The Quebec Winter Carnival: The Perfect Family Getaway (and how to enjoy it gluten free)

Celebrate one of the World's Largest Winter Carnivals

The Quebec Winter Carnival, or the Carnaval de Québec, has been around since 1894, and has been held annually since the 1950s. A gigantic event held across some of the most beautiful and historic sites in Quebec City, the winter carnival is a must-do event for families looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Located a few hours from Montreal, Quebec City is a picturesque city with a lot of history that opens its doors to the world for a 17 day party every winter. The 2015 carnival runs from January 30- February 15, featuring activities that run day and night. The 2015 theme is Bonhomme's World, exploring the magical existence of the beloved carnival mascot, Bonhomme Carnaval.

Family Friendly Things to See and Do at the Quebec Winter Carnival

The Carnival is first and foremost a family event. The famous Plains of Abraham are turned into a giant outdoor playground, complete with a Ferris wheel, snow slides, dogsleds, and Bonhomme's palace, constructed from snow and ice. Kid-friendly games and activities are the focus of the main carnival destination, including a special kid-zone just for the little ones.

The winter carnival plays host to numerous competitions. The International Snow Scultping competition showcases incredible snow art, featuring intricate sculptures that reach impossible heights, from some of the world's best sculptors. The ice canoe race takes place on the frigid waters of the St. Lawrence river, while the sleigh race takes place on a giant snow-covered obstacle course. The Snow Cross Grand Prix is one of the world's largest snowmobile races. Want to take part in some events rather than just watch? Why not sign up to participate in the World's Largest Snowball Fight?

For the adults, there is also the Bulles, Whisky, and Cie event featuring tastings of over 100 products and cocktails!  There is nightly entertainment, a ball, and even a snow bath, where participants don their swimsuits to frolic in the snow with Bonhomme!

There are over two hundred locations hosting carnival events across Quebec City, so you're guaranteed to never get bored!

Gluten Free Options in Quebec City

Source: Maple toffee being made in West Quebec. Taken by SimonP.

Source: Maple toffee being made in West Quebec. Taken by SimonP.

As with any large event, food plays a big role in the festivities. A visit to a Cabane à sucre, or a Sugar Shack, is a Canadian tradition. Maple syrup production is a big part of Canada's history, and products made from maple syrup are available at these locations throughout the carnival. While the baked goods are mostly off-limits, the simplest and most beloved treat is 100% gluten free. A Maple Syrup snow taffy is made with 100% maple syrup poured over clean packed snow. The taffy is then rolled around the end of a popsicle stick, making a kind of maple syrup lollipop. Every kid should try this at least once!

There are numerous restaurants in Quebec City, and many have partnered with the carnival to offer special menus. Celiac Québec publishes an online pdf of gluten free and gluten free friendly restuarants in the province of Quebec, with links to their websites. Some restuarants have gluten free menus available upon request. Some of the restaurants on their list are also official restaurant partners of the carnival in 2015, including (but not necessarily limited to):

For a full list of Quebec City restaurants identified as gluten free or offering gluten free meals by Celiac Québec, click HERE for the pdf and scroll down to Québec City. For a complete list of the restaurants partnered with the Quebec Winter Carnival, click HERE for the list.

Quebec City has a wide variety of grocery store chains as well where gluten free items can be found. The Celiac Québec guide lists some of them as well. Consider renting a hotel room that offers a kitchenette or at least a fridge so that you can store some of  your own snacks to have on hand throughout your stay.

Carnival Details

  • Date: January 30- February 15, 2015
  • Place: Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
  • Price: Basic pass for the duration of the carnival is $15+tax. Other passes for special events, VIP access and more are available at different price points
  • Where to Stay: Several hotels offer carnival packages. Visit BonjourQuebec for packages.
  • Website: http://carnaval.qc.ca/en/
  • Family Friendly Resources: To download colouring books, access online games, and more, visit the Teacher's Corner.