Quebec City

Canada's First Ice Hotel | Make Memories that Won't Melt Away

Each winter, it takes over 50 artists and ice sculptors one month to transform 30,000 tons of churned snow and 50 tons of ice into Québec City's Hotel de Glace where you can spend a magical vacation.

“Here today and gone tomorrow”, so the saying goes–and there’s no where better to ponder this impermanence than at the Ice Hotel, Hotel de GlaceNorth America’s only ice hotel. 

In 2019, the hotel will be 42,000 square feet, an incredible 40% bigger than the previous year, with the biggest bar and lobby to date. To keep things unique, each year the hotel is sculpted in a different theme.  This year’s theme is “Hotel Gardens”, and nature will come to life in snow garden displays and a Hanging Gardens of Babylon installation. Read on to see how a stay at the Hotel de Glace is a memory you can make before the snow melts.

How to Get From Québec City to Hotel de Glace

Fly in to Québec City.  Most international flights route through Montreal or Toronto to arrive here several times a day.  Québec City, established in 1608, is one of Canada’s oldest cities and knows how to celebrate winter, so plan to spend a couple of days here as well.  One of the largest winter carnivals in the world, Carnaval de Québec, takes place here from late February to early March. The city also has a toboggan slide and ice fishing right in the centre of town (there’s even a restaurant that will cook your fish if you catch one). You can do some cross-country skiing, skating, or snowshoeing in the urban park at the historical Plains of Abraham where the famous 1759 battle took place between the French and the British.  Then wander the snowy cobble-stone streets in Vieux-Québec (Old Town), with its stunning 17th and 18th century architecture.    

From Quebec City, Hotel de Glace is easily accessible; simply rent a car and drive 20-minutes north to Valcartier Parc. Despite this closeness to the urban centre, once you leave the city limits you’re in the countryside. Park your car in the parking lot at Valcartier (it’s free) and prepare to channel your inner ice queen or king.

What to Bring With You to An Ice Hotel

Aside from your sense of adventure, all you really need are gloves, a hat, and warm clothing. The three-layer technique of dressing is suggested (inner, middle and outer layer) for optimum heat retention. Don’t use cotton undergarments, as cotton holds sweat which will make you feel colder. Extra gloves, socks, hat and undergarments are suggested, in case your first pair gets wet (wet and damp clothes are not your friends when you’re staying at an ice hotel).  You will also want to bring a swimsuit and sandals.

An inner court of the Hotel de Glace contains a Nordic area with a hot water spa and a sauna, and it is highly recommended you use these facilities to raise your body temperature before bedtime.  Although it might seem counter-intuitive, you don’t want to keep all of your layers on while sleeping–keep on only the underlayers–again, so you don’t sweat and feel colder.

Everything in the hotel is made from blocks of ice, including the base of the beds, but a layer of wood between that and the fur-covered thermal-insulated mattress helps cut the chill.  A sleeping bag with a liner and a pillow will be delivered to your room at bedtime. Although Québec gets chilly in the winter with temperatures ranging from -25 to -5 Celsius, the hotel maintains a temperature between -3 to -5 thanks to the insulation of the snow/ice (now you see why igloos were popular in the far north).  The sleeping bags have a -15 to -30 rating, so you will be well protected.

When you Arrive at the Hotel de Glace

As an Hotel de Glace guest, you only have access to your room from 9pm to 9am, because the hotel and rooms are open to tours for the public during the day.  There are lockers you can check your luggage into so you can arrive earlier in the day to explore. When you check-in at 9 pm, you will start with a 30-minute orientation to learn about the amenities and tips on how to survive the night. For the rest of the evening, there are games and entertainment, and moonlight snowshoe tours if you’re feeling energetic.  For a truly unique regional adventure, Hotel de Glace can also arrange for you a dog-sledding experience, where an amazing team of enthusiastic dogs will pull you along the snowy trails of the nearby forest.

Note, at the time of booking you can book a back-up room at the nearby four-star Valcartier Hotel (in case you’re afraid you won’t be able to channel your inner Olaf to survive the night), where you can check-in at 4 pm and leave your bags.  No need to feel bad if you do chicken out – guests often don’t make it through the night and there’s an all-night shuttle waiting to whisk you away to your warm room with a snuggly duvet. Whether you make it through the night or not, you will be able to enjoy the hot buffet breakfast at the onsite Café Celsius in the morning.

A drink at the gigantic ice bar is also included with your stay and even though this may mean you’re more apt to get up in the middle of the (cold) night, to go outside to the heated outhouse, you won’t want to pass it up. Just having a drink at the ice bar is an experience of a lifetime where you will sit at a bar made of ice and be served by a bartender decked out in a parka and gloves, as they pour your drink into a glass made of ice. The colored lights reflecting off of the ice create an other-worldly, ethereal ambiance. After your cocktail (or maybe a vodka shot for warmth) is a good time to have some fun at the hotel ice slide.

Which Room Should you Choose at Hotel de Glace?

Really, this depends on your budget.  Each year there are roughly 42 rooms and theme suites (made different with the unique carvings in each room) to choose from.  If money is no object, and you’re looking for a romantic evening with your special someone, splash out on the mood-setting deluxe suite.  This suite has its own fireplace (don’t expect much heat from it though—after all, the hotel has to last for three months–but just gazing at the flames can make us feel warmer, right?), as well as its own private hot tub and sauna.  You can even get married in the non-denominational wedding chapel where you can say “I do” while surrounded by candle light reflecting off of larger-than-life sculptures, as your guests look on from ice pews covered with blankets and furs.

How to Explore the Winter Wonderland Activities Near the Hotel de Glace

Although the Hotel de Glacel has been operating since 2001, built in various locations close to Québec City, in 2016 it became part of the year-round Valcartier Resort Park.

This means before or after your magical Hotel de Glace overnight adventure, you can enjoy the largest winter playground in Canada.  To ramp up your adrenaline jump on an inner tube or a snow raft big enough for all of your friends, to reach warp speeds on 35 slide runs (be sure to try the Tornado—a boat that also spins you as you barrel down the hill).  For more action, there’s also Everest, the highest accelerating snowslide in North America, or a 1-kilometre long skateway where you can strap on your skates and glide along to the music.

If spending the day and the night in the chilly winter temperatures feels a bit daunting, opt to spend time at Bora Park instead.  This tropical indoor waterpark has a 4,000 square foot wave pool, more than 14 waterslides, waterfalls, and a surf wave where you can test your surfing skills.

Want to keep things chill to conserve energy for the evening activities at the Hotel de Glace?  Hit the Aroma Spa where you can treat yourself to some hydrotherapy. Based on an age-old Scandinavian tradition said to strengthen the immune system, this spa experience takes you through hot and cold cycles with steam baths, hot tubs, a Finnish sauna, and icy baths.

Whichever activities you choose to round out your Hotel de Glace experience, this unique winter vacation will be one that you will remember long after the ice melts in April.

Hôtel de Glace

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