Each year, people from all across Canada look forward to thrilling winter festivals. While Canada does have some harsh and unforgiving winters, there is more to winter than just the cold. Rather than hiding from the cold, Canadians make the best of winter and celebrate it. Winter festivals take place in just about every city to appreciate the many aspects of the Canadian winter. 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, starting in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa.
Winterlude, Ottawa: Canadian Winter in the Capital
February 2 – 19, 2024
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 during the first three weekends of February, and many activities are free!
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.
Festival of Lights, Niagara Falls
November 18, 2023 – January 7, 2024
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. The festival consists of an 8 km route where you can admire all the marvelous displays. The Winter Festival of Lights is full of exciting events and exhibitions such as the Floral House and the light displays at Queen Victoria Park.
Carnaval de Quebec, Quebec City: Celebrating Canadian Winters in Style
January 25 – February 11, 2024
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.
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.
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, many things are unique about Quebec’s Winter Carnaval. There are 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 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’s winter amusement park opens for the Carnaval de Quebec. The fairgrounds are complete with ice castles, bouncy castles, and of course, a Ferris wheel. If you find yourself in Quebec, this is a thrilling time of the Canadian winter.
January 18 – February 4, 2024
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
February 16 – 25, 2024
Our next winter festival will take us 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 55 years. This festival has many unique activities and events that are sure to keep you in the winter spirit. From fiddling contests to the International Snow Sculpture Symposium, the Festival du Voyageur is a must-visit if you are in Winnipeg this winter.
Jasper in January, Jasper
January 12 – 28, 2024
Jasper is one of the most beautiful locations in Canada. The National Park is known for its year-round scenic beauty so it comes as no surprise that it holds one of the best winter festivals in Canada. Jasper in January is an annual winter festival that arrives in mid-January. The festival has many fun events and activities as well as music and entertainment. Some popular events at Jasper in January include Poutine Showdown, Photo Tour, and a free guided snowshoe through a winter wonderland. January in Jasper also has many live music shows so if you want to attend those, make sure to check their events list.
Frost Regina, Regina
January 26 – February 4. 2024
Frost Regina is back in 2024 with two more fun-packed weekends. Parts of the festival take place in Regina’s Warehouse District, Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL), downtown Regina, and Wascana Park. Together all these locations make up for a great festival. Here are a few of the activities you will find at Frost Regina:
- Ice skating (Wascana Park & downtown)
- Dog sledding (Wascana Park)
- Horse sleigh rides (Wascana Park)
- Snow maze (REAL)
- Ice sculptures (REAL & Warehouse District)
- Indigenous village (REAL)
- Ice slides (REAL)
- Live music and light displays (Warehouse District)
These are just some of the activities at Frost Regina. Keep in mind that all these locations are free except for REAL, which is ticketed. The festival was a hit last year and there is no doubt that it will be sticking around for many more winters.
Vernon Winter Carnival, British Columbia
February 2 – 11, 2024
The Vernon Winter Carnival is commonly regarded as Western Canada’s Largest Winter Carnival. The carnival takes place in the British Columbian city of Vernon. What makes the Vernon Winter Carnival different from all the other winter festivals is its uniqueness. The carnival consists of over a hundred unique activities and events around the city. These activities highlight the culture and diversity of the area, giving you a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
February 2 to 19, 2024
Located less than an hour away from Toronto, the Hamilton WinterFest is another great festival that has got everything right. From rooftop concerts and art displays to pancake breakfasts and even sporting events, the festival has it all. The festival will host more than 70 events created by community arts, education and recreation partners.
Many festivals across the country 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 unsure 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!
My name is Zain Usmani and I am a freelance content writer who currently resides in Mississauga, Ontario. I immigrated from Pakistan to Canada 5 years ago and have lived in many cities ever since. I have lived in Calgary AB, Edmonton AB, Regina SK, London ON, and Mississauga ON, while visiting over 40 Canadian cities and towns. I have a great passion for writing and I love helping people through it.