With the unpredictable nature of our climate, it’s hardly surprising that the weather is a favorite topic of conversation. In winter, the temperature can plunge to -10°F, a foot of snow can fall in a few hours, a thaw might bring rain, or a bright blue sky might gleam overhead—and all within a few days. Living in Quebec means being ready for change! Visitors are well advised to dress in layers, (adding or subtracting depending on the day), to keep feet comfortable with warm, waterproof boots, and to be ready to accept winter, both for its glories and its flaws! For anyone new to snow, a winter visit to Quebec is a memorable experience. The scenery is magical and many activities are designed to make the most of it. After all, playing in the snow is the best excuse to enjoy a decadent cup of hot chocolate, no?
Sleeping on Ice (Hôtel de Glace)
Just ten minutes’ drive from downtown Quebec City is an other-worldly experience adventurous travelers are destined to remember. The Ice Hotel is built entirely from giant ice blocks over a construction period of a month and a half. The engineering effort doesn’t have long to be admired; within three months, it will melt and disappear, to be replaced in 12 months’ time. Room designs change annually according to artistic whim, but a constant feature are the beds— blocks of ice covered with comfortable mattresses and warm bedding. For those who are cool on the idea of sleeping on ice, tours are also available.
Tobogganing (Terrasse Dufferin)
Right at the foot of Château Frontenac, thrillseekers will be happy to find a toboggan 82 meters high that offers a heart-challenging 150-meter run. The ride is not only exhilarating, it’s breathtaking too: the top of the toboggan offers sprawling views over the Château and the St. Lawrence River. No need to bring your own toboggan; they are provided in the $2 fee charged for a run.
Ice Skating (Place d'Youville)
In the heart of downtown, a refrigerated ice-skating rink is created for visitors can to glide around between mid-October and mid-March, depending on weather conditions. The rink is open during the day, but skating at night or at holiday times is especially magical, when thousands of lights add an intoxicating touch of whimsy. Access to the rink is free and skates can be rented on site.
Relaxing at a Nordic Spa (Sibéria Station Spa)
Who would think wandering around in the cold of winter wearing nothing but a bathing suit could be not only therapeutic, but fun? Nordic spas provide an utterly relaxing atmosphere where bathers dip into outdoor hot baths—and cool ones, too, if you follow the Scandinavian directions. Sibéria Station Spa is one of the region’s most popular spas: visitors pay to access the baths only, or upgrade their experience with massages provided by licensed therapists.
Eating at an Urban Sugar Shack (Cabane à sucre du Laurie-Raphaël)
If you can’t spare the time to drive out to a sugar shack, you can still sample some deliciousness during maple season at Laurie-Raphaël restaurant in the Old Port. True to its fine-dining reputation, the restaurant serves a multi-course menu for a limited time between late March and early April. Indulgent dishes, both sweet and savory, are inspired by the classic sugar shack menu.