Staying in this hotel entirely fashioned of snow and ice—yes, even your bed—looks like the experience of a lifetime. The Hôtel de Glace in Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier, Québec City, is the only ice hotel in North America, and it’s not that far from the American border. Start in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont or New York, which all share a border with the Canadian province of Québec.
The hotel arises each winter from January to March with a different theme. As any kid who builds a snow fort can attest, the structure gets larger and more elaborate the more time you spend, and it’s the same with the Hôtel de Glace. Currently, it’s in Phase III, which means that the main entrance, the sugar shack, chapel, Grand Hall, arctic spa and sauna, the Ice Bar (you will need drinks forthcoming to combat the cold!) and the ice workshop are all up and visitable, but the Grand Slide and certain hotel suites are not yet built.
Upon entry, you’re given a cocktail served in—what else?—a glass made of ice. Everywhere you turn, you’ll see archways made of snow, beautiful and unusual clear sculptures of ice, and rooms that feel like a Nordic palace. It’s not often that a hotel has to have a mandatory training session for guests (in French and English) as well as a “preparation guide” on its website, but this particularly chilly destination does. The hotel advises dressing in layers, sleeping in light, synthetic night clothes, and packing extra hats, scarves and (this part’s sexy) long underwear. You’ll also need a swimsuit for the hot tub and the sauna which allows for extraordinary stargazing—as well as sandals to walk to them across the ice floor. In fact, you’re advised to visit the warm spots in this Nordic Area just before turning in, because it warms your body to prepare you for bedtime.
Now, about that bed: it is in fact a block of ice (beautifully lit from beneath), topped by a solid wood base and a comfortable mattress. You’ll be sleeping in an arctic sleeping bag and an isolating bed sheet. The room is kept at the temperature of 23-27 degrees Fahrenheit, which we happen to notice is below the freezing point (they can’t let the hotel melt!). Luckily, your sleeping bag is graded to keep you warm for temps as low as 5 degrees—but in case you freak out, you can move over to the traditional Hôtel Valcartier nearby, a sort of escape plan. Your stay at the Hôtel de Glace automatically includes a simultaneous stay at the Valcartier, but hopefully, you won’t need to use it (and if you want to stay at the Valcartier for a night before or after the ice hotel, there’s a 20 percent discount).
With some upgraded premium suites, there are fireplaces and private hot tubs and saunas, while the theme suites can be fanciful works of art with snow sculptures carved into the walls or formed as an igloo with individual blocks of snow. It all just seems designed to awe and enchant.
Did we mention there’s a 0.6-mile ice skating path that is illuminated in the evening? Rooms start at $399 and that seems decent for the stay of a lifetime. If you really want to see the hotel but can’t commit to a night of seeing your own breath steam in front of you, you can visit for a day rate of $29.