Bonhomme - ambassador of the Winter Carnival

Bonhomme – ambassador of the Winter Carnival

The 59th Annual Quebec Winter Carnival 2013 kicked off on February 1, and will continue until February 17. There’s plenty of time to still get there and have the time of your life. This is the third largest festival in the world and the world’s largest winter festival. Dress warm, come hungry and you’ll go away happy…guaranteed.

In less than 24 hours during the opening days of the show I enjoyed sledding on an fast, 120m ice-chute, snow tubing on a long snow hill, human foosball, field hockey, ice skating, cross country skiing, snowshoe races, dog sledding, ice and snow sculptures, winter hot tubs and saunas, dancing under the moonlight, horse-drawn sleighs as well as delicious food and adult beverages. While most activities are outside, there are adequate places to come in, warm up and refuel; so you never need to worry about being outside all day long.

So what’s still going on?  Here’s my top ten choices for things I wouldn’t miss if I was still there:

1)      Take in LUMOCITE, a spectacular lighting of the city’s most famous landmarks with 3D and SFX illumination presented by world renowned multi-media teams from L.A., Budapest, Geneva, as well as Quebec. Starting Feb 6 until Feb 9, the show goes from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. each night.  Starting in 2014 this will be an international competition in Quebec.

Beavertails, the gooey, delicious maple treat served warm.

Beavertails, the gooey, delicious maple treat served warm.

2)      Canada is known for its adult beverages, and to celebrate, BRASSEE DU CARNAVAL is where you’ll want to be to sample the best of local microbreweries. From Feb. 7 through Feb. 10, you can taste from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. in front of the Armoury.

3)      Get a photo with the ambassador of Winter Carnival, the bigger-than-life BONHOMME. Saturdays and Sundays you’ll find him in the Loto-Quebec Zone from 11:30 a.m. until 12 p.m.

Human foosball

Human foosball

4)      Try HUMAN FOOSBALL on an icy rink. Two teams of twelve people put on blue or red jerseys and then strap themselves to long poles that limit their movement to left and right only. Working in tandem (supposedly) they each try to advance the ball across the court and into the opponent’s goal. Come with a team or come by yourself and they will partner you up. It’s a pack of laughs you won’t forget.

5)      Be amazed at the International ICE SCULPTURE competitions. Young art students as well as collegiate and local competitors had their projects completed before I left and they were expertly done. (How anyone can hollow out the inside of a giant ice sphere without cracking it, baffles my mind.) If they did such amazing work, I’m sure sorry I missed the international competitors. The international teams will be working from February 5 through February 10 if you want to see them in action.

6)      DOGSLED RIDES are available by climbing the hill past the Oreo snow slides. Amarok Expedition had out two teams of 4 to 6 dogs and were offering the opportunity to ride and actually drive the teams yourself. With just a minute or two of instructions, whole families were off around a predetermined course for some quick, fun with dogs that just want to run. This year Winter Carnival, next year the Iditarod?

The Ice Palace is lit up with music and lights each night

The Ice Palace is lit up with music and lights each night

7)      DANCE the night away under the stars (or the snow) to the beats of local DJ’s and the colorful lighting of the giant Ice Palace. Giant fire barrels are spaced around the site to keep you warm; but if you groove enough to the music, you’ll stay plenty toasty.

8)      Get crazy and watch the SNOW BATHERS battle the snow with only their bathing suits and some determination at 2 p.m. on February 16. Afterwards, do a favor and buy one of them a hot Caribou drink from Bistro SAQ – oh, so tasty – but powerful – so maybe only have one…or two…or?

 SLIDE SHOW – Mouse over the lower right corner and click on the arrow to see full-screen version.

9)      NIGHT PARADES on February 9 and February 16 feature fantastic costumes, animations and floats; with his ambassadorship Bonhomme ruling over the event.

10)   This year’s most anticipated event is the ICE CANOE RACES across the semi-frozen St. Lawrence River. Starting in Quebec, teams paddle when possible, then haul their canoes up onto the ice flows, before going back into the water again, over and over, until they reach the other side of the ice packed river in Levis, Quebec; then back again to Quebec.  Spectators can cheer them on from riverside or from high above on Dufferin Terrace next to Fairmont’s Chateau Frontenac.

View from Hilton Quebec

View from Hilton Quebec

Want a hotel nearby?  Try the Hilton Quebec, just a long block away from the Carnival entrance, with some of the best views of the city from high atop Parliament Hill. Their saunas were very popular with carnival going guests.

If you don’t fill up on Beavertails, and you are looking for something more substantial, try Bistro SAQ. On the carnival grounds, Bistro SAQ has really tasty paninis in either Italian or Ham and Cheese.  You must accompany it with the warm mulled Caribou for best effect.

Get going and get to Quebec Winter Carnival before it’s gone for another year. If you’ve already been, tell us what you liked best in the comments box below.

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