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15 Best Winter Festivals All Across the U.S

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

light sculpture - Best Winter Festivals

SEAN GENTRY

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!

winter festival aspen colorado - Best Winter Festivals

JAKOB HELBIG

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.)

gatlinburg new years eve  - Best Winter Festivals

ANEESE

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.

Bavarian Icefest in Leavenworth, Washington - Best Winter Festivals

CONNIE COLEMAN

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.

Madison, Wisconsin - Best Winter Festivals

UWMADISON

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.

Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado - Best Winter Festivals

EYESWIDEOPEN

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.

St Paul Winter Carnival, Minnesota - Best Winter Festivals

G RYAN & S BEYER

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!”

Whitefish Montana Winter Carnival - Best Winter Festivals

NOAH CLAYTON

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.

Saranac Lake Winter Carnival - Best Winter Festivals

UNIVERSAL HISTORY ARCHIVE

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.

Fur Rendezvous in Anchorage, Alaska - Best Winter Festivals

GREATER ANCHORAGE, INC.

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.

Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival - Best Winter Festivals

DOUG PENSINGER

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.

Winterlude Festival in Ottawa, Canada - Best Winter Festivals

VLADONE

Where: Ottawa, Canada

When: February 5–21, 2021

National Maple Syrup Festival in Indiana - Best Winter Festivals

EDUCATION IMAGES

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.

Dartmouth Winter Carnival - Best Winter Festivals

BETTMANN

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.

Winterfest in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin - Best Winter Festivals

PORTLAND PRESS HERALD

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.

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