Celebrations in Canada don’t end just because summer does – in fact, the country embraces the cold weather with winter festivals! All across the country, festivals take place to celebrate Canadian traditions with fun activities like hockey, dog sledding races, skating, ice sculptures, and amazing food. Our country beams with winter spirit from Banff to Montreal, and each festival is sure to cross at least one activity off your winter bucket list!
What to expect at a Canadian winter festival
Unlike summer festivals, winter festivals in Canada are all about Canadian traditions, and offer plenty of activities to celebrate the season. Admission is usually free or by donation, and every festival is unique. Whether you’re an art lover, music fiend or foodie, winter festivals allow you to experience the Canadiana spirit unlike any other event. Before you leave, don’t forget to pack your gloves, your parka, and of course, travel insurance for your winter vacation! Without further ado, let’s discover the best festivals that Canada has to offer.
Skate on the majestic Lake Louise at SnowDays
Banff & Lake Louise, AB | January 15 to February 7, 2017
To celebrate the first snowfall of the year, SnowDays takes place as the Rocky Mountains transform into a winter wonderland. Festival goers can skate on Lake Louise’s frozen surface, climb a 12 m ice wall, play in an ice playground, and watch ice carving competitions! By night, you can listen to live music, catch some ski and snowboard competitions, enjoy an ice bar and warm up at an ice fire pit. Talk about a day full of snow!
Ride the giant ice slides at Ice on Whyte
Edmonton, AB | January 26 to 28 and February 2 to 5, 2017
Ever wonder how an ice sculpture is made? This is your chance to find out! Ice on Whyte is an annual ice-carving festival that brings sculptors from around the world to carve 500 blocks of ice into winter-themed figures. Visitors can take a free sleigh ride from downtown straight to the festival, and can enjoy live music, outdoor games, delicious food, entertainment, skating and giant ice slides. Don’t forget about the beaver tails!
Play in North America’s biggest snow playground at Winterlude
Ottawa, ON | February 3 to 20, 2017
For three straight weeks in February, the country’s capital city transforms into a winter wonderland to celebrate Canada’s unique northern climate and culture. Activities at Winterlude include skating on the world’s largest ice rink, playing in the continent’s biggest snow playground, and downhill skiing, just to name a few. Enjoy live entertainment and admire ice sculptures from renowned ice carvers around the world. While you’re there, be sure to check out the best attractions in Ontario!
Catch the iconic light displays at Winter Festival of Lights
Niagara Falls, ON | November 19, 2016 to January 31, 2017
Known as Canada’s foremost illumination festival, the Winter Festival of Lights illuminates an 8 km stretch that travels through Niagara Falls parks and Dufferin Islands. Iconic displays are endless, including Noah’s Ark, a Canadian-American flag, and a 3D Canadian wildlife display. Other notable events throughout the season include laser light shows, weekly fireworks, Festival of Stars concerts, the Niagara Falls New Year’s Eve Concert and the Niagara Falls Icewine Festival.
Meet Bonhomme at the Quebec Winter Carnival
Quebec City, QB | January 29 to February 12, 2017
The largest of all of Canada’s winter festivals, Carnaval de Quebec has been around since 1955. Often rated one of the best winter festivals in the world, Quebec’s Carnival includes dogsledding, canoe races, snow slides, sleigh rides and skating with the famous festival mascot, Bonhomme, a seven foot talking snowman. Outdoor dance parties and evening parades ensure the celebration never sleeps.
Planning your spring vacation ahead of time? You may want to check out these spring festivals across Canada for a warmer, bloom-filled festival experience this spring. If you’re planning on visiting one of these festivals outside of your home province, remember that your provincial health care will only cover less than 10% of your medical bills, so it’s vital to purchase the right travel insurance for your trip. Be sure to dress warm, bring pocket warmers, and prepare to fall in love with your country all over again, all while checking off items from your bucket list!
Safe travels, and happy festival hopping!