Crowd watching a man create an ice sculpture at night at the Saint Paul Winter Carnival

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Top Winter Festivals And Carnivals In North America 2024

When it’s cold outside, consider checking out this list of North America’s “hottest” coolest winter festivals and carnivals. You don’t have to be a snowbird in the winter to get away and have a good time. Cities and towns across the United States and Canada hold some of the best winter festivals. And they are an excellent opportunity to get outside and have fun in winter.

You might love winter weather. Or you might be looking for a quick getaway to help pass the time this winter. The following list has you covered. Some of these ideas are even great ways to save money on winter travel. With the exceptions of the ski resorts on this list, many will be off-season travel and much more affordable.

The list is organized by the event date and includes 12 wonderful events all over North America. From snow sculptures and ice slides to polar plunges and pancake breakfasts, these events will surely entertain and warm the winter months.

Man creating an ice sculpture with a chain saw at the Stowe Winter Carnival
Stowe Winter Carnival (photo courtesy of Go Stowe)

January 2024

Stowe Winter Carnival

January 18 – January 20, 2024
Stowe Vermont

The winter festival season kicks off in Stowe, Vermont, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2024! The town of Stowe shines during the winter carnival, with events such as the Ice Carving Competitions and the infamous SnowVolleyball and SnowGolf tournaments. Watch professional ice carvers create incredible ice carvings throughout the village while it hosts the 22nd Annual NICA-sanctioned Ice Carving Competition. Visitors and locals participate in zany events like the infamous SnowVolleyball Tournament.

Stowe is known as a top ski destination, so take in the carnival and hit the slopes at the same time. But don’t stop there; check out other activities in the area, such as ice fishing, dog sledding, and snowmobiling. And Stowe has some great craft breweries when you want someplace to warm up.

Snow Sculptures in Breckenridge Colorado
International Snow Sculpture Championship photo by Breckenridge Tourism Office
International Snow Sculpture Championship

January 22 – January 31, 2024
Breckenridge Colorado

At this next event, over 25 tons of ice are sculpted over the course of five days. And it is all done by hand. No power tools are allowed at this event. The historic downtown of Breckenridge is turned into a beautiful outdoor art gallery featuring art pieces made entirely from ice.

Sculpting week runs from January 22 through the 26th, when you can watch these masters at work. The 27th through the 31st is a time to take in the completed pieces, which are particularly stunning at night with fantastic lighting.

To help ensure the best experience for both artists and attendees, timed entry reservations will be required ONLY on Saturday, January 28 (the busiest day of the event). There is no cost for a timed entry, but availability is limited.

Breckenridge is known as one of the country’s top ski destinations. It also has many non-skiing activities, such as sledding, ice skating, and some excellent shopping.

A completed ice sculpture with colorful lights at night and 3 men in front of it.
Saint Paul Winter Carnival (photo courtesy of St. Paul Winter Carnival)
Saint Paul Winter Carnival

January 25 – February 3, 2024
Saint Paul, Minnesota

Celebrating its 138th anniversary, this is the oldest winter festival in the United States as well as the largest winter festival. The St. Paul Winter Carnival is filled with cold weather fun, including several signature events set in a winter wonderland. The carnival starts with four days of ice carving, from the multi-block team competition to the single-block competition on Sunday. But ice isn’t the only sculpting going on here; the Vulcan Snow Park hosts the Minnesota State Snow Sculpting Competition, which is definitely worth checking out.

Take in a parade each Saturday of the festival, the first being the King Boreas Grande Day Parade, a daytime procession with floats, bands, and the crowned King Boreas and his Royal Family. The final parade of the event is the Vulcan Victory Torchlight parade, which culminates in fireworks.

New for 2024 is a massive 120′ x 50′ warming tent. It does get cold in the twin cities in late January, and this is the perfect place to take the chill off things. You can also enjoy live entertainment and music, find drinks for all ages, and even play bingo!

Two women with jellyfish umbrella's coming out of the could Chesapeake Bay water
Maryland Plunge photo by Marleen Van den Neste
Maryland Plunge

January 26 and January 27, 2024
Sandy Point State Park, Annapolis, Maryland

This event takes cold to a new level; take a dip in the Chesapeake Bay in late January! This polar plunge is in its 28th year, and its goal is to raise money for Special Olympics Maryland. The 2024 goal is to raise over $3.3 million! Check out the various options for taking the plunge, from corporate and school events to individual participation. And this is an event you can experience in person or virtually.

Be a spectator if you’re not into freezing cold water in January. Annapolis is a great city to visit and time of year; from the Naval Academy to the Historic London Town, you will find a great weekend escape here.

February 2024

Québec Winter Carnival

February 2 – February 11, 2024
Québec City, Canada

Experience one of the world’s largest winter carnivals in Quebec City. The Quebec Winter Carnival has activities for all ages, including night parades, snow sculptures, and musical performances. Every year, an Ice Palace is built for Bonhomme Carnaval, the ambassador of this winter celebration, which serves as a focal point for several Carnival activities. One of the more unique events is the ice canoe racing, where teams make multiple crossings of the frigid waters of the St. Lawrence River.

Québec City is one of North America’s most charming cities. The old town will transport you to a historic European town. In addition to the Winter Carnival, there is so much for a visitor to enjoy in this area.

Illuminated hoola hoops at the Portland Winter Light Festival
Portland Winter Light Festival (photo by Amy Sakuria)
Portland Winter Light Festival

February 2 – February 10, 2024
Portland, Oregon

If you are missing the lights of Christmas, make a trip to Portland, Oregon, for the annual winter light festival. In its ninth year, the Portland Winter Light Festival is a free, immersive art event with mind-blowing lights, sounds, and interactive installations. Held in the downtown area of Portland, it will feature various activities, including a silent disco and Illuminated Lantern Parade.

The Portland area has so many other attractions, from a wine trip to the Willamette Valley to all the winter activities of the Mt Hood area. Check out my posts on Portland Oregon Travel, 1 Day – 4 Fun Things To Do, and Best Small Wineries Worth Visiting In Willamette Valley to round out your visit.

Saranac Lake Winter Carnival

February 2 – February 11, 2024
Saranac Lake, New York

Since 1897, the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival has grown into a 10-day festival. It is the longest-running event of its kind in the eastern U.S., featuring sports, performances, two parades, and three sets of spectacular fireworks. The theme for 2024 is “Creepy Carnival,” and it will feature annual favorites such as the construction of an amazing ice palace and the ladies frying pan toss. The event also features live music and entertainment. The whole community gets involved with various businesses sponsoring events.

The carnival closes with a bang at the “Storming of the Castle” fireworks display on the final evening!

A visit to the Adirondacks offers many great activities no matter what the season. Saranac Lake has excellent breweries, restaurants, and shops, along with the Winter Carnival.

Parade for winter carnival in Whitefish, Montana with horses and spectators
Whitefish Winter Carnival (photo courtesy of Brian Schott)
Whitefish Winter Carnival

February 2 – February 4, 2024
Whitefish, Montana

The Whitefish Winter Carnival is held annually during the first week of February. It starts with a chilly event, the Penguin Plunge, where a hole is cut into Whitefish Lake, and participants dip to raise funds for charity. You will also find events, including a snow sculpture contest, a beer barter, a Rotary pancake breakfast, a grand parade, and an Art Expo.

This carnival has a creative backstory involving a Nordic god, Ullr, a Prime Minister, and a Queen. The 2024 knighting of the realm has already begun, and plans for the Whitefish Winter Carnival are underway.

Whitefish is located on the edge of Glacier National Park (check out my post on National Park Etiquette — Do’s And Don’t While Visiting) and offers many fun activities no matter when you visit. The area has lots of lodging, food, and drink options.

Winterlude

February 2 – February 19, 2024
Ottawa, Canada

In its 46th year, Winterlude celebrates the best the Canadian winter offers. Filled with family-friendly activities but also perfect for a date night, Winterlude has so many wintery events. Experience stunning ice sculptures created by artists from around the world or play in a gigantic snow playground called Snowflake Kingdom. But the real draw is skating on the world-famous Rideau Canal Skateway (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

A winter visit to Ottawa should also include a number of other outdoor activities, such as snowshoeing, skiing, and hiking. But this city offers warmer options with seven national museums (this is the capital of Canada) and a vibrant culinary scene.

The website for Winterlude puts it best, “Loving winter outdoors AND staying toasty warm inside… THIS is Winterlude!”

Steamboat Winter Carnival

February 8 – February 11, 2024
Steamboat Springs, Colorado

The 2024 event will be the 110th Winter Carnival held by the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and is one of the country’s oldest winter festivals. Over several days, you will find ski jumping and ski jöring events down snow-packed Lincoln Avenue, a spectacular night show featuring the legendary Lighted Man, and a fireworks display. One of the most unique elements is a parade featuring Steamboat’s skiing high school band (the only one in the U.S.).

Steamboat Springs is known for its skiing, but there are many other activities in which to immerse yourself, from horseback rides and snowmobiling to hot springs and sleigh ride dinners.

Running of the Reindeer at Fur Rondy in Anchorage
Fur Rondy
Fur Rendezvous

February 22 – March 3, 2024
Anchorage, Alaska

Fur Rendezvous (or better known, Fur Rondy) is a 12-day festival drawing visitors to Anchorage. Highlights include the Official Rondy Fur Auction, Blanket Toss, AT&T Fireworks Extravaganza, World Championship Sled Dog Race, Rondy Carnival, Frostbite Footrace, Grand Parade, Miners and Trappers Party, Rondy Melodrama, CJ Native Arts Market, Running of the Reindeer, and many more. In addition to more than 25 official cultural and sporting activities, the community hosts nearly 20-30 Rondy Round Town events, offering wacky winter fun for all ages. Winter doesn’t get more wintery than Alaska; this celebration is one of the last of the winter season.

Anchorage has a lot to offer visitors. You might be lucky enough to catch the Northern Lights on full display during your visit. The winter months are the best opportunity to experience this marvel.

April

Mammoth Mountain Pond Skim

April, 14, 2024
Mammoth Lakes, California

Check out Mammoth Mountain’s Pond Skim to close out the winter festival season. An annual event where costumed skiers and snowboarders skim across an ice-cold, 100+ foot pond at Canyon Lodge. It’s a fun, wacky event followed by an afterparty at the Beach Bar.

Mammoth Mountain is an outdoor adventure hub in the Sierra Mountains of California. Aside from great skiing and other outdoor adventures, you will find wonderful restaurants and shopping in the area to explore.

Night view of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival with lights
Saint Paul Winter Carnival (photo by St. Paul Winter Carnival)
Below are links and resources to help you plan The perfect trip

Travel Resources

  • HOTELS
    Booking.com and Expedia.com are great resources for accommodations around the world. Book almost any hotel directly from these links.
  • TOURS
    The best places to book tours and activities are Viator or Get Your Guide . From great food tours to guided hiking adventures to local walking tours, you will find great experiences to add to your travels here.
  • FOOD EXPERIENCES
    EatWith is a great resource for authentic culinary experiences with passionate locals worldwide. Connecting travelers with hosts in over 130 countries, providing unique, intimate, and immersive experiences in private homes and exclusive venues.
  • TRAINS
    Trainline is Europe’s leading train and coach app. They work with over 210 rail and coach companies to help their customers travel to thousands of destinations across 45 countries. 

The links above contain product affiliate links. We may receive a commission at no additional cost to you if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links. But your support of Fork & Wander is greatly appreciated!

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