Last Updated on February 10, 2023 by Sammie
US Winter Festivals You Have to Check Out in 2023
Yes, it’s cold. Yes, I can barely feel my fingers. Is that gonna stop us?? ABSOLUTELY not, hopefully…Here is my list of the best winter festivals going on this season in chronological order for your vacation planning ease. Maybe you only have one free weekend in the third week of February, I got you. Or you need to know when and where to find the snow carving championships, no stress, I got this. Grab your favorite humans and plan a holly jolly winter wonderlandy weekend.
We have snow carving competitions on the docket, running amuck with reindeer, some serious ice carving shenanigans, more hot cocoa than your stomach would appreciate, and oh so very many twinkling lights!! WINTER, WE LOVE YOU!
WHEN: Now- January 1
WHERE: Resorts World, Las Vegas, Nevada
Well you better be quick because it’s only open for a few more days! Come check out more than 4 million sparking lights while you weave in and out of a light maze. SPOILER ALERT! I’m working here as an elf so I can assure you this maze is not for the faint of heart. I got lost for 30 minutes on my first day. It’s positively beautiful at Enchant. Most folks say it feels like you are walking onto the set of a Hallmark Movie when you arrive. The rest want to know where to find the spiked hot chocolate (HINT: Find Johnny).
WHEN: January 12-15
WHERE: Aspen, Colorado
A tribute to the truly unique style of alpine living. Wintersköl is a 4-day US winter festival that celebrates the best on-mountain activities you can find. There are fireworks, music, and performances that will blow your socks off. This year, you can expect a torchlit descent down Aspen Mountain, a kids’ snow sculpture competition, and even a drag show bingo brunch (I might join you for this). The website is constantly updating until the time of the festival so check back often for updates!
Stowe Winter Carnival
WHEN: January 19-22
WHERE: Stowe, Vermont
*Mentioned in my post 12 Unique Winter Trip Ideas.
Check out the ice carving competition or try your hand at the zany sport of snowvolleyball! There are activities for everyone here. Learn the way of astronomy through stargazing or become one with all things ice carving. Grab a drink, find a group of 4 and learn how to use an ice chipper to create your own frozen masterpiece! There’s a kids carnival that the little ones will go crazy for, ski-in movies, and countless other winter activities for the whole fam.
International Snow Sculpture Championships
WHEN: January 23- February 1
WHERE: Breckinridge, Colorado
A little less relaxed winter festival and a little more super intense world-renowned snow sculpting competition in the best location. People come from all over the world to take part in this multi-day affair. Each team will have 5 days to sculpt 25-ton blocks of snow into glorious masterpieces with only hand tools and their creativity. After the sculpting days have concluded there will be 6 days for the public to witness the spectacle. Make sure you plan accordingly because Saturday specifically NEEDS timed reservations.
The Great Northern
WHEN: January 25- February 5
WHERE: Minneapolis, Minnesota
In order to celebrate winter you need to be around those who live it, breathe it, and embrace it. This festival celebrates dropping temps with programming to invigorate your mind and body. They choose to use their platform to inspire change to protect our planet and its mesmerizing displays of winter beauty. As for visiting, wander between the festivities, or choose between curated packages to get the most out of your trip. There’s a party package, a holistic health package, and even a package specifically to warm you up if you’ve been staring at ice and snow for a little bit too long.
Saint Paul Winter Carnival
WHEN: January 26- February 6
WHERE: Saint Paul, Minnesota
There was a time way back in the 1800s where Eastern newspapers deemed Minnesota unfit for human habitation. Well…Minnesota got mad. And the first winter festival in the United States was born. Celebrate winter with the one’s who adore it in a place that knows all about it. Held at the Minnesota State Grounds as well as Landmark Plaza Park and Rice Park, there are more than enough activities to keep you entertained. From ice sculptures to mazes, an ice bar to a much needed warming house, this winterfest is the OG.
WHEN: Timings will vary depending on the weather. Most locations should be open from January through early March.
WHERE: Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, New York, and Utah
*Mentioned in my post 12 Unique Winter Trip Ideas.
A slightly different style of winter festival but loved all the same! Experience breathtaking displays of ice crystals crafted into awe-inducing castles. There are 5 locations; Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, New York, and Utah. What started as a project to get the founder, Brent Christensen’s kids out of the house has turned into a full winter phenomenon. These castles bring fairy tales to life for kids and adults. There are archways to crawl through, slides to slip down, and caverns to explore for the more adventurous. This is truly a memory worth sharing and reminds everyone just how magical winter can be.
*The Great Northern (Starts in January)
*Ice Castles (Starts in January)
Saranac Lake Winter Festival
WHEN: February 2-12
WHERE: Saranac Lake , New York
This US winter carnival is an integral part of Saranac Lake. It’s the longest-running event of its kind in the eastern US since 1897! From its humble beginnings, it’s now a 10-day affair with performances, sports, 2 parades, and 3 sets of spectacular fireworks. Give yourself a friendly dose of holiday competition and join in on the cornhole toss, or icicle contest! There is A LOT going on, so make sure you don’t miss out on the centerpiece of it all, the volunteer made Ice Palace set on the boat launch.
Fire & Ice WinterFest
WHEN: February 3 & 4
WHERE: Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
A quick two-day trip on the first weekend in February, this place lives up to its name. Famous for its natural spring-fed hot pools, it’s a cozy place to stop by for a quick weekend trip. This year has lots on the schedule. Maybe you’ll want to join in for some wine tasting, dress up as the best polar bear in their costume contest, or float down an icy cold river for kick and giggles (ain’t for everyone). But a big draw is watching the torch-lit ski, where professional daredevils ski down the mountain with lit torches lighting up the night ski for spectators’ amazement. Oh and I almost forgot, there are fire dancers too. Because why not.
Whitefish Winter Carnival
WHEN: February 3, 4, & 5
WHERE: Whitefish, Montana
This year’s Whitefish Winter Carnival is set to the theme of fire & Ice to celebrate all first responders who have dedicated their lives to saving others. An event that grows year after year but retains its small-town hospitality and feel, it would be a treat to visit Whitefish for this festival. Join in (or better yet maybe just watch) the unique tradition of horse-led ski jumping, freeze your bits off with your fellow comrades in a penguin plunge, and scrounge your way through a mountain scavenger hunt! This place has a lot more than hot chocolate and snowflakes.
WHEN: February 17-19
WHERE: Redmond, Oregon
With 3 music stages to bounce between, you’re going to wish this festival was a few days longer. Oregon’s Winterfest has the best a winter festival can offer including ice sculptures of course, live music, a glorious winter market, and also something just a touch different. Grab your family and admire art of all forms! Besides beautiful ice creations, you can find fire sculptures on display for the public. And to top everything off, grab a blanket and get ticket to the best mountains views in town, on their ferris wheel!
Anchorage Fur Rendezvous
WHEN: February 25- March 5
WHERE: Anchorage, Alaska
Known locally as Fur Rondy this is a unique wintertime fest celebrated in the heart of Alaska, where they are very familiar with this beautiful (and sometimes difficult) season. At Fur Rondy you will find the cultures of Native Alaska being showcased around town at places such as The Charlotte Jenson Native Arts Market. Besides the arts, sports are a highlight here but you won’t find anything you’ll be too familiar with. Sit down with some friends and family and watch the World Championship of dog sledding, outhouse races where competitors race outhouses on skis, or the reindeer dash where volunteers (for some reason) try to out sprint reindeer for our enjoyment. I love it.
*Anchorage Fur Rendevous (Starts in February)
*Ice Castles (Starts in January)
WHEN: March 2-12
WHERE: Tahoe City, California
A 10-day festival for you and all your snow-chasing pals! This wintertime merriment wants you to celebrate resort and mountain lifestyle. Hello apres-ski. Though being boasted about in Tahoe City, Snowfest is made of 100 events held all over the north shore communities. Ring in the year’s best ski conditions by attending torchlight parades, snowgolf, a laser show, mardi gras, ski races, fireworks, and more! And by more, I mean dog & pet events, a pancake breakfast, ice carvings, live music, a polar bear swim….I can go on.
WHEN: March 3-5
WHERE: Steamboat, Colorado
WHEN: March 3-April 2
WHERE: Tahoe, California
What’s better than brews and bluegrass? If your answer is ‘absolutely nothing of course’, then you’re going to need to put this festival on the calendar. This winter fest mixes the best in bluegrass and independent breweries into small(er) scale authentic gatherings with a great community feel. With WinterWonderGrass gaining in popularity every year, they expanded into 3 locations for 2023 including; Colorado, California, and Mexico. Enjoy the majestic feel of the mountains with a cold one and the rhythm of a banjo.
Indiana Maple Syrup Weekend
WHEN: March 11 & 12
WHERE: Multiple locations across Indiana
Winter showers bring maple powers! Join in on this quick midwestern weekend getaway to enjoy all things maple. When visiting a sugar shack in Indiana you will experience the very best maple can provide. You can tap a tree to make your own maple candy, try freshly made warm maple syrup by the fire, and take a litte trek through the woods to find the juciest maple tree on the land! Plan your trip at the location that works best for you and your family and get the sweetest maple sugar high south of the Canadian border.
If you have any other MUST-SEE winter festivals that didn’t make the list, drop me a message below!
I told you I was an elf.
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