Instead of flying south for a winter getaway, why not try something closer to home? Canadian cities host a variety of winter festivals that are celebrated for their many outdoor activities, performances, spectacles, cultural heritage and pure hospitality.
This is an arts festival as much as a winter carnival. In addition to the usual host of snowy activities, visitors can enjoy arts and crafts, comedy, and internationally known artists at the Shivering Songs music festival.
This is the granddaddy of Canadian winter festivals, dating back to 1894. People come from across Canada and around the world to enjoy night parades, concerts, snow carving competitions, dogsled and canoe races, energized nightlife and the buoyant French-Canadian culture.
The world’s largest skating rink, an eight-kilometer stretch of the Rideau Canal, plays host to ice-skating shows, a triathlon, an annual Bed Race, and many other frosty activities. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, 55 restaurants across the city offer special prix-fixe dinner menus.
It started out as a way to celebrate the fur traders and indigenous people of frontier days in Canada. History and culture are evoked with dogsledding, fiddling and jigging and beard-growing contests, a torchlight walk, and lots of traditional music and food.
Alberta is host to many winter festivals, each with its own unique flavour. A two-week festival in Jasper and the iconic Jasper National Park offers music, culture, wildlife exhibits, cook-offs, concerts, sports, demonstrations and pub crawls. Edmonton’s Whyte Ave is home to Ice on Whyte, a famous ice-carving competition with ice sculptors coming to compete from around the world. And the Winterstart Festival in Banff and Lake Louise features World Cup skiing and snowboarding events.
Whistler is great to visit at any time of the year, but it really lets loose with this festival. There are serious ski and snowboard competitions, free concerts, fashion shows, film and photography exhibitions, a dog parade, skate zone, and of course, Whistler’s always sizzling nightlife.
Across the North
Our hardiest citizens don’t let sub-zero temperatures keep them indoors for long. At the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous in Whitehorse you can watch—or participate in—the flour packing competition, axe toss, chainsaw chuck, log splitting and more. There are many festivals in communities across the vast Northwest Territories to help chase away the winter doldrums. And Toonik Tyme in Iqaluit is a celebration of Inuit culture with events that include seal hunting, igloo building, dog team races, fishing and traditional outdoor games.
After you’ve braved the nippy temperatures to have some outdoor fun, you may want to pamper yourself with a luxurious spa treatment. Canada boasts some sensational spas where you can do just that.