Best Winter Festivals in Canada


couple in winter boots

Don’t let freezing temperatures and guaranteed snow put you off visiting Canada in winter; the Canadians are known for making the most of their seasons, whatever the weather. With this in mind, Canada has some epic winter festivals. It is great to join in the festivities that embrace the history of the area and of Canada itself, not to mention celebrating the frozen beauty of winter. Whether you are heading to Quebec for their awesome winter carnival or waiting for your Christmas flight to Vancouver for a stop on the Winter Festival of Life tour, you’ll have a lot of fun in this incredible country.


Jasper in January

January 11th– 28th

Jasper in January is a festival that is all about getting outside and enjoying the activities on offer at that time of year. With sleigh rides, snowshoeing and dog sledding on offer, as well as the latest gear from some of the biggest ski brands ready to try out, your days will be full. Meanwhile, the evenings involve street parties, live music and fireworks. Lauren Graham at Jasper Travel was excited to talk to us about this year’s events:


Jasper in January is our epic celebration of winter from January 11-28. Throughout Jasper in January, visitors can expect to find opportunities to enjoy snowshoeing, dog sledding, ice skating, downhill skiing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and so much more! And that’s not even including the signature events!


“We’re still working on putting together this epic adventure, but we do have a few of these signature events planned for each weekend already:


“Weekend 1 – Adventure:

  • Jasper Fat Bike Race & Summit Powered by Frosty’s Fat Bike Race Series – three epic races throughout the weekend: Cross Country, Downhill Summit, and Endurance.


“Weekend 2- Appetites:

  • Chili Cook-Off – for an idea of what this event is, check out this blog post from last year!
  • Wine in Winter – a mini wine and food festival
  • A new event coming up this year for this weekend as well – watch this space!


“Weekend 3 –Arts:

  • ATCO Street Party – Downtown Jasper transforms into a full-blown street party!
  • Lole Wellness Weekend – A weekend for like-minded people to get together to train and enjoy their yoga practice.”


There is so much to enjoy at this festival that you would be excused for wanting to have an extended holiday in the area. However, if you are only there for a couple of days, it will still be a great time.


Snowking’s Winter Festival

March 1st – 28th

This incredible festival takes place inside a snow castle on the edge of the city of Yellowknife, overlooking the frozen Great Slave Lake. During the day it hosts art exhibitions and events for children, while in the evening it transforms with film events, live music and nightclub events. This festival is all about creating a magical experience for children while also educating them on important environmental issues such as carbon footprints.

Winter Festival of Lights

November 18th– January 31st

Though every year is special at the Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights, this year is the 35th anniversary, so the upcoming offering is expected to be spectacular. Lighting up the infamous Niagara Falls is an incredible feat but there is so much more to this festival and it is always fun for all the family.


The Festival revolves around a walking route which takes in some amazing light shows and installations along the Niagara River. This year, the route passes the famous falls and some of the top tourist areas, following Niagara Parkway, Lundy’s Lane and Clifton Hill. A map is available as the route has been extended from five to eight km in honour of the anniversary and while this may feel like a long walk, many people jump in and out of the car to keep them from getting too cold and to enjoy the best bits on offer. New light shows have also been created for the event and it will boast bigger displays than ever seen before. We spoke to Brian Ceschin at the event about what is to come:


“As one of North America’s premier illumination festivals, the Festival of Lights is attended by over one million visitors a year. A trip to see the lights in Niagara Falls is a festive winter tradition for people of all ages. The OPG Winter Festival of Lights has become famous for its many iconic illuminated displays. These include; the Zimmerman Fountain with its sparkling white lights, the illuminated Skylon Tower, the light show on the century-old Toronto Power Generation Station, Noah’s Ark, the many Canadian themed displays, and trees wrapped in lights in the Dufferin Islands nature area; just to name a few.


“This season the Winter Festival of Lights will be adding new displays. A brand-new white, shimmering pillar of falling lights called “The Niagara” will be unveiled, so look for its animated cascade of light along the Niagara Parkway. To celebrate our nation’s sesquicentennial the festival has a Canada 150 display located on Fallsview Boulevard by the DoubleTree Resort. New lighting exhibits will also be on display this season including Prismatica, a field of twenty-five pivoting prisms in front of the Scotiabank Convention Centre from November 18 to December 15th. “The Passage”, a tunnel of swirling changing lights, is another exhibit that can be enjoyed in front of Queen Victoria Place from December 15th to January 12.”


“The Festival will also feature more events as part of its 35th Anniversary Season. Events and programming include WFOL Opening Ceremonies, Weekly Fireworks, Grandview Winter Marketplace, Deck the Falls Holiday Walking Tour, Santa’s Village, Sparkle Lighting Awards, Laser Light Shows, the New Year’s Eve Concert and the Niagara Falls Icewine Festival.”



Silver Skate Festival

February 9th – 19th

Silver Skate is one of the highlights of the winter calendar in Edmonton. Making the most of their Dutch history, Silver Skate not only celebrates the sporting aspect of the festivities but also the art and culture of the area.


With an enormous ice castle constructed just for the event, as well as a snow sculpture symposium, it is a great way for local artists to show off their talent. The park features snow sculptures, horse-drawn sleighs and winter sports like ice skating, snowshoeing and fat biking.


Quebec’s Winter Carnival

January 26th – February 11th

Quebec’s Winter Carnival is a spectacle to be seen. It reflects the innate elegance of Quebec City but also embraces the snowy weather that they have become so renowned for. The carnival helps to keep some of Quebec’s oldest traditions alive, such as the Arrow Sash (a chevroned scarf worn around the waist to keep out the cold) and as the winter festival has been present in Quebec since 1894, the carnival is a tradition in itself. We spoke to Tamara at We3Travel for some tips about visiting the Carnival:


“Don’t miss Bonhomme’s Ice Palace. Bonhomme is the mascot of the Quebec Winter Carnival and he is just as popular as Santa Claus. His Ice Palace is made entirely of blocks of ice and is quite a sight to behold.
“The Quebec Winter Carnival is a tradition that has been running for over 60 years and is the largest winter carnival in the world. It draws over 500,000 visitors each year and is the largest festival in Quebec City. Throughout the Carnival, you will see Quebecois winter traditions like ice fishing, tobogganing, sleigh riding, and more.”


When asked about wrapping up warm in preparation, Tamara had some great advice for what to pack for your perfect winter festival:


“Temperatures can be extremely cold. I recommend dressing as if you are going skiing. Multiple layers of wool or synthetic fibre, snow pants, warm boots, coat, gloves and a hat. You will also want to bring hand and foot warmers and be sure to put some moisturiser on your face to protect from the cold.”


Tamara also has handy tips for fully enjoying the event, especially if you are not used to Canada’s serious winters:


“Embrace the cold and let yourself enjoy the event but be sure to take breaks in the warming tent. One event you will want to see is the snow bath, when intrepid locals come out and dance and play in the snow with Bonhomme in their bathing suits.”

Image Credit: Andrew Branch

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