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4 reasons to travel to Québec in the winter

Gwen Pratesi is a James Beard Foundation Award Finalist in Journalism and an award-winning travel writer. She is the author and owner of PratesiLiving.com with her husband, coauthor of Southern Heat with Chef Anthony Lamas, and co-owner ...

Why Québec should be on your list of winter destinations to visit

The Québec region of Canada is a winter wonderland with its snow covered city streets, white-capped mountains, frozen lakes, winter carnivals and festivals, seasonal regional cuisine and local wines and cidres.

A destination with European flair, this unique and unforgettable experience awaits just north of the border. For a romantic, family or weekend getaway with friends, there’s something to excite everyone. Bundle up and enjoy the sights, sounds, and flavors of wintertime in Québec!

More: How to take a family-friendly vacation

1. The Winter Carnival, Québec City

Why Québec should be on your list of winter destinations to visit
Image: Roger Pratesi/SheKnows

Quebecers joie de vivre (zest for life) is particularly evident as they embrace and enjoy the winter season; and there’s no better example of this than carnival time. The largest winter carnival in the world, this month-long celebration features a multitude of activities for adults and children alike. Bonhomme, the star of the show (and temporary mayor of the city) takes guests on a tour through his home, the Ice Palace, and is master of ceremonies for many activities and events during carnival.

There are ice races on the St. Lawrence River, night parades that light up the city streets with singing, dancing and colorful floats and costumes. Children of all ages will enjoy the outdoor activities on the Plains of Abraham: snow slides, sleigh rides and ice skating make for a fun day outdoors. For a more relaxed and adult afternoon, take a walk along the snow covered Rue Petit Champlain, the oldest street in North America, with its boutiques, restaurants and festivities. When it’s time to head indoors, warm things up with a drink of Caribou, the local’s way to stay warm. This high-octane beverage is a combination of red wine, whiskey and maple syrup.

2. There are plenty of outdoor activities in and around Québec City

Why Québec should be on your list of winter destinations to visit
Image: Roger Pratesi/SheKnows

Visit the magical Hôtel de Glace (Ice Hotel), or for more action, take a snow tube or raft down one of many slopes at Villages Vacances Valcartier. At the bottom of the hill, stop for a local treat, Québécois-style maple-syrup taffy, made by pouring hot maple syrup on the snow and rolling it onto a stick. Enlist your inner adventurer and try mushing (or dogsledding) at Mont Sainte-Anne, or channel your inner child with a thrilling ride down the Toboggan Slide Au 1884 next to Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, with amazing views of the city and the icy St. Lawrence River from the top of the slide.

Why Québec should be on your list of winter destinations to visit
Image: Roger Pratesi/SheKnows

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3. The charming Eastern townships

Think Vermont meets Québec in these charming small towns surrounded by farmland and popular ski destinations. Experience the exhilarating sensation of a Nordic spa at Eastman Spa, taste award-winning wines and cidres along the wine route, and visit the beautiful Abbaye Saint‑Benoît‑du‑Lac and enjoy a peaceful moment while sampling their delicious cheeses, cidres and jams and jellies made by the monks. For a special treat, book a room at Manoir Hovey in North Hatley where you can go ice fishing on Lake Massawippi and enjoy Chef Francis Wolf’s delightful seasonal cuisine.

4. One of the largest winter festivals: Montréal en Lumière

Why Québec should be on your list of winter destinations to visit
Image: Roger Pratesi/SheKnows

This lively international city is host to another of the world’s largest winter festivals, Montréal en Lumière. With a focus on arts, lights and cuisine for 17 days, there are numerous culinary events and dinners, theater and musical performances across the city. For bigger kids and adults, there is a free outdoor playground at the Place des Arts esplanade, which comes alive at night with music and entertainment including zip lines, ice slides and live performances. Between festival activities, visit some of the city’s highlights: Old Montréal and Port with its cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture; The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts; Jean-Talon Market; and the city’s many restaurants for their outstanding and award-winning cuisine.

Winter is often a time when we think of sandy beaches and sunshine, but shift your compass north and experience the fun and excitement that winter creates during the carnivals and festivals of Québec.

More: 5 Snowy activities to do on a winter girls' weekend

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