After the busy, but treasured, the magic of the holidays has passed, many of us are most likely left with several more weeks of chilly weather, snow, and sleet. while best Winter Festivals weather can mean snow shoveling and freezing temperatures, many of us will be combatting the cold by hunkering down with a cup of hot cocoa, a delicious sweet treat, or a fun indoor activity like a cross-stitch (we have the best free patterns!), craft, or puzzle.
There’s also nothing quite like reading a book by a crackling fireplace when the winter wind is howling outside. But for those of us who are adventurous and unfazed by the blustery wind and temps, outdoor activity is just the ticket to fight off those winter blues. Enter: the winter festival!
We’ve put together a list of our favorite chilly destinations, all of which put cold-weather magic front and center, featuring everything from twinkly lights and winter sports to maple syrup and dogsled racing.
These snowy cities, ranging in location from sea to (frozen) sea, bring together winter-lovers from all over the world to compete (think ice-sculpting showcases and ski races) and revel in the frosty temperatures together. Pack your Best Winter Festivals coat and mittens—and don’t forget your canine friends!—and get ready to embark on a fun winter adventure of arctic proportions.
1Portland Winter Light Festival
Where: Portland, OR
When: February 2021
What to Expect: Portland’s spectacular Winter Light Festival is an annual event organized by the Willamette Light Brigade, a nonprofit arts organization, presented for free, with the goal of bringing together the diverse community of the city during wintertime. Previous festivals have held incredible light parades and interactive exhibits, so we can’t wait to see what the group puts together for 2021!
Where: Aspen, CO
When: January 14–17, 2021
What to Expect: A four-day festival in a historic ski town, Winterskol celebrates Nordic culture, with highlights including a dog fashion show, WinterSculpt, Best Winter Festivals, and a grand-finale fireworks display. (Details for the 2021 event are still being set, so be sure to check the website for finalized plans.)
Where: Gatlinburg, TN
When: December 31, 2020
What to Expect: Fireworks, music, and plenty of merrymaking in downtown Gatlinburg, which is known for its nature trails and hiking.
Where: Leavenworth, Washington
When: January 16, 2021
What to Expect: Icy games, like a snowmobile sled pull, and plenty of Bavarian treats, plus twinkly town lights and stunning European-inspired architecture.
Where: Madison, Wisconsin
When: February 6–7, 2021
What to Expect: A community festival that features art exhibitions, live music, and family competitions like the “Snowshoe Scurry” in Elver Park, plus ice fishing on Lake Mendota.
Where: Breckenridge, Colorado
When: January 26–February 7, 2021
What to Expect: Snow sculptures, skiing, and…more snow sculptures. This international gathering of the best of the best takes place in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Where: St. Paul, Minnesota
When: January 28–February 7, 2021
What to Expect: Parades, a puzzle contest, snow sculpting, and other family fun in the heart of St. Paul. Don’t miss the annual crowning of carnival “royalty!”
Where: Whitefish, Montana
When: February 5–7, 2021
What to Expect: While years passed have featured a “Penguin Plunge,” a pancake breakfast, and plenty of pie, this ski town is changing things up and making them interactive this year in order to celebrate safely in light of COVID-19.
Where: Saranac Lake, New York
When: February 5–February 14, 2021
What to Expect: The country’s longest-running Best Winter Festivals doesn’t mess around, and they’re working hard to devise a plan that will allow everyone to celebrate this year with COVID-19 top-of-mind. Be sure to check the website for finalized plans so that you can still celebrate in beautiful New York state.
Where: Anchorage, Alaska
When: February 26–March 7, 2021
What to Expect: Dogs, reindeer, and more furry friends gather with their owners in Anchorage, Alaska. Be sure to catch snowshoe softball, the always-hilarious “outhouse” races, and multiple sled-dog races.
Where: Steamboat Springs, Colorado
When: February 3–7, 2021
What to Expect: A Western-flavored celebration of ski culture, complete with horse-and-ski races and other rodeo-inspired activities.
Where: Ottawa, Canada
When: February 5–21, 2021
Where: Nashville, Indiana
When: March 2021
What to Expect: A chilly celebration of all things maple-related, centered around the historic Storey Inn in Brown County, Indiana.
Where: Hanover, New Hampshire
When: February 6-9, 2020
What to Expect: A college campus-style fest that dates back to 1911. This year’s theme is “A Blizzard of Unbelievable Beasts,” so it’s sure to be full of wintry legends and lore.
Where: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
When: February 3–7, 2020
What to Expect: Watch snow artists from across the country compete in the National Snow Sculpting Championship, and enjoy food, drinks, and art from the Lake Geneva area.
Related Article: The Do’s and Don’ts of Modern Online Dating