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EVENTS

The largest singular event on the city's social calendar is the Winter Carnival, reputedly the biggest annual event of its kind in the world and one of the reasons why Québec City gets as jammed with people in the dead (or perhaps life) of winter as it does in summer. The carnival frolics its way through the first half of February, featuring parades, ice sculptures, dances, a snow slide that sets up on Terrasse Dufferin, and the vigorous downing of locally brewed beers like St Ambroise and Boréale. The master of ceremonies since the festival began in 1954 has been a snow-bloated and highly merchandised character called Bonhomme, who allegedly snowshoes in from a place called Knulandis (possibly an Arctic tax haven) and appears around town dressed only in a red hat and a jolly grin.

The coming of spring is heralded in March with the Festival de la Neige, which is basically an excuse to resume drinking after the Winter Carnival hangover has subsided. The Fête Nationale de la St Jean Baptiste continues well into the night of 23 June, making the most of the fact that 24 June has been declared a public holiday in honour of the saint. More seasonal celebrations take place in the first few weeks of June with the numerous free concerts and theatrical performances of the Summer Festival. At the end of July is Les Grands Feux Loto-Québec, a fireworks spectacular, while August sees the five-day, biennial Medieval Festival (it takes place in odd-numbered years) and the large-scale, self-promoting Québec City Provincial Exhibition (Expo Québec). Gays and lesbians let it all hang out during the annual Divers Cité parade that takes place in early September.

When to Go

This historic, charming and lively city snaffles visitors year-round (in excess of four million rubberneckers annually), even in the middle of winter when local tourism operators start handing out downhill and cross-country skis, and when classical delights like opera and ballet take to the stage. The crowds are at their most bustling throughout summer (June through August), particularly over the last two weeks of July when Canadian factory workers and other heavy-industry personnel traditionally lay down their tools and take a long lunch. Another peak period is the week in mid-March when elementary and high-school students are dragged screaming from their classes to endure the annual family holiday, which in Québec City often means a pilgrimage to nearby Île d'Orléans.

During summer, the temperature in Québec City fluctuates between 10°C (50°F) and 30°C (86°F). Winter temperatures average between -25°C (-13°F) and -5°C (23°F), which obviously calls for some major rugging-up if you're venturing outside. Rainfall is highest over summer; if you can't figure out when snowfalls are at their greatest, you shouldn't be travelling.



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