Having lived in a couple of cold climates, it’s hard to imagine winter without the joy of snow play. Ice skating, sledding, hockey and skiing are just a few activities that help the winter pass. But there’s another part of the snow culture that returns year after year to several communities – winter carnivals and festivals. I’ve had the privilege to attend a few of these outdoor festivities and they are always fun and memorable. Here are a few ideas if you’re looking for something fun to do in the cold this year:
St. Paul Winter Carnival. Considering this event is held only a few miles from my home, it’s no surprise I’ve experienced it firsthand and my family plans to attend again this year. I’m sorry to have missed the massive ice castles that used to be an annual tradition. I’ve heard the weather and economy have something to do with their cease. However, there is still plenty to see, including intricately carved ice sculptures and formations. Also celebrated during the carnival is a major ice fishing contest, broomball challenges, ice skating, live music and several parades including the Vulcan Victory Torchlight Parade. Last year, my family had a great time at one of the parades. Another favorite was the free samples of Canadian Maple Taffy – hot maple syrup poured over snow then turned into a treat on a stick.
Quebec Winter Carnival. Locally, the this festival is refereed to by its French name, Carnaval de Quebec. I’ve also attended this amazing celebration. Some highlights include tall ice slides (wear snow pants), snow rafting, ice and snow sculptures and the famous Ice Palace. The Snow Bath is a crazy event. People dance in their swimsuits and throw snow at each other outside in the freezing temperatures. If you go, don’t miss the night parade – it is wonderful! If you see a sign for Caribou give this warm beverage a try. It’s made of brandy, vodka, sherry and port. Perfect for a little relief from the cold. It is found at various Carnival sites and individual vendor on the streets. During your visit be on the lookout for the jolly mascot Bonhomme (meaning: “good man”).
CAA Winter Festival of Lights. This is another Canadian favorite only this one is held in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The Festival of Lights includes 125 animated lighting displays, including Disney-themed, and 3 million tree and ground lights which can be seen within the Niagara Parks Winter Wonderland. Attendees may also partake in ice skating at the TD RINK at the Brink. Admission is free but donations per car are appreciated.
Lake George Winter Carnival. This annual event is held in the Adirondack Mountain region of upstate New York. 2011 is this carnival’s 50th anniversary. Events include hot air ballooning, kids’ activities, a Polar Plunge, snowmobile rides, Duanesburg Sky Diving, wood carving demonstrations, dog sled rides, petting zoo, cooks-offs and more.
The most important thing to remember when attending an outdoor winter carnival or festival is to dress properly. There’s rarely a place to warm-up, so be sure to dress in layers. Wear long underwear, sock liners, boots, gloves, a hat and bring along blankets for the children. Hot coca and other warm beverages are usually available throughout the events.
Do you have a favorite winter carnival or festival? We’d love to hear about it.