The first things I ever learned about Quebec City when I was a dorky little fourth were that 1) a friendly snowman named Bonhomme lived there 2) he threw a big party called “Carnaval” and 3) he was the star of a parade. Plus, they had a lot of maple syrup there! Quebec sounded pretty awesome, I have to say.
Last weekend, I finally got to visit the famous Quebec Winter Carnival with my five-year-old, Benjamin, and meet the legendary Bonhomme himself (even my husband was pretty star struck).
Let me tell you, you’ve never felt more Canadian in your life than when you’re at Carnival, surrounded by francophone families—and the thousands of out-of-province visitors that come for the 2-week-long festival every year—partying in the snow.
The festival is the perfect place for non-sporty families like us (don’t ski, don’t skate, don’t snowboard, don’t judge!) to have fun outside in the winter. While the activities might change slightly year to year, the grounds are always stuffed full of things to do and see. (Tip: Go in the mornings before the crowds get really thick.)
Here’s a few fun things you can do…
Visit Bonhomme’s ice palace. You might even get to play some ice pool if he really likes you!
Make sure you get a taffy stick—hot maple syrup poured on the snow that you scrape up with a stick—from one of the sugar shacks. You’re not allowed to leave without having one. It’s kind of illegal.
Play road hockey on a little rink that comes complete with a real-sounding buzzer that will elicit all-round fist pumps, high fives and shouts of “Le tir et le but!” (the Quebecois equivalent of “he shoots, he scores!”) when you get a goal.
Play life-sized foosball. Because, why not?
Cuddle with goats and pet llamas and bunnies at the Animals of the Mojo Mini-Farm. Because who doesn’t want a bunny in a basket?
Have a sip of your cocktail from your Bonhomme stick thingy.
Go dog sledding!
Or for a cariole ride.
Make these terrifying life-sized puppets dance.
Slide down a massive ice slide, go for a ferris wheel ride or have an official, Bonhomme-sanctioned snowball fight at the kids’ playground.
If you get bored of Carnival (what’s the matter with you?!) you can always stroll around the pretty old town, go tubing at the Village Vacances (about 30 minutes away) or best of all, visit Benjo, the most magical toy store—and candy shop, of course!— in Canada. On weekends an in-house choo choo train takes passengers for rides around the store (no, really) and V.I.Ps even get their own, perfectly kid-sized front door.