What it’s like to spend a night in Canada’s Ice Hotel
If you book an overnight stay in North America’s only ice hotel, you’ll receive a 2-page preparation guide with instructions on how to prepare for the experience and a 30-minute live training session once you check-in. Even with all that, many guests don’t last the night in Ice Hotel Quebec or Hôtel de Glace as it is properly known. Many reservations include a backup room at the Sheraton. An all-night shuttle whisks away any guests who can’t handle the cold. When I checked into the hotel, I was determined not to be on that shuttle.
Related – If you’re interested in unique Canadian experiences, check out our post about seeing polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba.
A Real Life Ice Palace
Step inside the Hôtel de Glace near Quebec City and you feel like you’ve just entered a real life version of the ice palace in Disney’s animated movie, Frozen. Made from 30,000 tons of snow and 500 tons of ice, this unique hotel is an ephemeral work of art that is only open for three months and must be rebuilt every winter.
What’s Inside Ice Hotel Quebec
A team of ice carvers works round the clock for weeks to build the magical 3,000-square-metre hotel and carve all of the ice furniture inside it. There’s a separate wedding chapel made of ice where they hold very brief non-denominational ceremonies and inside the hotel there’s an ice slide, spectacular crystalline ice sculptures, ice chandeliers, an ice bar and 44 rooms and suites – some decorated in themes. The theme changes each year.
The Fun Starts at 9 pm
Since Hôtel de Glace is also a tourist attraction, hotel guests only get exclusive use of their rooms for 12 hours each night – from 9 pm to 9 am. Starting at 9 pm there are games, ice carving and plenty of activity around the ice bar. There are also moonlight snowshoe tours and a busy hot tub and sauna area just outside the hotel. Nobody goes to bed early at Ice Hotel Quebec.
The Ice Bar
Every stay includes a coupon for a drink at the ice bar. I didn’t want to have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, but I just couldn’t resist a fruity frou-frou drink. Sitting at a bar made of iced drinking a drink in a glass made of ice was literally too cool to resist. Just before midnight, I photographed a group of people who had consumed one too many drinks making a huge human train down the ice slide inside the hotel.
Hot Tubs and Saunas
Super heating your body before a stay in a room made of ice is something akin to carb loading for an athlete. Like most guests, I spent some time in the hot tub and sauna before I gingerly scampered off to my room.Each ice bed in Ice Hotel Quebec has a fur-covered mattress on it and ind individual mummy bags are placed on top of the mattress. Though it can get quite cold outside, they say that rooms inside the ice hotel stay at about -5°C (23° F) – thanks to the insulating power of snow. It was well after midnight when I finally slipped inside my snug mummy bag. Before long, I was sound asleep.
You Gotta Go When You Gotta Go
Things went well until about 5 am when the fruity frou-frou drink came back to bite me. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t bring myself to get out of the warm mummy bag and make my way outside to the heated outhouse. I tossed and turned until about 6:40 am when I finally climbed out of the sleeping bag, put on my snow suit and made the hike to the bathroom. Rumor has it that the hotel cleaning staff have a special ice carving crew who deal with something they call a “code yellow” that is occasionally left by guests who don’t quite make it.
To Sleep or Not To Sleep – That is the Question
After the bathroom break, I had a difficult decision to make. It was not unreasonable to get up at 6:40 am and hang out in the heated lounge, but I decided to slip back into the cold sleeping bag and wait for the morning wake-up call around 8 am. I wanted to be able to say I had made it through an entire night in Ice Hotel Quebec and not just part of it. When the wake-up call came, I was one of the last guests to leave this unique refuge of snow and ice.
Cool Facts About Hôtel de Glace
- The Hôtel de Glace is open from early January to late March each year. At the end of the season, the hotel will be demolished and it will be rebuilt again the following winter.
- A stay at Ice Hotel Quebec includes all bedding, evening activities and a hot buffet breakfast with eggs made to order at the onsite Café Celsius. Some reservations include a backup room at the Sheraton Hotel.
- Staying overnight isn’t for everyone, but anyone can tour the hotel during the daytime.
- For more information on visiting this unique part of Canada, visit the official tourism website of Quebec City.