If you love Paris in the springtime, then you’ll adore Quebec City in the wintertime, where, for 17 days, the party never stops. Quebec’s Winter Carnival is the largest in the world, attracting more than one million people. I was one of those fortunate people to arrive in this fortified city on the first day of the 2013 Winter Carnival. I spent the morning sledding down an ice chute, viewing the impressive ice castle made from 1600 blocks of ice, eating maple syrup on snow, and playing a human game of foosball. Attached to bars with seatbelts, you slide all over the ice trying to kick the ball into the goal.
But the party really started on Saturday night, when top DJs from Montreal and Toronto played a mesmerizing mix of hip-hop and electronica to a crowd of revelers outside the ice castle. Locals carry cane-like red sticks filled with a potent drink called Caribou, made of whiskey, red wine, and maple syrup, which certainly added to the dancing frenzy. When Bonhomme, the popular snowman and revered host of the festivities, started to boogie, the crowd went wild.
For those of us who choose to embrace winter in all its snowy charm, there’s no better way to do it than at one of these winter festivals. Try these six for starters:
Fur Rondy Festival, Anchorage, Alaska, Feb. 21-March 2
Nobody celebrates winter better than the great state of Alaska. The highlight of Rondy is the reindeer race, where herds run through the streets of Anchorage. There’s also a Snowshoe Softball Game and an Outhouse Race. www.furrondy.net
Cedarburg Annual Winter Festival, Wisconsin, Feb. 15-16
More than 20,000 people attend this popular festival each year. Watch the Bed and Barrel races where a person lying in bed is pushed across the ice, the Dog Weight Pull to see which dog can pull the most weight, and a good ole chili cookoff. www.cedarburgfestivals.org
Stowe Winter Carnival, Vermont, Jan. 18-26
New England’s best-loved winter event, celebrating its 40th year in 2014, features a round of snow golf at the Stowe Country Club, snow volleyball, Super G races on Stowe Mountain, and a large village block party. www.stowewintercarnival.com
Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival, Colorado, Feb. 5-9
The oldest winter carnival west of the Mississippi turns 101 in 2014. Join in the festivities and view ski jumping competitions, a tubing party, and the Diamond Hitch Parade which celebrates the town’s Western heritage. Yee-haw! www.steamboat-chamber.com
Saint Paul Winter Carnival, Minnesota, Jan. 23-Feb. 2
Billed as the “Coolest Celebration on Earth,” the Saint Paul Winter Carnival is celebrating its 128th anniversary in 2014. Among the highlights on the packed calendar of events are snow and ice sculpture contests, a talent show, the crowning of the North Wind Princess and Prince, and the Frozen 5K Run. www.winter-carnival.com
Quebec City Winter Carnival, Canada, Jan. 31-Feb. 16
The 59th edition of the Quebec City Winter Carnival features Le Grande Virée, a dogsled race that cruises through the heart of the historic Old City, and the ice canoeing competition, where paddlers sprint across the turgid waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Another highlight is the video installation, where filmmakers project images onto four of the iconic buildings in town, creating a 3-D interplay. There’s also a brasserie, serving 25 microbrews from across Quebec. www.carnaval.qc.ca