7 of the World’s Best Winter Festivals

Winter festivalMany people travel during December, January, and February to escape the bitter chill and dark days of winter, and while heading toward warmer climes is a tried-and-true method of rejuvenating the spirit and stocking up on vitamin D, not every trip taken during winter needs to necessarily skip out on the cold. From Korea to Canada, here are seven excellent winter festivals that will make travelers want to bundle up and stay that way.

1. St. Paul Winter Carnival

More than 350,000 people head to the Twin Cities during late January and early February to take in the largest and oldest winter festival in the United States. Started way back in 1886 as a protest against a reporter who referred to the area as “another Siberia,” the St. Paul Winter Carnival bears much in common with Mardi Gras, albeit a much chillier version.

The festival features floats, ice sculpture contests, dogsled races, a royal family, scavenger hunts, fun runs, and more. It even has its own Norse-like legend that influences the festival’s feel and events. If you want to experience the cold and have a great time doing it, the St. Paul Winter Carnival is truly a magical experience.

2. Venice’s Carneval

Head to Venice the day before Ash Wednesday to enjoy a fabulous winter festival called Carnevale. Parades, masquerade balls, one-of-a-kind entertainment, food, wine, and more make this festival truly unique in its celebration of good, old-fashioned Christian debauchery. A lot of attention is paid to the numerous masquerades that take place, with a jury of fashion designers voting on the best mask created and donned. Excellent food, copious amounts of wine, and general revelry is in store for you should you book a flight to Venice — Flights.com has some excellent fares — to take in a Fat Tuesday celebration unlike any other.

3. Winterlude

Every year in Ottawa, Canada, the first three weeks of the year are set aside to celebrate the ice and the snow at Winterlude. Enjoy ice and snow sculpture competitions, ice and snow displays, activities that center around ice and snow — you get the picture.

A great winter festival for children, the Snowflake Kingdom is a massive snow playground that features multiple ice carving exhibits and roughly 30 enormous snow slides. Even with all the extras that take place at Winterlude, however, the locals still swear that the most fun can be had simply skating and sledding the frozen Rideau Canal.

4. Dartmouth Winter Carnival

The most popular winter festival in New England, this Hanover, New Hampshire festival was famously referred to as a “30-ring circus” by Sports Illustrated back in 1955, and the description still applies. Dartmouth College students organize and run the 10-day event that sees plenty of drinking, ski racing, an ice sculpture contest, sleigh rides, entertainment, and more.

5. Saranac Lake Winter Carnival

A great winter festival for the sports enthusiast, the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival in Saranac Lake, New York features alpine and Nordic skiing competitions, curling, kids’ ice skating races, and even a women’s frying pan toss. Located in the deep wilderness of the Adirondacks, this festival has been taking place for over 115 years, and while it includes a stunning fireworks display, concerts, and a parade, the best highlight is a massive ice palace built with thousands of blocks of ice harvested from Lake Flower each year.

6. Snow Festival

Japan Winter FestivalLocated in Sapporo,Japan — the location of the 1972 Winter Olympics — every winter beckons roughly 2 million people to the Snow Festival to ooh and aah at the hundreds of sculptures carved out of snow and ice by teams from around the world. Other popular events include snow rafting, taking figure skating lessons, and eating the fabulous regional cuisine.

7. Hwacheaon Sancheoneo Ice Festival

This winter festival takes place over most of the month of January in Gangwon-do province, South Korea — a part of the country that is mostly unsettled and is the first area to freeze in the winter. Visitors are invited to try bare-handed ice fishing, in addition to eating mountain trout, which is served both raw and grilled. There is also an impressive exhibition of ice sculptures that artists spend over 20 weeks preparing. There are also ice and snow tunnels to race and crawl through, as well as bobsledding, ice football, and other snowy games.

When the dark and cold of winter starts to get you down this year, don’t immediately pack up and head south. Whether you stay within the USA or head to a far-off land, there are plenty of winter festivals that transform the dark and cold into a wonderland that only the winter can sustain.


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