Brrrrr, baby its cold outside! What to do? What to do? Well, go outside of course! What does winter really mean to me? It means skiing, hot toddies, and hot tubs. Don’t run away from the cold, embrace it! New England has a plethora of winter activities, but to experience something a little more unique, we traveled away from our home in Boston and up to Québec, Canada. Often thought of as the “Europe you can drive to,” Québeckers (or Québécoise) don’t just get out in the snow and cold, they throw festivals, play, and party in it. Here are eight of my must-do winter activities around Québec City.
1. Ice Canyoning
Just outside of Québec City there’s a 135 foot tall water fall that partially freezes during the winter. You might be thinking, “That’d be cool to see,” but that’s not what ice canyoning is. Ice canyoning means you’re actually going to climb down this frozen piece of nature by repelling from a rope and digging into the ice with the cleats on your feet. In this video you can see that just a few feet from us there’s still water flowing wildly behind the ice.
2. Nordic Spas
Have you ever heard the expression, “Rinse, wash, repeat?” That’s basically the idea behind Nordic Spas, except it’s more like, “Hot, cold, relax.” In other words, first sit in a hot tub or sauna for a little while, then take a quick dip in a freezing cold bath, and finish by settling into a peaceful and tranquil room. I’m not going to pretend I know all the science behind it, but the Sibéria Station Spa seems to really get it, and I love the environment they create. There are real health benefits to this idea, and I can attest it’s quite rejuvenating.
3. Snow Jamboree
For the last several years Québec City has hosted the Snow Jamboree. Part big-air boarding and part big-time partying, this festival is a blast. In between a few overpasses, just outside the Old Town, exists a 130 ft tall, 360 ft long, big air ramp. Here you can see professional snowboarders and skiers at their best. And like I said… crazy after parties, too!
4. Les Voûtes de Napoléon
There are several ways to warm yourself up from a cold, Canadian chill: puffy coat, hand warmers, fire pits, electric heaters, etc. There is only one good way to heat up in Québec City: flowing beer, stiff drinks, singing, and dancing. For this I recommend Les Voûtes de Napoléon. Don’t let its discrete exterior fool you; a few steps down into the basement level, this speakeasy-esq bar is one of the most lively scenes you’ll find. An acoustic guitar accompanied by energized vocals, an accordion, and spoon man are often joined in song and dance by passionate drunkards, and local heat seekers.
5. Winter Carnaval Parade
Shannon wrote all about the Winter Carnaval festivities here, and even if you’re not interested in spending the time at the carnaval itself, the parade is not one to miss. This closing ceremony boasts music, lights, and entertainment unlike any parade I’ve seen before. You may know that Cirque du Soleil has it’s roots in Québec, and here it shows. Acrobats flew, climbed, and juggled there way from float to float.
6. Ice Tobogganing
On the Dufferin Terrace, just behind the Château Frontenac, you’ll find a 125+ year old toboggan slide. While cruising down the slide, you could hit speeds of up to 45 mph. There are three lanes, and each toboggan can hold up to four passengers. So grab your friends and make a race of it!
7. Make an Ice Glass
There’s a ton to do and see at the Hôtel de Glace, but my must-do activity is making your own “glass,” and of course enjoying a tasty beverage out of it. On the Behind the Scene tour, not only will you learn how the hotel is constructed, but you’ll also get to make your very own cup from a solid block of ice. Then, fill it with some of the coolest drinks (pun intended) in the great white north.
8. Enjoy the View
If you really do need to get out of the cold (and perhaps you lost your voice at Les Voûtes de Napoléon the night before), consider stepping into the Observatoire de la Capitale. 725 ft above the ground, you’ll see 360° views of the city, and can also learn about some of the city’s rich history and culture.
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