7 Wonderful Winter Festivals for 2019
Despite frosty temperatures, winter festivals encourage communities to gather outdoors and stave off cabin fever together. So put down that mug of cocoa, pause that binge-watching marathon, and get ready for rosy cheeks with our roundup of North America’s best 2019 winter festivals.
Fifth Third Bank WinterWonderfest at Navy Pier
When is it: November 30–January 6, 2019
What is it: Already the home of one of the country’s most iconic Ferris wheels, Navy Pier packs in more carnival rides and other seasonal festivities into its waterfront setting. The festival has been an annual tradition along the Chicago lakefront since 2000.
Things to do: Expect slides, an “Arctic Express Train Ride,” and an ice palace to play in. Kids can also decorate their own cookies, head to the top of the Candy Cane Lighthouse, and ride inside massive hot cocoa cups.
Winter Fest OC
Costa Mesa, CA
When is it: December 20–January 6, 2019
What is it: A massive holiday celebration, considered Southern California’s biggest winter festival. Winter Fest OC takes place on the 150-acre OC Fairgrounds, giving it ample room for its rides, Alpine Village, eateries, and more.
Things to do: Take a pleasant walk through the Festival of Lights, ride aimlessly on the Trackless Train, and slide down the hill at Expanded Penny’s Snow Play (with fresh snow applied every day). Older kids will want to careen down the 150-foot-long tubing hill. There’s also nightly fireworks and the world’s largest ornament.
St. Paul Winter Carnival
St. Paul, MN
When is it: January 24–February 3, 2019
What is it: In 1886, after a reporter claimed that the often-frigid Minnesota city was unfit for habitation, the city cooked up the Saint Paul Winter Carnival as civic thumb-nosing to the delight of St. Paulites. Since then, the fest has grown into a rambunctious two-week affair.
Things to do: Make a beeline to the Ice Palace, the centerpiece of the carnival. Each year, local architects bid for the honor of designing the monuments to icy ingenuity—a tradition that dates back to the founding of the carnival.
The Fur Rendezvous
When is it: February 22–March 3, 2019
What is it: Perhaps the most beloved winter festival on our list. For most people, two hours of sunlight and nothing but snow seems like a recipe for lethargy. For the good people of Anchorage, it's the raw material for creating a winter festival. The Fur Rendezvous—affectionately known as Fur Rondy—has been celebrating Alaska's cultural and sporting history since 1935, with real-life reindeer and Alaska's biggest fireworks bonanza.
Things to do: Grab a hot beverage and stake out a spot along the 25-mile dogsled route to watch mushing teams race by. But if you're feeling a little more playful, catch the Outhouse Races—think bobsled races, only with skis strapped to toilets.
Steamboat Springs, CO
When is it: February 6–10, 2019
What is it: Right in the heart of ski territory, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, has been hosting its Winter Carnival for more than a hundred years. Spread over five days, the fest celebrates all things downhill with a signature blend of athleticism and spectacle.
Things to do: We recommend the Shovel Race (18+), in which contestants try to remain seated on a shovel that has been tied to a galloping horse (!). Or wait for the Winter Carnival Night Extravaganza to see skiers with flares zip down the mountainside, creating trails of light, and jump through flaming hoops.
The Ice on Whyte Festival
When is it: January 24–27 and January 31–February 3, 2019
What is it: One of the biggest winter events of the year, the Ice on Whyte festival in Edmonton, Alberta, showcases masterpieces carved entirely from blocks of ice. Artists from all over the world sculpt more than 50 tons of ice into realistic, larger-than-life statues.
Things to do: It's an ice sculpting festival, so you're probably here to watch local artists in action. Each two-person team gets 34 hours and 15 blocks of ice to create something magical.
The Niagara Icewine Festival
Niagara Falls, ON
When is it: January 11–27, 2019
What is it: The Niagara Falls Icewine Festival in Niagara Falls, Ontario, pairs the sweet dessert wine—along with reds and whites from local vintners—with gourmet bites from top chefs. A party atmosphere, complete with live music, permeates the largest icewine fest in Canada.
Things to do: Representatives from more than 35 wineries are on hand and eager to chat about everything from growing processes to aging. If you are pressed for time, limit your sampling to the icewines—it’s the speciality of the Niagara-on-the-Lake winemaking region.
This article was originally written by staff writer Maddie Freeman in 2016. It has since been updated.
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