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Quebec Carnival

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Quebec Carnival - photo Bonhomme

Quebec Carnival: Bonhomme, the Carnival's mascot.

Photo courtesy of Carnaval de Québec.

The world's biggest winter celebration is packed with fun for families. Quebec City is a great getaway, like a mini-trip to Europe. Add on a ski day at a nearby ski resort!

Quebec Carnival: Introduction
This 17-day bash gets a million visitors a year, from all over the world. Many visitors, of course, are from Quebec: the Québecois love their winter "Carnaval de Québec", which makes for a joyous spirit. Families are everywhere, with wee kids pulled along on sleds. Many carnival-goers wear a traditional sash, and your kids will definitely want one of the long red plastic Carnival trumpets that sound out constantly in the snowy streets.

The Quebec Carnival spans three weekends and 2013 dates are February 1st to 17. Typical features of the Quebec Carnival include night parades, ice slides, snow rafting, snow sculptures, snow baths, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and outdoor concerts -- read more, below. In 2012 the Carnival has two night parades, in different areas.

Admission cost is modest: one affordable price buys entry to all the Carnival venues as often as you like, for the duration of the Festival. Your "ticket" is a collectible souvenir, a miniature "effigy" of the snowman-like Bonhomme, the personification of the Quebec Carnival. 2011 price was a mere $12CDN and a family package was available. Most activities at the fairgrounds are free.

The Quebec Carnival, by the way, is a true "Carnival" like Mardi Gras: it began as a celebration before the somber time of Lent began in the Catholic religious year. However the Quebec Carnival is always held in late January/ early February, and does not follow the yearly changes of the Mardi Gras date.

Visiting Quebec City

"I took my kids to Europe last weekend" - That's how it felt, when we visited the Quebec Carnival a few years ago. Quebec City, founded in the year 1608, has so many charming historic streets that it's been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Restaurants have names like Le Cochon Dingue (The Crazy Pig), and French is in the air, but if you don't want to practice your francais, there's no need: everyone in the tourist trade speaks Anglais too.

Quebec City is a short flight or a three-hour drive or train ride from Montreal. From a number of northeast US cities, you can fly direct. And though the town is delightful in summer, arguably the best time to visit is during the winter weeks of Quebec Carnival.

Quebec Carnival: A Family Event

The Quebec Carnival is all about families, with plenty of amusements for kids. Even the youngest babes and tots attend, and it's fun to see toddlers touring the Carnival grounds in style, riding in sleds and toboggans pulled by a parent. Families checking into the nearby Quebec Hilton hotel regularly arrive with a toboggan as part of their luggage.

Quebec City is a short flight or a 3-hour drive or train ride from Montreal. From a number of northeast US cities, visitors can fly direct. And though Quebec City is delightful in summer, arguably the best time to visit is during the winter weeks of Quebec Carnival.

Quebec Carnival Activities That Kids Will Enjoy:

  • snow rafting
  • touring the Ice Palace
  • play zone for little kids
  • outdoor concerts
  • watching teams carve snow sculptures
-- and much more. See tips and photos about Things to Do at the Quebec Carnival. In addition to the fun at the fairgrounds, families can also watch a dogsled race through the Quebec streets, a soapbox derby, and canoe races on the St. Laurence River.

Beyond the Quebec Carnival:
Naturally, visitors will want to explore more of this historic town, whose streets are safe by day and night. Don't be alarmed by frequent sounds like a trumpeting elephant: it's only happy Carnival-ers blowing on the red plastic trumpets that are an emblem of the Quebec Carnival. Your kids will definitely want one of these horns to blow.

No family should miss the giant ice slide perched above the St. Lawrence River by the Chateau Frontenac, a ten-minute walk from the fairgrounds and the Ice Palace. Update, 2011: the ice slide area is closed for renovation.

Be sure to also visit the bilingual Museum of Civilization. There's always a special exhibit; the museum is very interactive and designed to keep kids' attention riveted. Cost is modest and free for kids under 12, and location is just on the edge of the lower town of Old Quebec, close to sightseeing, quaint streets, and restaurants.

Also recommended: take the inexpensive little ferry across the icy St. Laurence River. The return trip (to the town of Levis) takes about an hour; stroll east from the Museum of Civilization to board.

Other Fun on Your Visit Could Include:

  • A ski day at nearby Mont-Sainte-Anne, a half-hour away (and you can take a shuttle bus)
  • a day trip to the Ice Hotel, just fifteen minutes from town (and again, there's a shuttle bus)

*Always check for updates!

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