This blog post was updated on December 13, 2021.
As the winter season officially kicks off, many of us are bracing for several months of cold, snow, and ice. A whole season of bundling up, shoveling snow, travel delays, and slippery parking lots is enough to send us all into a frenzy. Or, it leaves us clutching to the hope that spring is on its way.
However, a number of cities in North America have embraced the cold and snow by hosting fun-filled winter festivals. If you want the wintery experience of a lifetime, head to one of these winter festivals in North America.
Winterlude (Ottawa, Ontario)
Winterlude in Ottawa, Ontario is truly a Winter Wonderland. The event celebrates the snow and cold with a wealth of activities. And, Winterlude is perhaps most famous for hosting the world’s largest natural ice rink. The Rideau Canal Skateway stretches four miles and plays host to a number of the festival’s events. If you’re one of the thousands of travelers with cheap one way flights to Ottawa around come February, you can expect to see ice sculptures, parades, live music, and even the world’s biggest snow playground. Celebrated for over three decades, Winterlude typically features quirky events like a bed race on ice.
Carnaval de Quebec (Canada)
Carnaval de Quebec proudly calls itself North America’s biggest snow festival and typically takes place in January or February. It’s one of the largest winter carnivals in the world, featuring international snow sculpture competitions, an ice palace, ice slides, and night parades. Carnaval de Quebec started in 1894 and stems from a local tradition to get together before Lent to eat, drink, and be merry. In addition to winter sports and snow sculptures, the festival also features live music, sled races, and ax throwing.
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Saranac Lake Winter Carnival (New York)
Nestled into the Adirondack Mountains of New York, the town of Saranac Lake sure knows how to put on a fun-filled winter festival. The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival brings concerts, fireworks, parades, and traditional winter sports competitions to this wintry destination. The 10-day festival started in 1897 in order to break up the winter season and promote outdoor sports and games. The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival is perhaps best known for its Ice Palace, which is constructed by volunteers and is set on the shores of Lake Flower’s Pontiac Bay. This fun-filled festival typically takes place during February.
Whitefish Winter Carnival (Montana)
In the mountain town of Whitefish, Montana, winter often means celebrating Ullr, the god of snow. In order to properly thank Ullr for the abundance of snow in Whitefish, the town has hosted the Whitefish Winter Carnival in his honor for over 50 years. The festival often spans one weekend in February and features ski parades, ski racing, and ice hockey. The Whitefish Winter Carnival also plays into a bit of whimsy by having Yetis try to capture the snow queen with Ullr coming to the rescue. In addition to the main street parade and torchlight ski parade, the event also includes the Penguin Plunge, a chilly dip in Whitefish Lake!
St. Paul Winter Carnival (Minnesota)
Locals of St. Paul, Minnesota were none too pleased when reporters deemed the area to be inhabitable during the winter months. In retaliation, they created the St. Paul Winter Carnival in 1886, to showcase the beauty of Minnesota winters. Today, the event spans two weeks and features plenty of winter games. Visitors can partake in torch-lit parades, half marathons, and see plenty of ice sculptures. Attracting hundreds of thousands of people annually, the event also claims to be the oldest winter festival in the United States. In addition to ice palaces and craft beer events, visitors can also experience more zany activities like snowplow competitions. The St. Paul Winter Carnival takes place sometime during January and February, depending on the year.
Where does your favorite winter festival take place? Tell us in the comments below!