Just north of Quebec City, Hôtel de Glace stands amid snow-covered hills like an icy citadel in a fairy tale. The hotel’s domes and columns have been molded from 500 tons of ice and 15,000 tons of snow—the same materials used to carve the interior’s sparkling chandeliers and one-of-a-kind sculptures. The structure is as intricate as a snowflake and as ephemeral: the hotel closes its doors by late March, and by the time summer rolls around, the frozen palace has completely melted away.
Upon arrival, you can sip welcome cocktails at the gleaming ice bar before taking a ride down a giant slide (also made of ice, of course). To warm up, head outside to the Nordic spa's hot tubs and sauna, which stay open from 9 p.m. until 9 a.m. From noon to 5:30 p.m., guided tours reveal intricacies of the hotel's construction. Ice-walled standard guest rooms have beds made from thick slabs of ice topped with wooden slats, a mattress, and Nordic sleeping bags certified for sub-arctic temperatures to help keep you warm and dry. As sunrise transforms the hotel's exterior into a shell of glittering crystals, the Celsius Pavilion's restaurant serves a piping-hot American breakfast.
Quebec City: Centuries-Old City Hosts Winter Carnival
Founded in 1608, Quebec City ranks among the oldest cities in North America; the ramparts that enclose Old Quebec are the only city walls on the continent north of Mexico that are still standing. Within its defensive ramparts, Old Quebec—a UNESCO World Heritage site—features cobblestone streets and examples of 17th-century colonial architecture. Be sure to visit the neoclassical Notre-Dame de Quebec to see its soaring nave adorned with gold molding.
Each winter, Quebec City hosts the Winter Carnival (to be held February 1–17 in 2013). For the two weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, the population of the city explodes, with visitors streaming in to catch a glimpse of parades, outdoor shows, and ice sculptures.