Canada’s 10 Coolest Winter Festivals
Summer’s not the only time to celebrate. Pack your favourite toque and warmest parka for these 10 winter festivals that make Canada proud.
1. Igloofest, Montreal
Jazz lovers can have July; come January, it’s electronic music that takes over the streets. For four winter weekends and 12 nights total, from 6:30 pm to midnight, head to Montreal’s Old Port to dance the night away with local and international DJs, sip warming drinks at the bar, buy gear at the Igloo village or even get your photo taken to enter the one-piece snowsuit competition.
(Photo courtesy of Tourism Montreal)
2. Festival du Voyageur, Winnipeg
Dubbed “the world’s largest kitchen party,” this 10-day, province-wide affair began in 1969 as as a three-day celebration of Manitoba’s francophone heritage and adventurous spirit. French-Canadian music, costume, food and drink are well represented – expect to taste tourtière, pea soup, poutine, maple taffy and fortified wine caribou served in an ice glass – and the events calendar includes concerts, snow sculptures and a beard growing contest with three entry categories.
(Photo by Travel Manitoba)
3. Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous
For people who really know winter, head north to Whitehorse, where residents have been celebrating winter since 1945, when Yukon Carnival Week was born. Nowadays the festival includes a selection of wacky entertainment in addition to the standard concerts and snow carving: you can enter contests for lip synching, hair freezing, cross-dressing and, of course, beard growing.
(Photos courtesy Government of Yukon)
4. Winterlude, Ottawa
Our capital city doesn’t hold back when it comes to making the most of the chilly season. For three weeks in February, events and activities are available for all ages and interests. You can skate on the world’s largest rink or play in the continent’s biggest snow playground; attend concerts from country to jazz; take a free introductory skiing lesson (young kids only); and view sculptures by ice carvers from around the world.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr/Canada’s Capital)
5. World Ski & Snowboard Festival, Whistler
“Party in April, sleep in May,” say the organizers of this 10-day music, sport and art festival. Ski and snowboard competitions are the highlight for many visitors, but you’ll also find a dog parade and competition; a fashion show; film and photography showdowns; an outdoor concert series; and a silent disco, where attendees wear supplied headphones and choose between three DJs to dance the night away.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr/_Eurotrash)
6. Montreal High Lights Festival
An annual event that draws close to a million attendees, Montréal en Lumière, as it’s known en français, gathers arts, gastronomy and outdoor activities into one massive winter celebration that encompasses themed meals and food tastings; music, dance and theatre shows; and free cooking demonstrations. Be sure to save energy for the last night of the festival as they kick off global Nuit Blanche festivities with a whole night of fun and mostly free activities and installations.
(Photo courtesy of Tourism Montreal)
7. Niagara Icewine Festival
Every winter, when temperatures drop to minus 8˚ Celsius, select Niagara winemakers gather their crews and head into the vineyards in the middle of the night to hand-pick the frozen grapes then press them into a thick, sugary syrup that will become that season’s ice wine. And every January, locals welcome visitors to sample the region’s cuisine and wines and learn more about the valuable beverage. Tour wineries individually or book a Discovery Pass to get access to eight different experiences.
(Photo courtesy of The Ranche)
8. Ice on Whyte, Edmonton
Edmonton’s busy with festivals every month of the year, but one favourite come wintertime is Ice on Whyte, the city’s ice carving festival. It begins with a three-day ice carving competition featuring 10 teams of artists from around the world, each of which has 35 hours to turn 15 blocks of ice into a work of art at least seven feet high. School groups can sign up for kids’ ice carving classes, and other free activities include stories and crafts, a photo contest, family skating and a giant ice slide.
(Photo courtesy of the Ice on Whyte Festival)
9. Fredericton Frostival
This four-weekend mashup of outdoor activities and cultural events aims to offer something for every age and interest, whether your tastes run to high-speed winter sports or low-key indoor pursuits. Browse the schedule to find what piques your interest; this year, you might learn to make a silk scarf; enjoy French film; compete in a pond hockey tournament or (our favourite) work on your beer and chocolate pairings.
(Photo courtesy of Fredericton Frostival)
10. Carnaval de Québec
No winter festival roundup would be complete without mention of the largest of them all, Quebec City’s winter carnival. The pre-Lent festivities have been around since the first French settlers, though its modern form began officially in 1955. Nowadays, revellers enjoy outdoor sports and activities including dogsled and canoe races, snow bathing and snow slides, sleigh rides and skating with festival mascot Bonhomme; while outdoor dance parties and nighttime parades ensure the celebration never sleeps.
(Photo courtesy of Carnaval de Québec)