Our 14 All-Time Favourite Winter Festivals To Check Off Your List
Do you feel that chill in the air? There’s something super enchanting about winter festivals that we can't get enough of. If you’re planning a snowy escape soon, get ready to pull out your winter woollies and check out our all-time favourite winter festivals you should be adding to your list, and they’re snow joke!
1. Amsterdam Light Festival
📆 29 November 2018 - 20 January 2019
During the dreariest months of winter Amsterdam transforms into a real-life fairytale with amazing open-air exhibitions of lights, sparkling throughout the city and along the picturesque canals. It attracts hundreds of artists from around the world to showcase their illuminating installations, with only 30 of the best masterpieces chosen.
You can take the tour by boat on the Water Colors cruise, by foot or by bike, of course! Grab yourself a hot cup of cocoa, or some Glühwein and you’re all set.
2. Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival
📆 24 December 2018 – 28 February 2019
The temp can drop as low as -35°C (–31 °F) at the Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, so make sure you take regular breaks inside to thaw yourself out. It’s the biggest ice sculpture festival in the world, seeing pros flock from around the world to the sleepy town of Harbin to craft an entire city out of 180,000 cubic metres of ice.
Each night the towering sculptures are illuminated, making it a truly magical scene. If you’re feeling brave, you can take part in the polar bear plunge swimming competitions at the Songhua River.
3. Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival
📍Incheon, South Korea
📆 5 - 27 January 2019
Fancy some ice fishing, anyone? Located in the Gangwon province of South Korea, this virtually untouched region transforms into a bustling ice village for the Hwacheaon Sancheoneo Ice Festival each year, offering visitors the chance to try their (bare) hand at trout fishing in an icy pool.
Too extreme? The enormous ice castle, ice soccer, a giant exhibition of ice sculptures that take 20 weeks to prepare, and sampling fresh, raw or grilled trout should keep you busy.
4. Ice Magic Festival
📍 Banff, Canada
📆 17 - 27 January 2019
As if having the alpine town of Lake Louise stationed in your national park that was always in season wasn’t enough to get you there! To celebrate the first snowfall of the year, Banff gets its own 12-day Ice Magic Festival.
By day, festival goers can skate on Lake Louise’s frozen surface, climb a 12m high ice wall, play in an ice playground, explore ice castles and watch ice carving competitions at the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (A place where Global Travellers often find themselves working on their Working Holiday to Canada!). By night, there’s live music, ski and snowboard competitions, ice bars to chill in and an ice fire pit to warm up at.
5. Whitefish Winter Carnival
📆1-3 February 2019
The legend behind it all sounds a bit like something out of Game of Thrones, but, nonetheless, it’s about to run for its 70th year. It all starts with a Nordic snow god Ullr, who ruled all winter activities with a little help from the Queen. When he and the Queen settled in Big Sky Country, a fierce band of snowmen called Yetis attempted to kidnap her.
In celebration of the royal family escaping such a fate, Whitefish's residents celebrate each year by skiing through the town and building snow and ice sculptures. There’s skijoring (where ski racers are pulled by horses) too.
6. Ottawa’s Winterlude
📆February 1 to February 18
For three straight weeks in February, the country’s capital city transforms into a winter wonderland called Winterlude (or Bal de Neige in French) and attracts hundreds of thousands.
You can skate the world’s largest ice rink, play in the continent’s biggest snow playground - the Snowflake Kingdom that comes complete with extreme snow slides, or sit back and watch the skating demos, winter triathlon, or the quirky ‘bed race’.
Or head to one of the many sub-zero concerts and admire ice sculptures from renowned ice carvers around the world.
7. Sapporo Snow Festival
📆 Date: 4 - 11 February 2019
If you’re looking to see Japanese culture and amazing artistic abilities on full display, this is it. Sapporo Snow Festival dates back over 60 years when it first started as a display of six snow sculptures created by local school students. Today it welcomes in crowds of over 2 million people to gawk at hundreds of illuminated snowy masterpieces 1.5 km along the main strip.
This seven-day event brings the International Snow Sculpture Contest to Odori Park. And beyond the frozen art and competitions, there are tons of winter-themed activities including snow slides, snowmobile tubing and even ice bar-hopping.
8. Reykjavik Winter Lights Festival
📆 7-10 February 2019
This is a celebration for both the chilly temperatures and the growing anticipation for sunlight after a long period of darkness. In addition to many light displays around the city and events to get involved in, there’s a museum night where the entrance to all the museums is free.
There’s also a pool night, that invites visitors to try some of the exceptional thermal pools for free with lots of activities, music and illuminations. If you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights while relaxing in one of the outdoor pools!
9. Carnaval de Québec
📆 8 February - 17 February 2019
Quebec has been shreddin’ the gnar at Quebec Winter Festival since 1894, and it’s now become the largest winter festival in the world. Offering just about every winter activity you could think of (over 200) including an entire winter amusement park, dog-sled races, night parades, an international snow-sculpture comp, ice fishing and an ice canoe race on the frosted surface of the St. Lawrence River.
10. Ice Music Festival
📆 14 - 16 February 2019
This festival takes ice sculpting to the next level! Set in the southern mountains of Norway, it observes the genre of ‘ice music’ and climate change. Everything from the venue, down to the instruments and the art installations is crafted from ice and snow.
Artists meet on the first full moon of the year to create their "instrument of the year". So far they’ve had the ice-didgeridoo, ice-harp, ice-drum, ice-bass, ice-trumpet, ice-horn and ice-percussion, just to name a few. They then take to stage to play their freezing instruments.
11. Busó Festival
📆 February 28 - March 05 2019
Welcome to the little town of Mohács, where each year grown men dress up as horned devils (or Busós) with the idea that the sight of their horrifying costumes will chase away winter. Fair call. The fun and games carry out for an entire week and the festivities have been ranked on the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List.
Picture hand-carved demon masks, sheepskin costumes, balaclavas, homemade booze, folk music, and tons of fire, as they attempt to scare away winter and welcome in spring.
12. Frozen Dead Guy Days Festival
📆 March 8-10 2019
Frozen Dead Guy Days is based on a famous old tale about the Norwegian immigrant Trygve Bauge, and how she brought her poor old dead grandpa to the US. Preserved on dry ice and stored in liquid nitrogen, she had hopes of someday resurrecting him through cryonics (or so the story goes).
Today, it’s three days of free events include psychics, van smashes, a slow-motion parade, “Frozen Dead Guy” lookalike contests, snow sculpture contests, snowshoe races, a 'polar plunge,' and naturally, coffin racing!
13. Brits Festival
📆 31 March - 07 April 2019
What if we told you that you could party, ski and attend a music festival all in one? Laax has established itself as a bit of a party town, so it's no surprise that the week-long celebration of music and all things snow are hosted here annually.
Some of the best international music artists and DJs keep the party going with live beats, and of course, there are Winter Olympic discipline snow sports to enter. If the thought of taking on the planets largest halfpipe is too much - there's ice-skating, dog-sledding, ice diving, snowmobiling, ice-karting, ice climbing, snow mountain-biking… just to name a few.
14. Dark Mofo
📆 7–23 June 2019
This one-of-a-kind mid-winter experience has established itself as a beacon of culture in the art scene down on the southern side of Australia. Dark Mofo celebrates all things spooky, with large-scale public exhibitions, eye-catching art installations, feasts by moonlight, film, theatre music, light and noise over two weeks and attracts more than 270,000 visitors.
Major highlights include the annual ‘ogoh-ogoh’ parade and the Nude Solstice Swim at sunrise to welcome back the light after the longest night of the year.
It’s not all downhill from here. Call your snow pals and start making your way around to these unforgettable winter festivals! If you want to add even more to your itinerary, and want some fun, refreshing travel ideas we have a ton of other trips waiting for you to feel inspired by today! Just click the link below.