12 Canadian Cold Weather Festivals you must Attend

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Bucket List Worthy  

1. Carnaval de Quebec in Quebec City, Quebec

credit Cecile Benoit
credit Cecile Benoit

Leave it to Canada’s liveliest province to throw one of the world’s largest winter festivals. The first large winter carnival in Quebec City took place in 1894, and held sporadically until 1954, when Carnaval de Quebec became an annual event. Adorable mascot Bonhomme was born and elected the event’s representative for the first “official” edition of the Carnaval de Quebec in 1955. The party includes winter sports, snow sculptures, canoe races, dogsled races and more. Lay your head each night at Le Concorde Québec for beautiful views of Old Quebec and easy access to downtown.

2. Igloofest in Montreal, Quebec

2. Igloofest credit André Quenneville resized
credit André Quenneville

Amongst the winter parties on our list, Igloofest stands out! This electronic music celebration runs for four consecutive weekends in January and February, and is one of Canada’s very few outdoor music festivals to take place in the winter. Keep warm with festival-styled winter wear and body heat as you dance the night away under the stars at Montreal’s Old Port.

3. Montreal en Lumiere in Montreal, Quebec

credit Pictures Canada
credit Pictures Canada

One of the largest winter festivals in the world, this fantastic celebration of light, food and culture is massive in scale, with more than 100 performing arts events, and top chefs and winemakers from around the world. A highlight of the event is Nuit Blanche, an evening in which Old Montreal becomes an all-night outdoor art gallery. The Marriott Château Champlain is our top pick when staying in this beautiful city. There are also other great options for hotels in old Montreal.

4. Silver Skate Festival in Edmonton, Alberta

credit EEDC
credit EEDC

Held each February in Edmonton’s Hawrelak Park in the scenic river valley, this 10-day, family-oriented festival sees more than 85,000 people annually. A few of the many activities include ice skating, horse drawn sleigh rides, Cree Winter Camp tours and live musical performances.

5. Jasper in January in Jasper, Alberta

5. Jasper in January credit Tourism Jasper resized
credit Tourism Jasper

A popular winter retreat, the tiny mountain town of Jasper throws opens its doors in the winter with numerous festivals and events, and Jasper in January is a favourite. This two week festival integrates sport, music, culture, culinary and arts as only Jasper can. Don’t miss the Winterstruck kick-off party, street festival, fireworks, dogsledding and skiing at Marmot Basin.

6. SnowDays in Banff, Alberta

6. SnowDays credit Banff Lake Louise Tourism
credit Banff Lake Louise Tourism

Head to the Rockies for this winter love-in, held in Banff National Park for four weeks through January and February annually. SnowDays combines history, culture, live entertainment and high adrenaline winter action. Don’t miss the highlight, the Ice Magic Festival in nearby Lake Louise, and witness the jaw-dropping talent of international ice carvers in a 34 hour International Ice Carving Competition. Stay at Buffalo Mountain Lodge or Sunshine Mountain Lodge for the full rustic mountain lodge experience.

7. Winter in Motion Festival in Columbia Valley, British Columbia

credit Columbia Valley Tourism
credit Columbia Valley Tourism

Perhaps the longest winter festival in Canada, Winter in Motion runs from December to March in the Columbia Valley region, encompassing Fairmont, Invermere, Radium and more. Parades, light shows, craft fairs, snow golf tournaments, winter hang gliding, bonspiels on the lake and pond hockey keeps residents and visitors alike enthralled for the whole winter season. Stay at the luxurious and family friendly Copper Point Resort and enjoy a hot tub under the stars.

8. Winterlude in Ottawa, Ontario

8. Winterlude in Ottawa credit Ottawa Tourism
credit Ottawa Tourism

There are literally hundreds of events to participate in during Winterlude, the capital’s winter celebration. Held in Ottawa–Gatineau each February, visitors and locals alike converge on the Crystal Garden in Confederation Park, the Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier Park and the Rideau Canal Skateway. There are incredible ice sculptures to view, the world’s largest skating rink and so much more. Stay at the downtown Ottawa Marriott for easy access to all activities.

9. Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous in Whitehorse, Yukon

snow sculptures
credit Government of Yukon

This wacky event includes traditional winter festival activities, such as concerts and snow carving, but it’s the wild variety shows, crazy contests for lip synching, hair freezing, beard growing and more that make this winter-defying festival so much fun. Zany characters include a dancing troop of snowshoe clad ladies, Keystone Kops and Sourdough Sam contestants.

10. Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Dan Harper Photography
credit Dan Harper Photography

Every February, Winnipeg’s French quarter, Saint-Boniface comes alive with as Voyageur, Métis and First Nations cultures are celebrated in this winter festival of exhibits, performances and arts. Take part in the beard-growing contest, sample traditional cuisine, enjoy musical entertainment or jigging and fiddling contests, and enjoy being part of the joie de vivre of the city during this 10 day event.

11. Toonik Tyme in Iqaluit, Nunavut

credit Travis Cooper
credit Travis Cooper

Named after the ‘Toonik’, an individual of the Tuniit people, this Inuit festival celebrates the return of the sun to Nunavut. This week long party, held each April, highlights the local culture and history through games and events that feature Inuit traditions and skills. Igloo building, dog team races, fishing, snowmobile uphill climbs and drag races are well attended, as are the craft fair and feasting events.

12. World Ski and Snowboard Festival in Whistler, British Columbia

12. Whistler World Ski & Snowboard Festival credit Dave Humphreys Photo
credit Dave Humphreys Photo

Art, music and sport collide in this high-octane event in the mountain village of Whistler. The 10 day event includes Canada’s largest free outdoor concert series, art exhibits, fashion shows, film and photography exhibitions, roller derby and competitions featuring the world’s best ski and snowboard riders. A popular event is the Monster Energy Shred Show, a high energy spectacle in the heart of the village that features rock stars of the ski and snowboard world.

About the Author: Sarah Deveau

Sarah Deveau is a prolific freelance writer, and her work has been published in Today’s Parent, Parents Canada, Style at Home and most major Canadian daily newspapers, including the National Post.

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