme is so well- known, he even has his own Linkedin profile. What a guy!
Where to Stay:
You can easily soak in the spirit of Carnaval over a long weekend. There are direct flights to Quebec city from most cities in Canada, and many Québec City hotels have deals geared specifically toward families.
The Hotel Concorde, with its extremely cool revolving restaurant, offers packages from $169 per night, while the Hotel Ambassadeur has packages starting at $79 per person, per night. For a taste of luxury, stay at the Hotel Chateau Laurier.
What to Do:
The Five Zones of the Carnival all offer various activities, most of which are accessed with an “effigy” – or pass, that festival-goers attach to their person. At the Loto Québec Zone is the magnificent Ice Palace. A great place for kids is the Bonhomme’s World Site, which offers family games like Giant Fooseball, the Uniprix Ice Slide and even a petting zoo. For a relaxing afternoon, stroll for free through the giant ice sculptures at the Cominar Site.
What to Eat and Drink:
On the street, taste maple syrup taffy, beaver tails and other delicious snacks. Or, savour the delicate flavours of Quebec cuisine in one of the many restaurant or bistros in La Ville de Québec. The traditional Resto La Buche has a great kids menu. (Just remember that pâté chinois is Shepherd’s Pie, not “Chinese pie”!) And who can resist the fun of dipping bread in melted cheese at 1001 Fondues?
The official drink of Carnaval is Caribou, named for when the indigenous people saw the French drinking a red liquid that looked like Caribou blood. At Carnaval, bars around the festival area serve Caribou to keep revellers warm. To get you in the mood for Carnaval, here’s a warm Caribou recipe, from Canadian celebrity chef, Ricardo (although some sources, like this youtube recipe ditch the vodka and include maple syrup). Mix it up in your own special way, and enjoy!
2 tablespoons (30 ml) brandy
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vodka
1/3 cup (75 ml) port wine
1/3 cup (75 ml) dry sherry
Mix and heat gently in a saucepan, serve in small glasses. Santé!
To visit Quebec, call 1 877-BONJOUR!