The world’s largest annual winter carnival is the annual Quebec Winter Carnival, in the heart of Old Quebec.
It is 17 days of fun in the snow, February 1 to February 17, 2013.
The daily schedule of festivities includes parades, fireworks, slide runs, a giant foot ball game, concerts, snow sculptures, horse-drawn sleigh rides, dogsled rides, snow sculptures, ice skating, ice fishing, and fun and games for children.
Everything is watched over the carnival mascot, Bonhomme, a large white friendly snowman who seems to appear everywhere at once. He is always smiling, dressed in a red stocking cap and a colorful sash around his waist, his chest decorated with round black buttons.
Of course there’s a person inside the costume, welcoming you both in French and in English, the dual languages of Quebec.
One of the most popular carnival events is a canoe race on the St. Lawrence River. Some years the river is frozen solid, and teams pull their wooden canoes over the ice instead of paddling them through the water.
The craziest activity at the Quebec Winter Carnival is the snow bath, in which a 100 or so party hearty participants strip down to their bathing suits and roll around in the snow.
Of course, snowball fights have been known to erupt.
Its skyline is dominated by the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, a historic, castle-like wonder.
The entire Fairmont chain, you should know, is an industry leader in green hotel initiatives, including recycling kitchen grease for bio-diesel.
I love wandering Quebec’s charming narrow streets to admire the lovely Beaux Arts architecture and then take a break in at a small cafe to in the old city to warm my and fingers and toes with a steaming up of cafe au lait.
This is French-speaking Canada, after all, and they know how to eat and relax.
It might be too cold in January to prowl the city’s fortifications, but that’s a great excuse to return after the Quebec Winter Carnival and enjoy the city’s spring and summer festivals.