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Top Winter Festivals


Whether you’re in the mood to heat things up with a party or chill out with snow sculptures, there are plenty of exciting events worth traveling for this winter.

Check out our top winter festivals to see what’s cool this winter.

Mardi Gras
Few people need to be reminded that Mardi Gras is one of the most serious parties on the planet. Swap winter blues for jazz and blues in New Orleans’ French Quarter, where parades move through busy streets filled with bead and costume-wearing partiers. Join the debauchery on Bourbon Street and have fun keeping track of just how many beads you attain.

Sundance Film Festival
While it’s true that mostly celebrities and A-listers will rock the Sundance scene in Park City, Utah, attending as a commoner will put you in the same place as the stars this winter. A festival dedicated to independent film and its creators happens in January. Can’t get tickets to the competing films, but still want to go? There’s always skiing in Park City.

The first three weeks of February every year celebrates all things ice and snow in Ottawa, Canada. In 1979, the Canadian Capital Commission launched the first Winterlude to include ice and snow sculpture competition, ice skating, concerts, displays and activities. Explore Snowflake Kingdom, an enormous snow playground with 30 giant snow slides and ice carving exhibits, but the most thrilling of all is skating and sledding along the frozen Rideau Canal.

Bluff International Balloon Festival
A surprising outdoor event for January, the Bluff International Balloon Festival in Utah gathers hot air balloons from all over the world to soar into the sky and teach children about flying. Activities that support educational programming, art, and rehabilitation for local parks are also a push for attendees.

Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights
From the end of November through the end of January, the CAA Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls, Ontario showcase 125 animated light displays and 3 million tree and ground lights. See them at the Niagara Parks Winter Wonderland, along with Enchantment of Disney displays and the world’s largest illuminated Canadian-American flag.

Shetland’s Viking Festival
It’s easy to forget the chill of winter when you’re surrounded by fire. At the Shetland Viking Festival , dudes that dress up like Vikings have loud and boisterous parades through the streets for what’s known as Up Helly Aa, “the worlds largest fire festival.” Pyromaniacs listen up – this isn’t just any parade – the Vikings apparently carry axes and torches and have a lot of fun burning things. The flames take place the last Tuesday of January.

Frozen Dead Guy Days
This one gets the “weirdest” award. Every March in Nederland, a community in Colorado, had a resident who kept her (dead, frozen) father’s body in a backyard shed. Authorities found out and passed a law against it, but the town rallied to keep this one exception for the woman’s father. Twenty years after his death, community members still celebrate a weekend called “Frozen Dead Guy Days,” where psychics, van smashing, snowshoe races, polar plunges, and of course – coffin racing – takes place.

Quebec City’s Winter Carnival
Canada seems to have winter down pat. From January 31 - February 16, Quebec City puts on a big party before Lent. With its snowman costume at the forefront, the town parties for two weeks by way of concerts, snow sculptures, dogsled rides, skating and parades.

Carnaval in Rio
Reputable for using all five senses to celebrate its magnitude, Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro even has its own week-long pre-party. The event itself lasts four days and ends the day before Ash Wednesday. Costume (and bathing suit) clad party-goers line the streets from the moment it starts, but it’s the famous drag queen show and culmination of and Samba Parade that packs the final punch.