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The winter carnaval (French spelling) in Quebec City has historic roots; it once marked the celebrations before the beginning of Lent and the first Winter Carnival in Quebec City took place in 1894. Since then the carnival has been transformed and officially opened in its present form in 1955. Since then it has become an annual event growing each year and featuring its much-loved mascot Bonhomme.
Each year more activities were added including winter sports, games, shows and traditional Quebec activities. Today it is the largest winter carnival in the world featuring over 300 activities and shows.
Among the family-friendly highlights of the carnival there is Bonhomme’s Ice Palace which stands opposite the Parliament Building and is built completely from ice! Here you can meet the carnaval mascot - Bonhomme. The amazing snow sculptures are masterpieces of abstract and figurative work often standing several meters high.
If you like action then Christie’s Giant Bowling will have you spinning inside a huge transparent bowling ball downhill towards bowling pins. Take the whole family on a horse-drawn cariole ride in the Plains of Abraham. Each carriage holds 6-8 people.
The Calgary Stampede Flapjack Breakfast is a Western-themed free breakfast of flapjacks, sausages and coffee. At the Sugar Shack you can try out traditional maple taffy on snow. Watch the Yukigassen team snow ball fight brought to Canada from Japan and played by anyone willing to participate.
On the Plains of Abraham there will be a giant Ferris Wheel and the Hydro-Quebec Slides offers 7 different snow slides for all ages. There will be ice skating on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7pm. You can try dog sledding during the week and visit the Animals of the Majo Mini-Farm. At the New France Trading Post you will be greeted by costumed trappers who will show you their tools and tell stories from New France. The Sepaq Kids’ Playground is a themed play area where there is supervision.
The whole family will enjoy watching the canoe race across the frozen waters of the Saint-Lawrence River between Quebec City and Levis. Downtown you can even try ice canoeing. You can see a winter concert at the Videotron Center. If you are trying to decide when to visit the carnival there are certain highlights on each weekend.
On the first weekend there will be the opening ceremony; on the second weekend there will be the Night Parade in Charlesbourg, the canoe race and the International Snow Sculpture Competition and on the third weekend there will be the Snow Bath and Night Parade in Upper Town. In addition all the other regular carnival events will take place continuously throughout the festival.
Parents should be aware that almost all the activities take place outside so kids (and adults) could get very cold. There will be a Services Tent and the SAQ Bistro on the Plains of Abraham where you can duck in for a few moments of respite from the cold. For food visit the Services Tent on the Plains of Abraham where there will be fast food outlets and a few tables. Those with strollers should be aware that although access is allowed and the snow and ice will be cleared regularly the surfaces will still be hard to navigate.
There will be washrooms with baby changing facilities in the Services Tent at Place Desjardins on the Plains of Abraham. Take a look at the carnival program to see if you need to pre-book for any specific events although most of the events are first-come-first-served. Many of the events are free. Dogs are allowed on a leash but not in the tent.
When: Every January and February
main entrance to the site is at Plains of Abraham. The carnival’s major sites
are in Old Quebec: Plains of Abraham (Place Desjardins), Place de l’Assemble
Nationale and Place D’youville.
Price: CAN$15 gains you a Bonhomme Effigy (plastic figurine of the carnival mascot worn on your coat) and free entry to the 2 main sites throughout the 17 day festival so that you have access to over 300 activities and shows. Effigies sold on-site. Many of the attractions (including the Kids’ Playground) don’t need an effigy as they are free.
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