Frozen Palace of Snow and Carved Ice
Evoking the mirage of an oasis in the desert, a citadel of ice rises from the snowy knolls north of Quebec City. Peaks, domes, and columns molded from 500 tons of ice and 15,000 tons of snow form an arctic castle with sparkling ice chandeliers and carved snow sculptures. The magnificent structure of the Hôtel de Glace is as intricate as a snowflake, yet also as ephemeral: by late March, the hotel closes its doors, and as spring announces the annual thaw, the frozen palace melts and vanishes.
Upon arrival, snowbound sojourners can sip welcome cocktails from custom carved ice blocks at the polished surface of the ice bar. Furnishings fashioned from monumental blocks of ice glimmer with kaleidoscopic hues as inset lighting colors it from within, and the glistening surface of the grand slide nearby suggests gleeful careening. Guided tours from noon to 5:30 p.m. reveal intricacies of the hotel's construction, such as the secret method of conniving Iceman to freeze unsuspecting credenzas. Outside, the Nordic Spa's hot tubs and sauna allow frames to soak in concentrated warmth as they send plumes of steam wafting toward the stars from 9 p.m. until 9 a.m.
After a training session on winter camping techniques, visitors enter standard guest rooms, which house ice-slab beds inside snow walls. Atop the frozen pedestal, wooden slats, a mattress, and Nordic sleeping bags certified for sub-arctic temperatures keep frames warm and dry. As sunrise transforms the hotel's exterior into a shell of glittering crystals, the Celsius Pavilion's restaurant caps the fantastical adventure with an American breakfast.
Charlesbourg, Quebec: Winter Wonderland Minutes from Old Quebec
Minutes to the south, the walled city of Old Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage site, shelters cobbled streets, 17th-century colonial architecture, and specters of once-fashionable ruffles within its defensive ramparts. There, the neoclassical façade of Basilica-Cathedral Notre-Dame hides a soaring nave overflowing with gold molding.