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2018 Can’t Miss Winter Festivals

If wintertime makes you think about activities such as skating and skiing, a cup of hot chocolate, and maybe an ice sculpture or two, then here’s a look at some of the season’s best outdoor festivals.

Saranac Lake, in upstate New York’s scenic Adirondack Park, has held a Winter Carnival since 1897. This year’s event, which takes place February 2–11, includes a lineup of sporting events, performances parades, and fireworks. There are plenty of things you’d expect, like an ice palace, a display of woodsmen’s logging skills, and a chocolate festival, as well as some you might not, like the ladies’ fry pan toss and snowshoe softball. 

For a festival with a Western flair, head to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where the Winter Carnival will be held from February 7–11. This year’s theme is “Lighting the Flame,” in honor of the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Skiing plays a major role in the festivities in this resort town. Lots of events take place downtown, including the traditional parade that features the high school marching band on skis. And on Saturday night, Howelsen Hill is lit up for a thrilling display of ski jumping. 

SnowFest, in North Lake Tahoe, California, celebrates its 37th anniversary in 2018. The winter carnival, from March 1–11, includes fireworks, parades, and the popular Polar Bear Swim. In addition, many of the nearby ski resorts will have special events during the festival like winter bowling and a ski and snowboard obstacle course for kids. Of course, from a luau to a clambake, a barbecue festival, and an ice cream-eating contest, there’s always plenty of great food.

In Anchorage, Alaska, the Fur Rendezvous, known informally as the “Fur Rondy,” began as a sports tournament in 1935. It’s grown into a huge celebration of everything that makes Alaska unique, from sled dogs to wintertime sports to Native Alaskan culture. This year’s festival takes place February 23 to March 4. Some of the more unusual events include the Running of the Reindeer, Outhouse Races, the “Mr. Fur Face” competition to select the best beard and mustache, and the Blanket Toss, an Alaska Native tradition. Plus, there’ll be snow sculptures, fireworks, a carnival, and music.

And don’t forget about Canada when you’re looking for wintertime fun.

Visitors to Quebec City can get a taste of European charm during the Winter Carnival, from January 26 to February 11. Old Town, with its historic buildings, bistros and shops is a center of activity. You’ll find nighttime parades, an international snow sculpture competition and an ice palace. Montreal is home to one of North America’s biggest winter festivals. Montreal en Lumiere, from February 22 to March 4, features performing arts, fine dining and free activities for the whole family. In Ottawa, Winterlude takes place weekends from February 2–19. The capital city’s Rideau Canal is the world’s largest naturally frozen ice skating rink. It’s also home to events like the Ice Dragon Boat Festival.

For help planning a trip to a winter carnival, contact Travel Leaders COS at 800-273-0793, locally 719-597-0004, or send us an email at

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