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Skating on the Rideau Canal during the Winterlude winter festival. in Ottawa.
Skating on the Rideau Canal during Winterlude

Canada is known for its harsh and unforgiving winters. But there is more to Canadian winters than just the cold. Rather than hiding from the cold, Canadians make the best of it and love to celebrate their winters. Canada has winter festivals in just about every city to celebrate all the wonderful aspects of Canadian winters. These festivals bring some warmth to the cold, Canadian winters. For newcomers, attending a winter festival in any town or city can be a great way to experience life in Canada! So let’s take a look at some of the most spectacular winter festivals in Canada, starting with the capital, Ottawa.

Winterlude, Ottawa: Canadian Winter in the Capital

Ottawa is the capital city of Canada. It is also the ice skating capital of the world. Every winter, the Rideau Canal freezes over to become the largest natural ice rink in the world! Starting near Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the Rideau Canal skateway runs a lengthy 7.8 km.

The Rideau Canal and some surrounding parks host Winterlude Ottawa every year. Winterlude is a spectacular winter festival that lasts throughout February. Most of the events and activities take place on the first three weekends of February.

Winterlude has a lot of really exciting events you can take part in. The biggest attraction is the Rideau Canal. By the time February rolls by, the Rideau Canal is usually completely frozen, making it perfect for ice skating. On average, about 20,000 people head over to the frozen Rideau Canal every day during Winterlude to ice skate.

Another exciting event that takes place during Winterlude is the National Ice-Carving Championship. The most talented ice sculptors from around Canada come to Confederation Park in Ottawa to display their ice sculptures. You will be able to vote for your favourite ice sculptures to decide on three winners. 

Winterlude has something for everyone. From ice skating to brilliant light displays, Winterlude perfectly illustrates the best of Canadian winters. If you find yourself lucky enough to be in Ottawa during the winter, don’t miss out on the frosty fun that awaits you at Winterlude.

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Festival of Lights, Niagara Falls 

Niagara Falls is one of Canada’s biggest attractions. Tourists from around the world visit Niagra Falls to admire its breathtaking scenery. In the winter, however, Niagara Falls lights up and transforms into a magical winter wonderland.

Every winter, the Winter Festival of Lights takes place in Niagara Falls. This year, the festival was planned to last from November 13 to February 21, lasting a full 101 days! 

The festival consists of an 8 km route where you can admire all the marvellous displays. The Winter Festival of Lights is full of exciting events and displays such as the Floral House and the light displays at Queen Victoria Park.

Niagara Falls winter light display

Carnaval de Quebec, Quebec City: Celebrating Canadian Winters in Style

No list of Canadian winter festivals is complete without the Carnaval de Quebec. Quebec’s Winter Carnival is one of the oldest winter festivals in Canada. It is also one of the biggest, hosting over 400,000 people from around the world, year after year. 

The winter festival usually lasts about two weeks and happens around late January to early February. The next festival, in 2022, will begin on February 4 until February 13. 

Few cities manage to celebrate winter as well as Quebec City. Bonhomme is a big, friendly snowman that is the symbol of the whole festival. Bonhomme made his first appearance in the winter of 1955. Since then, Bonhomme has become a familiar and welcome sight to the citizens of Quebec City. Every year, an ice palace is built for Bonhomme. This Ice Palace is the center of all the activities and events.

Light display at the Quebec Winter Carnival

Talking about events and activities, there is a lot to do and explore in Carnaval De Quebec. Aside from the regular winter activities like ice skating, there are many things that are unique about Quebec’s Winter Carnaval. There are many exciting events to do such as taking a sleigh ride through the city and touring Bonhomme’s Ice Palace. This winter festival is also a great chance to explore the historic Quebec city. It gives you a glimpse of Europe with architecture that is centuries old.

One of the biggest attractions of the festival is the Winter Carnival fairgrounds. Quebec City has its own winter amusement park that opens for the Carnaval de Quebec. The fairgrounds are complete with ice castles, bouncy castles, and of course, a Ferris wheel. It’s hard to stay bored during Canadian winters if you find yourself in Quebec.

FROSTival, Fredericton

FROSTival is the biggest winter celebration in the maritime provinces of Canada. Every winter, the festival takes place in Fredericton and lasts from late January to early February. The next festival, in 2022, will last from January 20th to February 6, spanning over three weekends of frosty fun.

There is a reason FROSTival is called the biggest winter festival in the maritime provinces. FROSTival has many fun outdoor activities like ice skating, sleigh rides, and nature walks to admire Fredericton’s beautiful winters. The festival is also swarming with food trucks and winter-themed restaurants in case you get hungry during the celebrations. Here is a list of all the exciting events FROSTival has to offer.

Festival du Voyageur, Winnipeg

Our next winter festival will take us all the way to one of the prairie provinces. Winnipeg, Manitoba is known for its harsh winters and icy winds. However, Winnipeggers have found many ways to embrace their chilly winters through, you guessed it, winter festivals! Read more: What to Know About Living in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Winnipeg has been hosting the Festival du Voyageur every winter for the past 50 years. The festival will take place from February 18 to February 27 in 2022. This festival has many unique activities and events that are sure to keep you in the winter spirit. From fiddling contests to literal beard-growing contests, Festival du Voyageur is a must-visit if you are going to be in Winnipeg during the winter.

There are many winter festivals across the country that appreciate all the wonderful aspects of Canadian winters. In this article, you only saw a few winter celebrations from around Canada. If you don’t live near any of the winter festivals listed above, don’t fret. No matter what city you live in, there will most likely be exciting festivals with lots of fun winter activities. If you are not sure where and when a festival is occurring near you, just ask a friend or neighbour!

For more information, tools, and free webinars about living in Canada visit our Settling in Canada resource page. We’ll help you to settle in Canada successfully!