There’s nothing in the world quite like a Canadian winter. A country known for its beautiful natural landscapes, Canada’s rustic charms become all the more charming when there are stars in the sky and blankets of pure white snow on the ground.
Fittingly, the people of Canada have a special knack for celebrating the season with creativity, fun, and flavor. Experience this winter wonderland at its most wonderful by attending any one of these five stunning Canadian festivals:
Carnaval de Quebec
A fixture in Quebec City since 1894, today the Carnaval de Quebec is one of the largest winter festivals in the world. It’s also one of the most varied, with dozens of offerings and events making it a must-visit destination for Canadian natives and tourists alike. There are snow-sculpting competitions, sleigh rides, dog-sled races, hockey and snowboarding events, a 400-person masquerade ball, and, of course, the famous Bain de Neige, an epic outdoor snowball fight between participants wearing barely-there bathing suits! Don’t forget to take a selfie with Bonhomme, the festival’s snowman mascot before you leave.
Most big music festivals happen in the summertime, but Montreal’s Igloofest isn’t like most music festivals. This annual multi-weekend event transforms Canada’s second most populous city into a massive, pulsing, neon-flashing dance-party. Bringing together some of the biggest names in electronic music from all over the world, Igloofest attracts tens of thousands of partiers to dance the night away both indoors and out in the open air. Jumbo-sized video screens and dazzling light projections coordinate with the thumping music to create a futuristic multimedia experience, while an ice bar—literally a fully stocked bar built out of blocks of ice—serves up an assortment of delicious and distinctly Canadian beverages. Whiskey mixed with maple syrup, anyone?
When Toronto’s annual Winterlicious started in 2003, the event featured just 35 participating restaurants. Since then, that number has ballooned to around 200. Every year, this two-week food festival sees the city’s best chefs open their doors and drop their prices to offer a variety of unique, one-of-a-kind, prix fixe dining experiences. Dishes include everything from traditional Canadian cuisine to French, Japanese, Indian, and Middle Eastern specialties. The festival also offers cooking classes, culinary tours, and themed dinner parties. One taste of this mouth-watering festival will have out-of-town foodies fighting over real estate in Toronto, just so they never have to leave.
Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous
In the mood for something a bit manlier this year? How about… weirder? The Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous in Whitehorse offers a little of both with its eclectic array of quirky contests and offbeat entertainment. If you’re not afraid of sharp objects, you can compete in such macho pastimes as axe-throwing, log-splitting, and chainsaw-tossing. Lucky for those averse to being around airborne instruments of deaths, there are also beard judging events, can-can dancers, pet parades, crossdressing fashion shows, and lip-sync battles. It’s hard to imagine any winter festival more enjoyably odd than this one.
Winter Festival of Lights
One of the longest-running of Canada’s seasonal attractions, both in terms of time and scope, is the Winter Festival of Lights at Niagara Falls. From November to January each year this festival turns a three-mile route into a glowing rainbow-colored light-show. Featuring more than three million tree and ground lights and 125 animated displays, set-ups include three-dimensional wildlife scenes and the world’s largest Canadian-American flag. Even the night sky burns bright, as weekly fireworks displays rain glittering sparks down on the illuminated falls. If you thought Niagara Falls was a breathtaking sight before, you’ve never seen it like this!