Outdoor markets, warmly lit downtowns, cozy restaurants, cheerful locals... there is something special about American…
With so many fun outdoor winter activities in Québec City, it’s no surprise visitors flock here as winter rolls around each year. Rather than just trying to survive the freezing weather the Québécois embrace it with pure joy and excitement making it one of our favorite icy destinations to chill.
You’ll hardly find anyone scurrying around, miserably buried in their parkas, just trying to get to the next warm building as soon as possible. The people of Québec don’t hide or hunker down from the cold. They dance, play, drink, and slide!
With a long history of sub-zero temperatures, they’ve found a slew of fun outdoor things to do that’ll have you laughing and ruddy-cheeked before you know it. I’d even guess that after going through these recommendations below, even the most cold-resistant person will be tempted to make a wintry trip to Québec City. Just make sure you pack a truly warm jacket and get ready to embrace this dreamy, snowy paradise.
Outdoor Winter Activities in Québec City
1. Experience the uniquely Québec sport of ice canoeing
Fun fact: Ice canoeing is something wholly unique to not only Canada but to this specific part. Its history goes back to the beginnings of Québec City when it was the only way to cross the Saint Lawrence River.
You see, during the winter the river froze just enough that ferries couldn’t cross easily. However, the river also didn’t freeze enough to create any sort of solid ice bridge to walk across either. In order to get around this unique problem, the Québécois came up with ice canoeing, which includes a combination of rowing and running!
Today it’s a competitive sport that’s usually done with a crew of five who will race across the river and back. We joined two competitors, Caroline Boyaud and Lauriane Oullet with Canot a Glace, to try this unique sport at a breezy 7:00 am while we were visiting Québec City.
Canot a Glace is a great way to try ice canoeing for the first time as they offer an introductory experience. Trust me, you’re going to want experts to guide you. It’s hard to get your head around the fact that at some point, you’re going to have to get out of the canoe while in the middle of a river. Really goes against all natural survival instincts, so you’re going to want some land practice beforehand!
One of the most interesting things I discovered about ice canoeing is that no two experiences will ever be the same. Conditions are always changing on the river, so you’ll never navigate the same route twice.
It’s very physically challenging, but on the plus side, you definitely won’t be cold! Plus, Canot a Glace offers the most delicious pastries and hot chocolate, prepared by the local Boulangerie Pâtisserie Le Croquembouche, while you take a break on an ice float.
2. Go ice skating
Nothing is quite as classic as ice skating in the winter, and Québec City is no different. Some might even say skating is a way of life for the Québécois. The city is friendly for all levels, from those still clinging to the side to those who can skate as naturally as they walk, and there are so many rinks and trails to try.
If you’re looking for a more historic setting, you can try the rink at Place D’Youville, which has Old Québec as its backdrop, Plains of Abraham, a scenic spot made famous from a battle of the same name, or Domaine Maizerets, a 27-hectare park home to everything from an arboretum to the 16th century Château Ango des Maizeret.
For those a little more adventurous, you can try skating along a trail. Yes, a trail! Villages Vacances Valcartier offers a 1km route through its different rides and attractions. Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier is known for its 500m trail through a snowy landscape, and Pointe-aux-Lièvres has a 1.5km trail that gives you a nice view of Upper Town.
Just double-check each of these spots to see if you can rent skates or if you need to bring your own.
3. Try out snowshoeing
Not quite ready to explore Québec’s wintry landscapes on blade? Fair enough. What about via snowshoe? While snowshoeing isn’t unique to Canada (some say its origins go all the way back to Central Asia nearly 6,000 years ago), it is believed the Indigenous people of North America had the most advanced shoe leading up to the modern day.
The traditional snowshoe, which spreads out your weight and makes it easier to travel across snow, is made of rawhide latticework. Today, of course, you’ll find them made more from metal and aluminum.
Snowshoeing for fun came about in Québec as various sports clubs began to form dedicated to it. The first was the Montreal Snow Shoe Club, which was formed in 1840. By the end of the 1800s, snowshoe clubs were the second most popular type of urban sports club!
This means today there are plenty of opportunities to try it for yourself when you visit. And if you’re really feeling outdoorsy, you can combine your snowshoeing with some winter camping.
For beginners, we recommend trying the trails at Marais du Nord Marsh. It’s fairly flat and offers some beautiful views of Saint-Charles Lake, so it’s great for getting accustomed to walking in snowshoes.
Once you’re comfortable, set aside at least half a day to explore some of Québec City’s prettiest winter wonderlands! Try Sentiers de Caps de Charlevoix, which is located between the Beaupré Coast and Charlevoix region. This spot means it offers some truly incredible views of the Saint-Lawrence River as well as the Laurentian Mountains, and you can choose excursions as long as 6 days.
Another spot is Sainte-Brigitte-de-Laval, which is 30 minutes from the city. There you can walk the La Montagne à Deux Têtes Trail, which will give you views of Montmorency River Valley and, on a clear day, of Quèbec City. Keep in mind you need to bring your own snowshoes!
Closer to Québec City is Station Touristique Duchesnay, a member of the Sépaq network. It has over 22.4km trails for various levels and has plenty of warming huts throughout.
4. Experience dog sledding
Don’t be fooled by the addition of very energetic dogs to this winter activity. While they’ll definitely be doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to dog sledding, you’ll still have a decent amount of physical work on your part as the musher. Really, the only position that gets to relax is the person sitting down in the sleigh!
Typically with recreational dog sledding, a small sled will be pulled by a pack of dogs, usually husky or malamute breeds, and you’ll be taken for the ride of your life as they run through snowy trails! It’s been around for thousands of years and was used by the Indigenous peoples of North America well before European explorers arrived.
Today, of course, dog sledding is one of the must-do winter activities in Québec City, and there are a number of operators all around. As a bonus to the actual dog sledding, most places include a very cute puppy meet and greet!
Au Chalet en Bois Rond is about 45 minutes away in Sainte-Christine-d’Auvergne and offers a 90 minute experience. Closer to the city is Pourvoirie du Lac-Beauport, which has rides as short as 20 minutes and as long as 2 hours while Adventure Inukshuk has both walking and hiking options for their dog sledding tours.
Les Secrets Nordiques has an adorably named Canine Village, and you can do anything from a simple visit to a full day’s adventure. For a really unique experience, check out Aventures Nord-Bec Stoneham to visit Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier. On top of dog sledding, you can also try some unorthodox camping and even a helicopter tour.
Remember to dress extra warmly when you go, and don’t skimp out on gloves. You’ll need to have your hands out to grab the sled railing, so if you don’t have good quality gloves on, your hands will suffer from the wind and there’s nothing you can do to warm them up without falling off!
5. Toboggan down the famous Au 1884 Slide
Of all the winter activities in Québec City, this might just be the most historic in the city center. I just find it amazing that for a city founded in the early 1600s, one of its oldest attractions (possibly the oldest attraction), is a toboggan run!
Since 1884, this wooden slide has appeared on Dufferin Terrace under the watchful eye of Château Frontenac. It actually predates the château by nine years!
You can ride in a four-seater or single rider to race your friend on the side-by-side runs. One special thing about the Au 1884 slide is that it still uses traditional wooden toboggans instead of the more modern, brightly colored plastic ones.
Get ready, this slide may be old but it’s anything but slow. Some riders have managed to get upwards of 43 mph (70 kmph)!
And there you have it! When the days are short, it only makes sense to make the thrill as fun as possible, and the Québécois have managed to do this with all the incredible ways to actually enjoy being outside in freezing weather.
They’ve managed to turn being cold as ice into a thing of beauty, and that’s why we loved visiting and experiencing this snowy paradise for ourselves!
If you want to see more of these winter activities in Québec City in action and what else we got up to on our winter visit, check out our Quebec City episode of Season 4’s “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love”!