12 of Canada’s best winter festivals

Why stay inside all winter when there are unique festivals all across the country?

As tempting as it is to curl up in front of the fire until spring, winter is actually a great time to explore Canada. With amazing festivities happening all around the country, it’s worth adventuring out in the cold to experience something new and unique.

Here are 12 of Canada’s best winter festivals.

Two people slide down a hill, a lit up ferris wheel behind them.
Photo: Aurora Winter Festival

Aurora Winter Festival

Vancouver, BC
November 22, 2019 – January 5, 2020

Vancouver’s Aurora Winter Festival takes over the grounds of the Pacific National Exhibition from November ‘til January with rides (there’s a whole tube slide park!), carnival games, food trucks from in and around the city, and a huge mix of vendors selling holiday items. There’s also a version of this festival in Toronto.

Visit Aurora Winter Festival’s website here.

Lights on a bridge reflect into the water below
Photo: Simcoe Christmas Panorama

Simcoe Christmas Panorama

Simcoe, ON
November 30, 2019 – January 2, 2020

Simcoe, Ontario on the shore of Lake Erie will be lit up every night from the end of November ‘til January, transforming the small town into a magical, twinkly Christmas display. Visitors can stroll through the town’s shimmering parks, enjoy hot chocolate and apple cider, and peruse the Christmas Farm Market to pick up some handcrafted gifts.

Visit Simcoe Christmas Panorama’s website here.

Winter Fair in the Square

Toronto, ON
December 7 – 23, 2019

Located at Nathan Phillips Square, right in the heart of Toronto, Winter Fair in the Square features unique vendors for holiday gift shopping, an outdoor skating rink and skate rentals, rides and games, food trucks and a heated outdoor bar.

Visit Winter Fair in the Square’s website here.

Skier soars through the air
Photo: Rossland Winter Carnival

Rossland Winter Carnival

Rossland, BC
January 23 – 26, 2020

Officially Canada’s oldest winter festival (it dates back to 1897), the Rossland Winter Carnival has its roots in a Norwegian miner named Olaus Jeldness who invited his friends to the top of nearby Red Mountain for a tea party. Afterwards, he sent his guests down the hill with long wooden planks strapped to their feet which he called “skis”—this is how the sport got its start in Canada. The festival now celebrates Jeldness’ legacy and his love of the sport by hosting pancake breakfasts, live music, and of course, highly competitive ski races.

Visit Rossland Winter Carnival’s website here.

FROSTival

Fredricton, NB
January 16 – February 2, 2020

This is Atlantic Canada’s largest winter celebration. It features over 100 events over three weekends from January to February, from sleigh rides to wine tastings to a standup comedy.

Visit FROSTival’s website here.

Winterlude

Ottawa, ON
January 31 – February 17, 2020

Winterlude, or Bal de Neige in French, is an annual festival that transforms Canada’s capital into a winter wonderland. The festival features snow and ice sculpture competitions, snow playgrounds, skating on the Rideau canal (the world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink) and sporting events like the Winterlude triathlon.

Visit Winterlude’s website here.

Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl

South Shore, NS
February 1 – 29, 2020

Probably the most delicious event on this list, the Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl happens along the South Shore of the province from Barrington to Peggy’s Cove. There are over 100 lobster experiences, from a lobster roll challenge, lobster fishing events, and a lobster chowder showdown. If crustaceans aren’t your thing, there are also events where you can create your own nautical treasures and souvenirs, sporting events (like hockey tournaments and surfing lessons) and tons of art events and performances.

Visit Lobster Crawl’s website here.

Snowman waves at crowd behind a fire pit
Photo: Mount Pearl Frosty Festival

Mount Pearl Frosty Festival

Mount Pearl, NL
February 7 – 16, 2020

Mount Pearl’s annual Frosty Festival is now in its 37th year and features events perfect from musicals to fitness classes to a pub night.

Visit Frosty Festival’s website here.

Carnaval de Quebec

Quebec City, QB
February 7 – 16, 2020

One of the biggest (and flashiest) winter festivals in Canada, the Carnaval de Quebec has been running on and off since 1894. From a big parade to ice sculpture workshops and meeting Bonhomme himself (the huge snowman that is the official representative of the Carnaval), this festival is a must-visit.

Visit Carnaval de Quebec’s website here.

Silver Skate Festival

Edmonton, AB
February 7 – 17, 2020

Edmonton’s Silver Skate Festival celebrates the city’s Dutch history, combining sport (especially skating), arts and culture, and recreation. The festival transforms the city’s Hawrelak Park with snow sculptures, winter sports and horse-drawn sleighs. Visitors can also compete in speed skating events, take in live performances and cook bannock over an open fire.

Visit Silver Skate Festival’s website here.

Aerial view of the snowy festival
Photo: Festival du Voyageur

Festival du Voyageur

Winnipeg, MB
February 14 – 23, 2020

Held in Winnipeg’s historic French Quarter, the Festival du Voyageur has been held annually since 1970. Visitors can compete in fiddling, jigging (folk dance and music), beard-growing and making the best pea soup. They can also take in snow sculptures featuring artists from all around the world.

Visit Festival du Voyageur’s website here.

Women on stage performing a traditional dance
Photo: Toonik Tyme

Toonik Tyme

Iqaluit, NT
April 2020

This northern festival is named after the Tuniit people (the singular form of the word is “Toonik”) who are the ancestors of the Inuit people. Toonik Tyme started in 1965, and the festival consisted of traditional Inuit games, throat singing, dancing and a community feast. Today’s Toonik Tyme celebrates the arrival of spring with a number of traditional activities that celebrate Inuit culture and traditions—and a majority of events are conducted in a combination of Inuktitut, English and French.

Visit Toonik Tyme’s website here.

Read more:
8 family-friendly winter activities in Toronto
50 essential winter activities for families

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