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Quebec City
Winter Carnival In Quebec

People deal with winter in a variety of different ways. Some choose to quietly hibernate, while others are much more vocal about the falling temperatures and frigid conditions. And then you have your snow birds, who just pack their bags and move on to greener (warmer) pastures. The people of Quebec City take a different approach to it all; as they not only embrace winter, but they also celebrate it with their annual winter carnival. Billed as "Carnival in Rio northern style", Carnaval de Quebec is the world's largest winter carnival. As the locals say, "It's samba dressed up in a flannel shirt."

Scheduled to run from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1, 2001, this 47 year old celebration attracts over 1 million people to Quebec City. Carnival activities include a variety of daily diversions topped off by two spectacular night parades and a fireworks display. On Jan 27, dogsleds will race through the snowy streets of Old Quebec, and on Feb. 4, canoe racers will compete on the ice covered St. Lawrence River. And don't miss the ice sculpture competition. You can check out the life size entries in this unusual contest on the Plains of Abraham, throughout the run of the carnival.

For something a bit on the unusual side, take the 10 minute drive to Montmorency Falls Park to see the Ice Hotel. Constructed especially for the carnival, the Ice Hotel is a working hotel throughout the winter months. The hotel is crafted entirely out of ice. Guests sleep on mattresses set on wooden bases. Deer pelts and sleeping bags are provided for extra warmth. The hotel is not accessible, but it's definitely worth a look from the outside.

Next door to the Ice Hotel you'll find the accessible Manoir Montmorency. The first floor has an information center and a restaurant and the second floor has a museum. There is ramp access to the house and there is an elevator inside. The restaurant offers a great view of Montmorency Falls; however in winter the falls are like everything else in Quebec City -- frozen. There are also accessible paths throughout the park, and if you can brave the cold it's a beautiful area to explore.

Of course there are also a number of inside attractions in Quebec City. If the winter chill gets to you, spend a day or two exploring the museums. The Musee de la civilisation is located near the port on Dalhousie Street. It's completely accessible with level entries, wide doorways and accessible toilets. The Musee de Quebec is located near the Plains of Abraham Battlefield, and features a good collection of contemporary art. Perhaps the most unique thing about this museum is its space. The museum is housed in three buildings, including a former women's prison. An old brick cell block remains intact, among the galleries of contemporary artwork. All buildings are accessible, except the turret in the old prison.

Photo of the Old City Walls of Quebec City
Old City Walls of Quebec City
Photo by Charles Pannell

No visit to Quebec is complete without a visit to the old city. Take the accessible funicular (located in front of the Chateau Frontenac) down to the old city and browse along Champlain Street. Here you'll find a collection of quaint shops, galleries and pubs. This is also the most level part of the old city. Some people may be able to negotiate the steep street of Sous-le-Fort, which leads down to the historic Place Royal section of the old town. Most people however should approach this section of town from the port area rather than from the funicular area.

Take the funicular back to the top, and stroll along the boardwalk in front of the Chateau Frontenac for some spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River. When you've had enough of the cold, stop in the Chateau Frontenac for a hot drink and browse through the attached (and heated) shopping mall.

Of course there are a few things to consider about the accessibility of Quebec. Although many of the attractions are accessible, Quebec is a hilly city. The hills generally prevent wheelers from rolling from one area of town to another. Best bet is to plan ahead and cover a different area of town each day.

The second problem is the lack of accessible public transportation. There are no taxis with roll-on wheelchair access, but some cabs can carry a folding wheelchair in the trunk. Since only some cabs can provide this service, you must make arrangements by phone. Call Taxi Coop Quebec at (418) 525-4953. There is no accessible bus service. Accessible Airport transportation is available from Transport adapte de Quebec Metro, but it must be booked in advance. Call (418) 687-2641 for reservations. This same company can provide accessible transportation services in town, but advance reservations are necessary.

All in all, the winter carnival is a great experience, and with a little advance planning, you can get around the access obstacles. Indeed some areas of Quebec are very nicely accessible. So, when the winter weather gets you down, make your way to Quebec, embrace the winter and celebrate at the Carnaval de Quebec. For more information about tourist sites in Quebec City, visit www.quebecregion.com.