21 Amazing Ways to Embrace Winter Magic in Québec City

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You will find so many bucket list things to do in Québec City when you visit in the winter. Being active outdoors in this historic city includes many unique experiences like Carnaval de Québec, dog sledding, ice skating, indigenous experiences, food and more. Your entire family will love experiencing pure winter magic in Québec City! 

Many thanks to Québec City Tourism Office for sponsoring my recent trip. All opinions are mine.

bon homme in quebec

Why is Québec City so Magical?

Nestled along the picturesque St. Lawrence River, historic Québec City, captivates visitors year-round. However, during the winter months, Québec City truly shines. As the frost settles and snow blankets the cobblestone streets, the city transforms into a winter wonderland straight out of a fairytale. Visitors from all over the world come to experience the magical winter season in Québec City and we highly encourage you to get there soon!

Founded in 1608 by French explorer Samuel de Champlain, Québec City is the oldest European settlement north of Mexico in North America. Originally established as a fur trading post, the city quickly grew into a hub of commerce and culture as the capital of New France. Over the centuries, Québec City was part of many battles between French and British forces for control of the region and both countries left unique marks on this amazing city.

walled city gate in Quebec

Full of well-preserved architecture, charming cobblestone streets, and vibrant cultural heritage, it’s easy to see why Québec City was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Make sure to put this fabulous walled Canadian city on your travel bucket list.

There’s something magic about Québec City in the winter. From the iconic Château Frontenac, to the frozen St. Lawrence River, to the snow covered streets and roofs, Québec City is simply enchanting in the winter. If you think you can’t do anything fun outdoors in cold weather, think again. Québec City in winter will knock your socks off. Enjoy this list of magical, wintery things to do in Québec City and famous attractions not to miss.

Québec City’s Winter Carnaval

When you visit Québec City in the winter, you’ll definitely want to experience the iconic Carnaval de Québec. This 10 day winter carnival takes place every year between late January and early February. In 2025, it will take place from February 7- 16, so make plans now!

The Québec Winter Carnaval is not only the largest winter festival in North America, but it is also the oldest of its kind in the world. Dating back to 1894, it has a rich history of over a century of celebration. Originally started as a way to have some fun during the cold winter months, this famous festival has evolved into the premier winter event in Québec. More than one million people visit the winter carnival each year!

To get the most out of Carnaval de Québec, make sure to buy a festival ticket. Each year, a different effigy is the official ticket. All you have to do is attach the effigy to your jacket or snow pants, and you can take part in all carnival activities. The effigy costs between $20 and $30 and you can use it every day of the festival. Buy it in advance and get a presale discount! By the way, kids 12 and under are free. No effigy required!

Following are a few activities at Carnaval de Québec that you will not want to miss.

Bonhomme’s Ice Palace at night

Explore Bonhomme’s Ice Palace

You might recognize Bonhomme Carnaval, the official mascot of the Québec Winter Carnival. Introduced in 1955, Bonhomme is a friendly snowman and iconic symbol of the winter festivities. Bonhomme, which literally translates to “good fellow” in English, wears a red tuque (cap) and traditional québécois arrow sash. He makes lots of appearances during Carnaval and you’ll certainly want to get a picture with him!

One of the most famous attractions at the Québec Winter Carnival is Bonhomme’s Ice Palace, located just across from the Parliament Building. Each year, this magnificent structure is constructed entirely of ice blocks. Decorated with ice sculptures and lit up with lights, it’s especially captivating at night. It’s so fun to walk through so make sure you don’t miss it!

As you wander through the icy hallways and rooms, you’ll discover a wonderland of frozen beauty, from towering ice pillars to sculptures depicting scenes from Québec’s history. Don’t miss the chance to pose for photos with Bonhomme himself if you find him in his palace. 

bonhomme ice palace in quebec (1)

Whether you’re exploring the icy throne room, taking pictures on the ice train, or simply taking in the glittering beauty of it all, Bonhomme’s Ice Palace is a must-see attraction that captures the magic and spirit of the Québec Winter Carnaval. Anna and Elsa lovers will be in Frozen paradise when they visit!

Find the Ice Sculptures

Find the Ice Sculptures

Not only can you visit the Jardin des sculptures which is an area dedicated just to these works of art, but you’ll find ice sculptures all over the old town. They are intricate and beautiful works of art made by very talented ice sculptors. 

Le Camping de Bonhomme

Play at Le Camping de Bonhomme

Another fun activity at Carnaval de Québec is Bohomme’s campground. This part of Carnaval includes a zipline, ice bar, games, ice slides, and daytime programming for kids. Your family will certainly want to stop here and check out all the fun activities for families!

Ice Canoe Races

Have you ever heard of ice canoeing? I hadn’t until our trip to Québec for Carnaval. But ice canoe racing in Québec City is a competitive sport and a highlight of the winter season. You can either watch canoe teams race during Carnaval, or you can try it yourself. We did not get the chance to try ice canoeing, but it’s on the list for our next trip to Québec City. 

If you buy an add-on ticket, you can even watch the ice canoe racing up front and center on a ferry of Société des traversiers du Québec.

Nighttime Entertainment During Carnaval de Québec

Nighttime Entertainment During Carnaval de Québec

Nighttime entertainment during Carnaval is not just for adults. Your effigy will get you into a lot of concerts too! We stopped in at one under the Dome next to the Ice Palace and had a great time singing and dancing to a wonderful music group.

Owl effigy at the Quebec 
Night Parade

Take in a Night Parade

There are two night parades during Carnaval, held on both Saturdays during the event. You do not want to miss the night parades so make sure your stay in Québec includes a Saturday night. 

The Carnival’s night parades are a highlight of the festival, featuring giant illuminated effigies that parade through the city streets. In addition to the effigies, you’ll see singing, dancing, fire spinning and more during the parade. 

The parade we saw was in the Limoilou neighborhood. The one we missed was in the historic upper town. I have to admit that this Night Parade was one of the best parades I’ve ever watched! 

at the top of the Au 1884 Toboggan Slide

Ride the Au 1884 Toboggan Slide 

You definitely don’t want to miss the oldest attraction in Québec City! Built in 1884, the Au 1884 Toboggan Slide is an experience like no other! Located near the Le Château Frontenac at the Dufferin Terrace, this historic slide offers a thrilling, icy descent with stunning views of the St. Lawrence River. 

climbing to the top of the dragging the at the top of the Au 1884 Toboggan Slide sled

To ride the Au 1884, you’ll first buy your ticket in the nearby cafe. Then, get in line for your traditional wooden toboggan. As you wait in line, watch everyone come down the slide!

Here’s what to know:

  • You can ride the toboggan alone, with another adult, or even with a kid or two (4 people are max)
  • You’ll pull the toboggan behind you and climb up to the top of the slide
  • Once you reach the top, you’ll get a safety briefing before you head out
  • The toboggans are fast! You can get up to 45 mph for your quick ride to the bottom
dragging the at the top of the Au 1884 Toboggan Slide sled

Don’t let the screaming sledders deter you from participating in this amazing Québec experience! It’s a favorite winter pastime in Québec that you really will be glad you did!

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Outdoor Ice Skating

There are lots of places to ice skate in Québec, if ice skating is your jam! From the popular outdoor rinks at Place D’Youville and Place Jacques-Cartier to forest skating trails around the city, you’ll find lots of opportunities for ice skating in historic locations. Many of the outdoor rinks are free with rentals and skate sharpening available. 

Cross Country Skiing at Plains of Abraham

Cross Country Skiing at Plains of Abraham

If you like cross-country skiing, make sure to check out the free tracks at the Plains of Abraham. This large urban park was once the site of important battles in Canada’s history and it’s a winter wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts. 

You will enjoy the quiet snow-covered trails that afford stunning views of the St. Lawrence River and the city’s iconic skyline. With over 14 kilometers of groomed trails suitable for all skill levels, the Plains of Abraham is a great place for cross-country skiing adventures just steps away from the city center. Ski rentals are also available – no need to bring your own.

Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec

Ride the Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec

Operating almost continuously since it was built 1879, the Funicular has become an integral part of Québec City’s charm. It’s a quick and easy way to get from Lower Town to Upper Town. As you ride the steep incline, you’re treated to breathtaking vistas of the St. Lawrence River, the architecture of Old Québec, and the bustling Petit Champlain district below. 

A funicular is a type of cable railway system designed specifically for steep inclines and we always take them when we can. It consists of two cars attached to opposite ends of the same cable. As one car goes up, the other car goes down. The two vehicles counterbalance each other’s weight. This efficient and energy-saving mechanism allows the funicular to navigate slopes too steep for traditional rail vehicles. We’ve taken funiculars in Dubuque, Iowa; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Heidelberg, Germany.

The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

Plenty of Indoor Attractions 

There are plenty of historic buildings and museums you can pop inside if you need to warm up when you visit Carnaval. Here are a few warm places you won’t want to miss:

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

Not just a hotel, but an iconic landmark, its majestic architecture dominates the QuébecCity skyline. Head inside for a tour, a drink or meal at one of their restaurants, or for a coffee at Starbucks. 

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Musée de la civilisation

The famous Museum of Civilization has been exploring the history of Québec for 35 years. With a permanent exhibit on the Indigenous populations of Québec, the museum also has a Discovery Zone geared towards children, and modern exhibits that focus on societal issues too. It’s the most popular museum in Québec!

Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral

Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral

The oldest parish church in North America, offering exquisite art and architecture. This Cathedral also has one of only seven Holy Doors in the world. Anyone can walk through the Holy Door when it’s open. It’s a deeply spiritual act for Catholics and pilgrims come from around the world to walk through the door.

The Holy Door generally only opens once every 25 years, but it will be open until Dec 8, 2024 to mark the 350th anniversary of the diocese of Québec. 

Le Monastère des Augustines

Le Monastère des Augustines

This building is both a hotel and a museum within the historic Hôtel-Dieu de Québec monastery. When you visit, you can learn about the lives of the Augustinian sisters who founded the first hospital in North America. a delicious restaurant (Le Vivoir) that prioritizes locally grown produce. It’s phenomenal.

Le Monastère des Augustines also offers wellness options like yoga and massage that many visitors enjoy. We participated in a yoga class that was so grounding and relaxing. It was a very nice way to end a busy day!

Plan to visit the museum and eat a meal there!

Take a Guided City Tour

Taking a guided city tour is a great way to enhance your travel experience. We always enjoy the knowledge that expert local guides provide about the city’s history, culture, and landmarks. 

Our guide also helped us navigate the winding streets of Old Québecand pointed out fascinating insights and stories we wouldn’t have discovered on our own. 

By joining a tour, you also have the opportunity to ask questions, interact with locals, and receive personalized recommendations for restaurants, shops, and activities. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply want to get a comprehensive overview of the city, a guided tour is an interesting way to make the most of your time in Quebec City.

We took a private walking tour of Old Québec with HQ Services Touristiques, a woman-owned small business that also offers gourmet food tours as well!

La Boutique de Noël de Québec

Shopping in Old Québec

Québec is home to so many cute streets just full of unique stores. If you like shopping, make sure to visit a couple iconic shopping areas. We also recommend a few shops you might want to pop inside!

Quartier Petit Champlain 

Quartier Petit Champlain 

Quartier Petit Champlain is a picturesque neighborhood in Lower Québec known for its narrow cobblestone streets, boutique shops, and historic buildings. You’ll find one of the most famous streets in Old Québec City down here as well as a lot of restaurants and cafes, unique boutiques, artisanal shops, and souvenir options. 

During Winter Carnaval, there are also warming huts, ice bars, and ice sculptures to explore in the lower part of the city as well. Make sure to either walk down the stairs or take the Funicular to visit this really cute part of town.

Rue Saint-Jean

One of the oldest streets in the Upper Town, this street is another popular shopping area with a mix of local boutiques, gourmet food shops, and quaint cafes. It’s the perfect place to find unique gifts, artisanal chocolates, and Québecois delicacies. 

Make sure to step inside the flagship location of Simons on Rue Saint-Jean.  A Québec institution since 1840, Simons is a department store offering a curated selection of fashion, accessories, and home goods. 

Rue Sainte-Anne

Another charming street you won’t want to miss if you’re looking for fashion or souvenirs. When you visit Rue Sainte-Anne, make sure you also the year-round Christmas store La Boutique de Noël de Québec. You’ll find a ton of holiday decorations, ornaments, and gifts. And I loved their boot cleaner that we had to use before we could enter the building. 

Enjoy Traditional Québecois Cuisine maple snow taffy

Enjoy Traditional Québecois Cuisine

Trying local treats is one of the most important reasons we travel. When in Québec, there are so many local treats to try. Now is not the time to diet. 

Make sure you indulge in Québecois specialties like poutine, maple taffy, and tourtière from the food stalls scattered throughout the festival grounds. 

Here’s a list of 17 must try food when you visit Québec. Make a list and make sure to try them all!

hotel de glace quebec

Village Vacances Valcartier

You might also want to make the time to head out to the Village Vacances Valcarier. Located about a half hour from Québec, you’ll find a lot of family-friendly activities here including 35 snow slides, extreme sledding, ice skating paths, and the huge indoor water park, Bora Parc. The must visit Hôtel de Glace is also here and definitely worth a visit!

Explore Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier

Explore Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier

If your family would like to connect with nature, head out to the Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier. This beautiful park is just under an hour outside Québec and is located in a stunning glacial valley. Things to do at this national park include:

  • Fat tire biking or hiking on groomed trails
  • Snow shoeing
  • Cross country skiing
  • Watching wildlife and birds
Fat tire biking or hiking on groomed trails

Make sure to wear appropriate winter clothes and boots. Bike, snowshoe, and ski rentals are available in the lodge.

Dog Sledding at Pourvoirie du Lac-Beauport2

Dog Sledding at Pourvoirie du Lac-Beauport

Another highlight of Carnaval are the dog sled races that are usually held the first weekend of Carnaval. We weren’t there to watch it, but we did head out to the countryside of Lac-Beauport to try dog sledding for ourselves. Dog sledding has changed from a practical necessity used by Indigenous peoples and first European settlers in the area into a beloved winter sport and cultural tradition in Québec. 

Dog Sledding at Pourvoirie du Lac-Beauport

And the best adventure is trying your hand at dog mushing yourself! I can tell you that it is not as easy as it looks, but when you sign up for a dog sledding session at Pourvoire du Lac-Beauport, the knowledge guides will teach you want to do and then help you as you lead your husky team and sled on snowy trails through the countryside! 

You do have to be 14 years old to drive a sled, but younger kids can still experience riding in the sled. You can also visit with the sweet puppies after your ride. I will tell you that I was not prepared for how physical it is to drive a dog sled. I give mad props to professional dog sledders – what a sport!

Onhwa’ Lumina at Wendake

Onhwa’ Lumina at Wendake 

Onhwa’ Lumina at Wendake was one of my favorite experiences on the entire trip. You’ll find this unique cultural experience in Wendake, a First Nations community near Québec City. It’s a multimedia night walk that immerses you in the rich history, traditions, and legends of the Huron-Wendat people. 

As we wandered through illuminated forest trails, we encountered stunning light projections, interactive installations, and storytelling that brought the ancient tales to life. I don’t have enough good things to say about Onhwa’ Lumina. I would love to go back in the fall and experience it again.

Tips for Enjoying the Winter Carnival to the Fullest - dress warmly

Tips for Enjoying the Winter Carnival to the Fullest

Dress Warmly.  Québec winters can be downright cold, so layer up with thermal clothing, waterproof boots, gloves, and a cozy hat to stay comfortable throughout the day. You might want to bring hand and foot warmers too. We really recommend wearing ski gear on days you plan to be outside for a long time. Remember, it’s easier to take clothes off than put them on! 

Make sure you have tissues for runny noses as the cold tends to bring out the snot. Gross but true. Also, you might want to have chap stick and sunscreen too. Cold, sunny weather can really dry out your skin and trust this fair skinned writer, winter sunburns can be the absolute worst.

Stay hydrated. It’s easy to forget to drink water in the cold, but staying hydrated will help you stay energized and healthy throughout the day.

Learn a few basic words of French. Remember that French is the first language of Québec. It’s true that most people who work in the tourism industry can get by in English, it’s just polite to know at least the basics in French. At a minimum, here are seven French words might want to know:

  • Hello: Bonjour
  • Good evening: Bonsoir
  • Thank you: Merci
  • Please: S’il vous plaît
  • You’re welcome: De rien
  • Yes: Oui
  • No: Non

Now that you’ve read all about things to do in Québec City in the winter, what are you most excited to do?? Thanks again to Québec City Tourism for a top-notch trip. We hope you’ll prioritize a trip here soon. Here’s more information you’ll need as you plan your trip.

5 Famous Hotels in Québec City You Must Visit in 2024

Must Try Famous Foods in Québec during Winter Carnaval

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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