Andrew and I spent the Family Day long weekend in beautiful Québec City. We lucked out with the weather big time with temperatures hovering around 0°C. Not bad for a city that averages -15°C in February.
We stayed two nights in downtown Québec City and made our way out to Village Vacances Valcartier, where we would be spending the night in North America’s only ice hotel, Hôtel de Glace! It was a first-time experience for both of us and we had no idea what to expect.
Village Vacances Valcartier
Hôtel de Glace is located at Village Vacances Valcartier, a family activity park offering snow tubing, ice skating, and an indoor waterpark. Guests staying at the ice hotel also receive accommodation at their Valcartier Hotel, which acts as a backup plan if you get too cold. It was comforting to know that we had the option but I was determined to make it through the night.
We checked in to Valcartier Hotel when we arrived and then checked in separately for Hôtel de Glace. They open the ice hotel to the public during the day so we weren’t able to access our rooms until that evening. With the afternoon to kill we spent the day tubing (so much fun!) and relaxed at their spa (heavenly!), both included with our stay.
Our night under ice
There’s an orientation that walks you through what to expect, what to wear, and most importantly how to get into your sleeping bag! It was quite the process but these sleeping bags are hardcore and you really need to wrap yourself in there. We were told not to dress in too many layers because you don’t want to sweat. I was prepared to wear my winter jacket to bed so that was a relief.
Walking out to the ice hotel, guys, it was AMAZING. Everything is made out of ice — the walls, stairs, tables, chairs, even the bed frames. Each of the rooms have their own theme and there’s information on the artists who created them. The premium suite was decked out with its own fireplace and private hot tub, and there’s even a cathedral onsite to host weddings. One of my favourite features was the ice slide, which I may have gone down more than I like to admit.
We had a few drinks at the ice bar when we first arrived. They serve cocktails in glasses made out of ice but it was way too cold to hold so we opted for beer in regular plastic cups.
I’m pretty sure we were one of the few Canadians there because every single person we talked to was American. One family came from Florida! I guess if you’re going to experience winter, this would be the best place.
Fun fact: I love ice breaker games. I get that most people hate them and find them tacky, but I’m tacky and was super excited when the staff divided us into groups and organized a scavenger hunt. We didn’t win (boo!) but it was a lot of fun. They then brought out blocks of ice and picks for us to try our hand at ice sculpting. The woman beside me was an actual ARTIST and sculpted this amazing skull head, putting our ice bowls and heart-like shapes to shame. It’s much harder than I thought so kudos to the people involved with building this ice hotel because they freakin’ built a hotel made out of ice.
We spent the rest of the evening simmering in one of the outdoor hot tubs before making our way to our indoor hotel room to change and get ready for our ice bed. I blasted my hair with the hairdryer to make sure it was 100% dry, brushed my teeth, and got into fresh warm clothes. We packed a small bag with some water, snacks (a girl can’t sleep without her bedside snacks), and some extra layers in case we needed them.
The Siberian Room
We were assigned the Siberian Room, appropriately decorated with carvings fitting to the theme. While the bed frame is made out of ice, the mattress itself is padded and made with a waterproof material so that it stays dry. Curtains act as a door and despite that it was surprisingly really quiet; we didn’t hear anyone for the rest of the night.
I wore a pair of long johns, thermal socks, an Under Armour shirt, a toque, and an Omni-Heat sweater to bed. I had gloves on but ended up taking them off in the middle of the night. My face got a bit cold at one point but I burrowed into the sleeping bag and was fine. The sleeping bag was made to withstand up to -40°C and I didn’t even zip myself all the way in like they showed us during the orientation (it seemed like such a P.I.T.A. to get out of, to be honest) but it was more than enough to keep me warm.
Bathrooms: there are portable toilets at the ice hotel 🙂 Bonus – they’re heated so no cold bums!
Andrew and I both slept straight through the night and I woke up feeling well rested. The hotel was just about to do their wakeup call so we started packing up and headed back into our indoor hotel room.
It was a ton of fun and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a unique winter experience. It’s not as cold as it sounds and if you come prepared, it’ll be a breeeeeeeze.
CC Image courtesy of Louise Leclerc