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Travel

Where in Canada Can You Stay in a Hotel Made of Ice?

I wake on a bed of ice, intricate carvings of a basilisk surrounding me, light subtly creeping through a snow ceiling and polished bricks of ice. Outside this crystal ice palace, the world is still and silent. The kids, in the bed beside ours, just a few feet away are still snugly bundled, not yet stirring. Beside me, wrapped in a burrito sleeping bag, is my husband. I hear the familiar rise and fall of his breath.

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What Can I Expect Overnight at Hôtel de Glace Quebec?

I squeeze my eyes shut a moment longer, listening with my whole body to the sounds of morning in an ice castle. A stark meditation. No humming appliances, creaking wooden floors, or air moving through ducts. No noise from other rooms inside Hôtel de Glace Quebec. All the scurrying, flying creatures, in this area of Quebec, hibernate still.

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The ice slide. My daughter met a little girl going on a tour with her Mom and told her all about the slide inside. “It feels like you are inside the movie Frozen,” she said.

Morning Math

In my head, I count the bodies. 1, 2, 3, 4. Four of us last night went through the methodical routine, following each step of the preparation precisely. And one by one we drifted off quickly and warmly bundled. And four woke up, all present and accounted for, inside room 24 at Hôtel de Glace Quebec. We made it through the night!

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I take this all in for a few more minutes, practicing mindfulness, and recognizing that this silence will soon be broken. Perhaps I can commit this feeling of pride to memory longterm, I think, warmth swelling in my chest, spreading outwards through each pore, until it turns the corners of my eyes and lips up in a smile.

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After about half an hour, a wake up call comes wrapped in a French Canadian accent and we all stretch. Permission to talk quietly has been granted by this gentle interruption.

Photos of the room we slept in overnight

Around me is a chorus of: “We made it.” “We made it.” and “I can’t believe we slept through the night!”

How Do You Get to Quebec’s Ice Hotel?

Hôtel de Glace Quebec is the final stop on our 12-day winter road trip, and after skiing for 8 days in a row we are ready to change it up slightly. We left Sunday River Resort in Newry, Maine and drove to Quebec City, roughly five hours away. From there, it’s 20 to 30 minutes to Valcartier and Hôtel de Glace.

Driving or Air?

  • It’s about an 11-hour drive from our home in London, Ontario.
  • 9 hours or more from Toronto
  • 4 hours from Vermont
  • By air – from Toronto to Quebec City – very affordable

We are Here

Valcartier rises up at the end of the afternoon when light is slowly vanishing. The Hôtel de Glace is here on the grounds of Hôtel Valcartier, its home each winter for several years. The Quebec City ice hotel is the only ice hotel in North America and it has resided in Quebec since 2001.

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Exhaustion and excitement are both warring for control of our minds and bodies, but the minute we spy the lit torches lining a snowy path concealing the famous ice hotel, everything else takes a backseat. We are staying in one of the family rooms inside Hôtel de Glace.

Inside the Rooms

There are 42 rooms in the 2019 Jardins themed Hôtel de Glace. Some rooms have a theme and some do not. Prices vary depending on size of the room and whether it has a theme or not. Art and design students completed several rooms in 2019.

Tonight a movie crew is filming overnight and staff want to be sure we are not disturbed by any noise. Attention to detail and service at the Hôtel de Glace is world class, as it should be.

When Is Hôtel de Glace Quebec Open?

Hôtel de Glace is built every December in a carefully orchestrated series of phases. Because it is built in stages, with utmost safety in mind, the entire vision is not typically complete until January. It’s an ambitious work of art and sculpture, coupled with a precise build and stays up until mid March every year, just outside Quebec City, in a small spot called Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier.

Does it Melt?

The temperature is controlled at -5 Celsius indoors and it only stays open until mid-March. Then it is dismantled on purpose. Structurally, it wouldn’t be sound, to let it melt. It takes 5 weeks to build and 5 hours to dismantle.

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The Theme Inside

In 2019, when we stayed overnight at Hôtel de Glace the ice hotel pulled its inspiration from nature and gardens. The year before that, in 2018, the theme was the circus. While the theme dictates artistic changes inside every winter, the location has been the same for several years now.

Other things that do not change: there is always a chapel located near the main ice hotel. It is non denominational and an enchanting setting for many weddings every year. The basic architecture and engineering process design doesn’t change that much annually. Gothic arches sustain the weighty blocks of ice fashioned into walls, floor, chandeliers, and a roof.

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Inside Hôtel de Glace at the evening party

Honeymoon Suite

Hôtel de Glace Quebec contains a honeymoon suite every year, which goes hand in hand with the weddings held on site. Both singles and couples rent the suite every year as a treat. The honeymoon suite is colourful and spacious, with features that make you feel as if you are the only person, or people, on earth. It has its own entrance to a private hot tub and also a decorative fireplace in the room.

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The Honeymoon Suite

Plan It Yourself

All Your Questions Answered

When I told my family we’d be staying in Hôtel de Glace in Quebec overnight, we had a wide range of emotions from excitement to disbelief to concern some of us wouldn’t make it through the night outdoors in an elaborate room made of ice.

“Are the floors ice and, if so, won’t we slip?”

“Are the beds ice and if so won’t we stick to them or slide off?

“How cold is it?”

“What if we need to go to the washroom at 3 a.m.?”

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First of all, I had no expectations beyond wanting them to try to sleep through the night. Sometimes, it is enough just to try. So I told them that and then also explained that every resident has a room indoors at Hotel Valcartier. A backup room. If you try your stay inside Hôtel de Glace Quebec and realize you can’t handle the quiet, or the cold is not for you, take comfort knowing you can go in and sleep indoors.

There’s no extra fee. This is simply part of your stay.

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Sitting on an ice chair is harder than it looks. Slippery.

But What About….?

  • The floors are snow and ice, but they are not that slippery. You can walk carefully in your boots without issue.
  • The climate inside the Hôtel de Glace is a manageable -5 Celsius.
  • Beds are made of ice, with some wood and a comfortable covered mattress on top of each bed.
  • Every overnight ice hotel guest takes part in an orientation safety briefing. This takes place in French and English.
  • When you check in you sign up for a time to do your safety briefing.
  • At the briefing you learn what to do in order to succeed at sleeping through the night successfully, as we did.
  • Sleeping bags are provided and delivered to each room.

Are There Bathrooms in Quebec’s Ice Hotel?

  • Heated port-a-pottys are just outside the one door to Hôtel de Glace. Need to go? No problem. There’s also a washroom in your room inside Hotel Valcartier.
The Chapel, which is non denominational, and often used for unique weddings

Ice Sculpting Welcome Party

After your briefing, the evening begins in earnest. A welcome party with a chance to make your own ice sculpture starts the activity at 9 p.m. Ice sculpting sounded fun and everyone gets one drink served in an ice glass. The kids opted for hot chocolate.

These are the grins we had on our faces most of the time here.

Watch Your Fluids

Do not drink coffee, tea, or beer before bed. Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics and you will definitely wake in the night, which you don’t really want to do. One drink during the welcome reception and that’s all you need. They remind you of this at the briefing.

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The light inside the Hotel de Glace changes throughout the day and at night of course too. When we arrived we took a tour after the drive from Maine and we found the bar and sculptures lit up in jewel tones of sapphires and frosty blues with rainbow hues of pink and purple. In the morning when we woke the sun washed bright light throughout the halls and ice walls and we headed in to get dressed for a day of tubing and skating and waterslides. Later in the afternoon I returned with @payton_schuck to peek at the structure then. In mid afternoon on a sunny day the rooms are lit naturally and it’s a great time to take photos too. The Hotel de Glace is only open a couple of weeks longer, depending on weather and then it will be completely dismantled to return next year. Five to six weeks to build this artistic display and five hours to dismantle purposefully. It is in fact the only hotel made of ice in the world that is reconstructed every year. There are other hotels made of ice that remain permanently all year but in Quebec there are four seasons and ice would not last. Although on our way driving when we spied snow banks that were the same height as houses we were astonished at the sheer amount of ⛄️ snow still in March just a few weeks before spring makes an appearance. Stay tuned because this is an experience to treasure. I’ll let you know next year when it is ready for guests. You have to do this tour at the very least and I highly recommend doing the overnight stay. It was so brilliant. Hard to describe how proud we all felt after making it through the entire night tucked in sleeping bags in Room 24. I told everyone I had no expectations other than I wanted them to try. And try we did. In fact we all succeeded and slept peacefully through the evening and awakened with gigantic smiles on our faces. Here in this photo I am standing by the ice bar. Go. Do. Be proud. Make memories. Experience this space. The quiet overnight will do you so much good. #giftedexperience #travel #ifwtwa #wanderlust #quebecoriginal #jaimevalcartier #quebec #canada #traveling #familytravel #magic #flashesofdelight #makingmemoriestogether #ice #nature #love #art #sculpture

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Preparing to Go to Bed in Quebec’s Ice Hotel

After the ice sculptures are finished and you’ve had a brief visit to the bar, it’s time to prepare. First, head back to your indoor room and change into your swimsuit. Leave valuables inside your room at Hôtel Valcartier and take comfort knowing things will be safe indoors for the night.

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Do Not Make This Mistake

In fact, you MUST follow the rule and leave valuables in the room. If you bring your glasses, for instance, to the rooms in Hôtel de Glace Quebec and set them on the nightside table you will have a problem when they freeze to the stand. (You wouldn’t be the first person to do this either.)

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Warm Up First

Grab your warm, cozy, bathrobe and head out to the hot tubs under the stars. Lean back and relax in The Arctic Spas hot tubs as jets massage your back. Slip into the sauna quickly. This process serves a purpose. Warming your core temperature to a higher temperature than usual means that you should be warm, heading into the night in Quebec’s ice hotel. Hot tub and saunas are open from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. for Hôtel de Glace residents only. Can’t sleep? Head back out to the hot tub.

So after a soak in the hot tub and a few relaxing minutes in the sauna too, we dried off thoroughly and went back inside our Valcartier room. There we decided which clothing made the most sense. Do not use the same clothing you wore all day. Opt for a thin, dry, synthetic, base layer instead.

Don’t Overdress

One of the biggest mistakes people make is wearing too much clothing to bed. When you sweat in the ice hotel, then you get cold.

We wore coats, boots, hats and gloves out to the room and found our bundles on each bed. Open them up and find your sleeping bag with small pillow and a toga-like sheet inside. Unroll and remove your boots, then stand on the bed, climb into the sheet and sleeping bag. Boots go inside each other, so they don’t freeze or accumulate moisture. Remember to set them where you can reach them quickly in the morning.

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It Takes Teamwork

Now this part is the tricky teamwork part. One member of the group or family has to go last and make sure everyone has their sleeping bag and other items organized for bed. Place coats, mittens and any other unnecessary layers inside the dry bag provided and seal it until the morning. One by one we all tucked in. Our youngest needed a bit of help and my oldest, who has Generalized Anxiety Disorder, was a bit anxious about sleeping through the night.

Last, but Not Least..

Finally, Dad climbed into his sleeping bag too. Not going to lie, we individually squirmed around a bit as we tried to figure out the ideal way to bundle and how tight to cinch the sleeping bags, while still leaving enough of our faces clear, so we could breathe. Also we both kept our hats on. Bring a beanie style hat to fit under the sleeping bag.

Is It Cold Overnight at Hôtel de Glace, Quebec?

I was honestly warm enough to sleep. Sleeping bags are rated to -30 C, so sweet dreams are possible. The only chilly part was my nose. Several hours later I woke well rested, ready for a hearty breakfast of crêpes at Safari restaurant inside the main building and excited to tackle the tubing slides at Valcartier with my family.

Sweet Dreams, Even With Anxiety

As a lot of my readers know my older girl struggles with anxiety disorder and we have other special needs on board here too. She worries sometimes upto 75 % of her day. So, out of all of us, I was most concerned that she wouldn’t be able to sleep in an ice hotel. But she did it. It’s important to me that she doesn’t miss out on life because of anxiety, so succeeding at doing this when she didn’t think she could, is such a confidence booster.

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You Will Remember Hôtel de Glace Quebec

Staying overnight at Hôtel de Glace Quebec made us feel like royalty. Add to that, time spent at Valcartier, plus a morning tubing, and an evening plummeting down waterslides at Bora Park indoor water park and it all adds up to the most fun possible during winter in Canada.

We were guests of Valcartier and Hôtel de Glace Quebec in 2019. This experience was so incredible we cannot say enough. It is a must do.

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.

3 Comments

  • Lian Wright

    I would LOVE to visit this hotel! I love the Honeymoon Suite, and there is so much to do and see here. I think this may be one of the few places where I don’t think I will be underdressing!

    • Paula

      It’s so incredible to visit and even more amazing to stay in the ice hotel overnight. We felt so proud of being able to sleep there all night. Still one ofmy top experiences that we have done together as a family.

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