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Winter festivals

Going to winter festivals and carnivals is a great way to celebrate the winter season. Wherever you find snow, there's bound to be a winter celebration of some kind somewhere sometime.

Small and local?

Winter carnivals and festivals can be small, large, by region, by city, by location, by particular theme and everything in between. Quite likely, wherever you live, there will be some kind of local winter celebration as well.

Large and annual?

The winter festivals and celebrations I mention here in detail happen in North America. They are annual festivals on a big scale that are certainly worth going to if you can.

These festivals encompass a wide range of things from light displays, ice sculptures, snow carving, fireworks, music, to film, dance, theatre, plus a variety of outdoor winter sports just to name a few of the events.

When in the winter?

Many of the festivals tend to happen towards the middle or later in the season, usually in January to February, sometimes March when the winter is starting to wane. In fact, you could actually spend the winter following these festivals across North American and then across to Europe as well.

Canadian festivals

Winterlude, Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Québec

Started in 1979, today it's a truly wonderful celebration with world class ice and snow sculptures, skating on the longest man-made canal and many other events scheduled. (Three weekends in February).

La Fête des neiges de Montréal, Quebec

Set in the urban Montreal area, it's a genuine festival of everyday life in winter for the whole family! (Late January to early Feb for 2 weeks)

Québec Winter Carnival, Quebec City, Quebec

This winter carnival is Canada's oldest winter festival dating back to 1894. (Late January to mid February for 2 weeks over 3 weekends).

Bon Soo Ontario Winter Carnival, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

This festival celebrates winter through all sorts of recreational and winter sports activities. Want to try snowshoeing, dog-sledding, or snowmobiling? Here's your chance to try that and more. (Early feb for 10 days)

Festival du Voyageur, Winnipeg, Manitoba

This festival celebrates its fur trading history and heritage from French settlement days as well as Native and European cultures. (Mid to late February for 10 days).

Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights, Niagara Falls, Ontario

A festival of lights along the Parkway that borders the Niagara River and the mighty Niagara Falls. It's lit up on both sides of the Canadian-US border. (From early November to end of January).

More Canadian festivals

Since Canada is such a diverse geographic landscape from north to south, east to west, there is a wide variety of festivals, carnivals and events to celebrate our diversity. Here are some of the other well known annual events.

  • Christmas Lights across Canada, Ottawa, Parliament Hill, Ontario (December to early January)
  • Toronto Cavalacade of Lights, Ontario (late November)
  • Vancouver Festivals of Light, Van Dousen Botanical Gardens, British Columbia (December)
  • Airdrie Festival of Lights, north of Calgary (December)
  • Montréal High Lights Festival, Québec (mid February)
  • WinterStart Festival, Banff and Lake Louise, Alberta (November)
  • Toonik Tyme, Iqaluit, Nunavut (mid April)
  • Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous, Whitehorse, Northwest Territories (February)
  • Caribou Carnival, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (March)
  • Nova Scotia Winter Ice Wine Festival, Halifax, Nova Scotia (February).

American festivals

Here are just some of the larger and more well known winter festivals and carnivals that are held in the U.S every year. The oldest (1886) and largest festival in the U.S is the Winter Carnival in St. Paul, Minnesota.

  • Polar Bear Jump and Ugly Fish Toss, Seward, Alaska (January)
  • Dartmouth Winter Carnival, Hanover, New Hampshire (February)
  • Winter Carnival, St. Paul, Minnesota (Late January to early February).
  • Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival, Steamboat Springs, Colorado (February)
  • Frozen Dead Guy Days, Nederland, Colorado (March).

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