The World's Coolest Carnival

bonhomme de carnaval[trip style = sightseeing]

Two weeks ago I made the 5000 km, cross-Canada trek to sojourn in an ice castle, chat-up a cool Canadian celeb and slurp icy maple syrup taffy from a wooden stick. I know, right, my Canadiana-quotient is nearing Rick Mercer status. Kidding.

Sun-starved and shivering, normally in winter I hightail it down South---anywhere with sun will do---but in a nod to my maple leafy roots and French Immersion schooling, I traded my flip-flops for snow boots and my beach cover-up for a parka to attend the world's largest winter carnival, Carnaval de Quebec! Decked out in down and thermals I got a firsthand peek at what a winter version of carnival looks like: ice canoeing, parades and all {sans sparkly headdresses unless you count fur-rimmed toques}.

It's true, willingly wandering into -15 C {4 F} weather in winter's coldest snap isn't most travelers' idea of a balmy escape, but if you're craving a dose of Canada, the 17-day Carnaval is one of your best bets. Plus, you can always keep warm drinking a French Canadian version of mulled wine, aptly called Caribou {more on that below}!

The Fête's Photos hotel de glace quebec

ice hotel indoor fire

ice hotel bartender

ice hotel quebec spa The Ice Hotel {see what it's like to stay there}.

cavanal quebec inner tubes ice slide

carnaval de quebec ice slide {A small slice of Carnaval's main action.}

maple syrup snow taffy {Eating snow-chilled maple syrup, which you tightly wind into a makeshift lollypop. The best part is when the ice particles melt in your mouth and cut the syrup's sweetness.}

bonhomme de carnaval {Bonhomme; Carnaval's spokes-snowman. At seven feet tall and 400 pounds of compact snow, this frosty celeb lives in an ice castle while at Carnaval, then retreats up North, way North, for the rest of the year so he won't melt. He is escorted around town by way of a white Escalade limo and has an entourage. It's highly possible one of the members of his team is his belt stylist.}

carnaval parade {The parade, OBVIOUSLY featuring Bonhomme.}

caribou cane carnaval {Caribou: a French Canadian mixture of cinnamon-dusted red wine, whiskey and maple syrup---think aged mulled wine---served chaud and consumed by way of a hollow, Bonhomme-topped cane, which can be refilled during the frigid festivities.}

canot a glace

ice canoeing race carnaval


st lawrence rive

canot a glace st laurent

ice canoe racers {The crazy canuck-iest part of the weekend; watching ice canoe teams race across the half-frozen-half-flowing St. Lawrence River. Racers use a combination of scooting with screw-studded shoes and paddling to ply the ice-slash-water.}

Know This 1/ Quebec’s Carnival runs over similar dates each year. This year it ran from February 1 to 17, and next year it'll run from January 31 to February 16. Plan to visit over one of the festival’s three weekends to take in the full scope of the subzero revelry. 2/ For ultimate enjoyment, make sure to bring layers {upon layers} of warm clothes—we’re talking thermals, fleece, snow pants and a down jacket, as well as hand and toe warmers—if you’re prone to shivering. 3/ Admission to Quebec’s Carnival is $15.

[photos by @tripstyler, taken while as a guest of Carnaval de Quebec]