How does one put into words something that is so much more than a night spent in a bed made of ice? Since moving to Quebec City almost 6 years ago I have felt the excitement that surrounds the building of the Hotel de Glace each year, but never made the trip to visit it. The Hotel de Glace is a temporary masterpiece of snow and ice that gets crafted each year beginning in December. This year my family and I were lucky enough to experience it for ourselves. As only of its kind in North America, it boasts an experience that is one part adventure, and one part pure joy.
Conveniently located just 10 minutes from downtown Quebec the Hotel de Glace is an outdoor experience like no other . I do recommend dressing warmly in layers when visiting. You will need them for touring the grounds, which were formerly a zoo, but once inside the hotel temperatures range from -3 to -5 Celsius, a comfortable temperature for leisurely exploring the rooms.
One of the unique, and do not miss, experiences the hotel offers is drinks that are served in glasses made of ice and an indoor ice slide! Book the Behind The Scene tour and get the chance to go behind the hotel’s frozen façade to discover the secrets of its construction and to the ice workshop, where you can make your very own ice glass. The Behind the Scenes tour is offered Saturdays and Sundays by reservation only or weekdays for groups, also by reservation.
The artisans that created the murals and sculptures scattered throughout the hotel go above and beyond to bring each year’s theme alive. This year take a journey through the world of Myths and Legends where you will encounter Pegasus, Thor, and the characters from Disney’s Frozen (a real treat for the kids and adults alike).
There are a few ways to experience the ice hotel. You can spend the morning or afternoon taking a tour of one of the many unique hand crafted suites, enjoy a drink at the bar, or taking the kids snowshoeing or tubing in the woods behind the building. Drop by in the evening and enjoy a drink and some dancing at the bar before or after dinner, or opt to get adventurous and spend the night sleeping in a room reminiscent of an igloo. There is no indoor plumbing, and no heat, but you will forever have the chance to say you slept on a bed made of ice.
For those looking for a truly unique destination for their wedding the Hotel De Glace would be one to remember! The chapel, like the rest of the hotel, is crafted almost entirely from snow and ice and can seat 40. If a wedding isn’t in your future, but you want it to be, they even offer a proposal package!
As for how well you sleep that is unique to you. While the bed frames are made of ice there is a memory foam mattress that you sleep on while cocooned in North Face sleeping bags rated for outdoor camping in the North. Before you climb into your bed you will attend an information session to ensure you get the most out of your overnight experience, an experience that includes a dip in the spas, and a sauna (something we skipped, but shouldn’t have) – both of which are open all night, as well as the building that houses the showers, if you want to warm up at any point. You will also receive as preparation guide upon booking which ensures you have the right nightwear for winter camping. I opted for the less is more mentality, because as our guide said if you get too hot, you sweat, if you sweat you are wet, if you are wet you are cold. I do wish I had gone to bed with an additional layer though.
Getting in and out of the sleeping bags is interesting, and best met with good humor and giggles which we had plenty of. It’s even better done after a few signature beverages as long as you don’t have too many. (getting up to pee in the middle of the night is chilly). Once in the bags I was toasty for the most part. Since we hadn’t done the sauna after the hot tubs I wasn’t quite warm enough and bare feet in my boots as we headed to our room left my feet too cold. I did notice my cold toes through the night and tossed and turned a bit, but aside from the cold nose and toes the sleep was as good as I get in any hotel, ice or not. If I were to do it over again I would do as the guide suggested and wear multiple layers into the sleeping bag and remove all but the base layer and leave the clothes at my feet in case I needed them. Trust me you don’t want to be getting out of bed for anything once in and cozy.
Breakfast the next morning was buffet style with a small but delicious selection of items to choose from including Eggs Benedict, Crepes and cold offerings like cereal and yogurt. It’s more than enough to fill you up before you head out to explore more of this beautiful city.
I recommend this hotel to anyone who is up for a bit of fun. If over-nighting it isn’t your thing then the afternoon pass ($18-$23) is well worth the money for the chance to check out the hotel and the grounds. Bring extra cash if you are planning on renting snowshoes or going tubing as there are additional fees for those activities/rentals. The Hôtel de Glace opens from January 5 to March 23, 2014 and room rates vary (they start at $199 per person). Visit their website for more information. For more pictures and videos of the hotel de Glace visit my Instagram or Flickr pages.