Brrr. This Canuck hates to admit it, but she never knew cold till she spent a full day gallivanting outside in Quebec City, culminating in the Carnaval de Québec‘s spectacular night parade. Not that I’m a stranger to outdoor winter activities – I’m a nordic skier, after all. But when I attended Quebec’s Carnaval de Québec (Quebec Winter Carnival) a couple of years ago, I majorly underestimated just how “cold” the cold in Quebec City is!
I’d checked the weather for Quebec the day before, and it was comparable to Toronto – but I swear, it felt a good -20°C colder in Quebec! With all my layers of wool and thermals and fleece and Sorel boots, I still lost feeling in my toes and fingers after mere minutes outside exploring the action on the Plains of Abraham near Vieux-Quebec (the Old Town). Weirdly enough, I was relatively toasty packed tight with onlookers watching the night parade a short bus ride away. Maybe I was warmed by the excitement generated by the spectators, from families with wee ones to groups of adults. Or maybe I was so dazzled by the marching bands, clowns and the fun, illuminated floats to notice my extremities going numb. And who could blame me? Take a peek below of my favourite floats!
This, obviously, isn't part of the parade! It's a pic of me in front of the World's Largest Snowbank – on someone's lawn, no less. Can you spot the top of the chimney hidden behind the snowbank? It's no joke that Quebec City gets loads of snow and is frickin' freezing. As I said, I was actually pretty warm during the parade because we were packed tight trying to get a clear view of the floats, but, dang, look at that ginormous snowbank. That's normal in Quebec! I so wanted to slide down it, as the kids were doing.
To me, the night parades – yes, there are two! – are always the highlight of Quebec City’s winter carnival (or carnaval, en français), which dates to 1894. Carnaval takes place annually from the end of January to mid-February as a celebration leading into Lent. It occurs over three weekends, with some activities – like snow and ice slides, dogsled rides, snow rafting and giant table soccer games – also happening during the weekdays in between, for a total of 17 days of festivities ending on the Sunday before Mardi Gras. (Here’s a little tidbit for you: Until 1972, the dates were set according to the Gregorian calendar, and the carnival ended on Mardi Gras). The world-famous night parades take over the second and third Saturday of Carnaval, and they’re totally worth checking out. But remember, dress warm! And you can never have enough hand and toe warmers. Never. Enough. Trust me.
What: Night parades at Quebec City’s Carnaval de Québec (Quebec Winter Carnival), a Mardi Gras-style 17-day winter carnival
Where: Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. The first night parade occurs in the Lower Town (Charlesbourg), on the second Saturday; the second parade takes place in the Upper Town on the third Saturday. Parade routes will be available online starting January 2013.
When: The 59th edition of Carnaval runs February 1-17, 2013. Yes, I know that’s a year away, but it pays to be aware and prepared! The night parades will take place on February 9 and 16 at 7 p.m.
Cost: The parades are FREE! However, if you want to participate in other Carnaval festivities, you’ll have to purchase a Bonhomme Effigy (a figurine of Bonhomme, the carnival’s snowman mascot). In 2012, the Effigy cost $12.
Why: The night parades are colourful and energetic – for both kids and adults!
For more on Le Carnaval de Québec
and winter fun in Quebec, check out…
Chilling in the Cool Hôtel de Glace
Say “Bonjour” to the Cool Carnival
Knuk & Bonhomme: My Favourite
Unexpected Site at Carnaval