If you're visiting the Quebec Winter Carnival for the first time, or especially if you're visiting from somewhere where weather conditions are less severe, these tips will come in handy when preparing for and during your stay in Quebec City.
Photo © 2009 Scott McLean
Sub-zero temperatures, bitter winds and nighttime activities mean visitors should bring the proper clothing to enjoy Carnival.
The best advice is to dress in layers, avoid cotton, wear waterproof outerwear and a seriously good pair of boots.
Get the complete rundown on how to pack and dress for Quebec Winter Carnival
2. Book Your Hotel Early
Photo courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
Good hotels fill up quickly. Some of the more popular hotel choices that are close to the action are:
Smaller, boutique hotels include:
Events are staged at a number of locations around the city, and although not too far apart from one another, it's a good idea to decide ahead of time which activities are a must, and then plan an itinerary.
4. Combine Outdoor Activities with Indoor Activities
© CCNQ, Anne-Marie Gauthier, Flikr
Did I mention Quebec City gets cold? Planning some indoor activities to balance time spent in the chilly outdoors warms up bodies and adds to your Quebec City experience. Some suggestions include:Tours of the Chateau Frontenac are available throughout the year for a fee, although only Sat & Sunday in winter. Or wander the historic halls on your own for free. Don't miss the gorgeous house dog in the foyer. Take him for a walk if you like. The Museum of Civilization Observatoire de la Capitale offers a fabulous bird's eye, panoramic view of Quebec City and informative tour.
5. Make Restaurant Reservations on Night Parade RouteThere are two night parades on separate evenings during Winter Carnival - one in lower town, outside of Old Quebec, and one in upper town, in the old city. A nice way to view the parade is to find a restaurant along the route and make reservations for an hour or two before the parade start. You may not be be able to watch the whole parade from your table, but it's a nice way to get the evening started and may provide a respite if you get too cold watching the parade. Try to make these reservations at least a couple of months in advance.
6. Bring a Toboggan, Heavy-Duty Stroller or Wagon for Young ChildrenA lot of walking is involved with visiting Quebec Winter Carnival, and for young children, trudging through snowy conditions is tiring and challenging. Most families you see have a toboggan, heavy-duty stroller or wagon to cart their kids around the carnival events.
Some hotels will rent strollers. If your hotel does not rent and you don't have one, pick up a second-hand one for your trip.
7. Have Cash on Hand
Photograph: Taylor S. Kennedy / Getty Images
After you buy your Winter Carnival Bonnehomme tag for $10, most activities are free. However, it's good to have some small bills and change on hand for a drink here or a Beaver Tail there. Lots of places accept bank and debit cards, but when you're outdoors, having cash is a good idea.
8. Don't Miss out on Freebies
Photo © 2009 Scott McLean
The Quebec Winter Carnival is easy on the pocketbook. After paying the 10 bucks for a carnival pass, most activities are either free or a couple of dollars. In addition to this, freebies are available throughout Carnival. The Kraft / Christie tent at Place Desjardins (plass day-jar-den) gives out free refreshments. The Calgary Stampede hosts a free flapjack breakfast outside. Also free for the viewing is the opening show with fireworks, the night parades, the astonishing canoe race across the St. Lawrence, dogsledding race, concerts and much more.
9. Beware of CarsAt least in Ontario, pedestrians can have a pretty cavalier attitude to traffic, assuming cars will stop for people on foot. Quebec drivers tend to be a little more aggressive, don't seem to be willing to stop for anything and hug the corners tight when making a turn. Stay alert, follow traffic lights and don't assume pedestrians have the right of way.
10. Get One of the Most Famous Views of Quebec City from the Water
Photo: Ed Simpson / Getty Images
Though not officially part of Quebec Winter Carnival, a chance to see a view of Old Quebec from the St. Lawrence should not be missed. The ferry that crosses the St. Lawrence between Quebec City's Old Port and Lévis year-round is a great (and cheap!) way to get a superb view of the Chateau Frontenac and Lower Town. A round-trip ferry ride takes about 40 mins, runs every 30 mins and costs a few bucks.