Canada's Top 15 Winter Festivals

Make the most of the snow by attending one of the many amazing winter festivals held across the country.
Published January 22, 2016

During the coldest days of winter it can be tempting to close the drapes, lock the doors and hibernate until spring. After all, that's what Netflix is for isn't it?

Eventually, cooler heads prevail and we all realize it's better to embrace the snow and ice than to hide from it. Therefore, it's no surprise every year millions of Canadians flock to the hundreds of winter festivals that spring up across the country, both as a way to celebrate Old Man Winter and perhaps to spitefully stare him down.

No matter where you live, you're bound to find some sort of festival nearby where you and your loved ones can participate in your favourite winter activities, warm your bellies with delicious food and take in some of the greatest spectacles the season has to offer! So instead of succumbing to the winter doldrums, make time in your schedule to recharge your batteries by engaging in some winter revelry. Pull on your tuques, mittens and boots, and check out our top 15 winters festivals in Canada.

Jan 15 to Feb 7
Banff, AB

Held in Banff National Park, this month-long celebration of winter is the perfect festival for both those looking to take part in winter activities or those just looking to unwind. Fitness fans can skate, ski and snowshoe against the gorgeous backdrop of the park while those looking to relax can enjoy meals from Banff's Big Taste food festival (use your weekly SmartPoints budget!) or unwind in the hot springs. Finally, everyone will enjoy the spectacle of the Big Bear ski and snowboard competitions and the Ice Magic Festival's ice-sculpting competition.

Niagara Icewine Festival
Jan 15 to 31

Niagara, ON

If you're a fan of vino, the Niagara region might have the perfect winter festival for you. From chestnut roasts to ice skating and of course wine tasting and winery tours, this festival has provided fun and fulfillment to wine-lovers for over 20 years. Just remember to track the wine you drink!

Fête des neiges de Montréal
​Jan 16 to Feb 7
Montréal, QC

Featuring live concerts, ice sculpting and over 25 outdoor activities including snow yoga, curling, skating and zip lines you're bound to find something fun for the whole family at the Fête des neiges in Parc Jean-Drapeau. This family-oriented festival stretches out over four weekends and features a ton of free outdoor winter activities.

Jan 21 to Feb 14
Fredericton, NB

Over the course of four weekends, Fredericton comes alive for FROSTival. Featuring concerts from some of the Maritimes' biggest acts, skiing and skating events and one of Fredericton's premiere food events, Dine Around Freddy, this festival is worth checking out for anyone in the Fredericton area.

Carnaval de Québec
Jan 28 to Feb
Québec City, QC

During the first few weeks in February, Québec City is transformed into a winter wonderland with the celebration of the Carnaval de Québec. Since the first official edition in 1955, Québecers have been hosting this incredible event that features night parades, canoe races, dog sleds, an ice palace,  an international snow sculpture competition and of course, the official mascot, a living snowman named Bonhomme. It has now become the largest winter carnival in the world and is placed alongside New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro as one of the world's top three carnival celebrations.

Rossland Winter Carnival
Jan 28 to 31
Rossland, BC

Canada's longest running winter festival is said to have started in 1898, when Olaus Jeldness a Norwegian miner and Canadian skiing pioneer invited his friends to Red Mountain for a 'tea party'. As odd as its beginnings sound, this annual party and skiing competition has endured for well over 100 years. Today, snowboarders, skiers and bobsledders compete over the course of the weekend, while festival-goers enjoy music, skating, snow sculptures and more.

Jan 29 to Feb 15
Ottawa, ON

Created in 1979 to celebrate Canada's unique northern climate and culture, Winterlude has become an annual tradition for many in the Ottawa area. Families can lace up their skates and glide along the Rideau Canal (the world's largest skating rink) or play in North America's largest snow playground. Festival attendees can enjoy free pancake breakfasts or eat at one of the many great restaurants in the capital as they soak up the festive atmosphere.

Jan 29 to Feb 11

Toronto, ON

If you're not quite up to braving the outdoors this winter, you might want to try unwinding at Winterlicious, Toronto's winter culinary celebration. Featuring delicious prix-fixe menus from over 200 restaurants as well as unique events featuring world class chefs, this festival is worth checking out for any food-lover. Nearly all the menus are available online and can be checked for SmartPoints values using the online calculator or app ahead of time. Be sure to savour every bite, enjoy yourself and track what you eat.

BonSoo Winter Carnival
Feb 4 to 15
Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Named by a 10-year old student back in 1964, Bon Soo has been celebrated annually for the last 50 years, getting bigger and better with every event. Kids can engage in fun, winter activities at the Winter Playground featuring giant ice slides, and adults, if they're up for it can freeze their bones in the thrilling Polar Bear Swim.

Festival du Voyageur
Feb 12 to 21
Winnipeg, MB

Every winter since 1970, Winnipeg's French Quarter plays host to the Festival du Voyageur, a two-week celebration of Voyageur, Métis and First Nations culture and history. Music floods Voyageur Park from the many bands that play throughout the festival and locals participate in a bevy of activities from fiddling competitions to beard-growing contests. 

Silver Skate Festival
Feb 12 to 21

Edmonton, AB

For over 25 years, winter sport enthusiasts have flocked to Hawrelak Park to stay active in the cold and celebrate the winter. What started out as a small skating event has now grown to include a winter triathlon, speed-skating races, snow and fire sculptures. 

Montréal en Lumière
​Feb 18 to March 5

Montréal, QC

Now in its 18th year, Montréal en Lumière has grown to become one of the largest winter festivals in the world. Featuring an eclectic mix of performing arts, fine dining and family activities it's an event that features a little something for everyone. Musicians, dancers, and actors perform across the city, providing entertainment in every form, while some of Canada's best chefs offer amazing food to eat. Kids can have a blast too, as there are free outdoor activities to participate in as well as children-themed shows. The entire festival kicks off with a Nuit Blanche all-nighter feature innovative and exciting art laid out to discover across the city.

Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous
Feb 19 to 28
Whitehorse, YT

If you live in the true North (or are looking to visit) this festival, the largest in Canada's north, is a must-stop destination. Things get interesting fast with the multitude of competitions and activities that range from the truly hilarious hair-freezing contests to lip-synch battles, burlesque shows and an international snow-carving competition. Anything to get the blood flowing and to keep warm!

Griz Days Winter Festival
March 4 to 6
Fernie, BC

Based around the legend of a man named The Griz, a towering hulk of lumberjack who brought snow to Fernie by shooting his musket into the sky, the first weekend of March is filled with fun for anyone in the area. Starting with a parade and fireworks, things only get more exciting at this festival with the  Extreme Griz competitions that include log tossing, axe throwing and leg wrestling. 

World Ski & Snowboard Festival
April 8 to 17

Whistler, BC

Now in its second decade, the World Ski & Snowboard Festival combines music, art and winter sports into an incredible ten days in the Coast Mountains. Many of the free events available include concerts, ski and snowboard competitions, art shows and films. Kids have plenty to do as well as there are many child-friendly events like the Whistler Dogfest and lots of opportunities to learn how to ski and snowboard.