While some Canadians may give winter the cold shoulder, as a nation we certainly know how to make the most out of the ice and snow. The secret to enjoying the frosty weather is equal parts attitude and programming: Canadians are proud of their winter hardiness, of course, but in many cities, a slate of planned outdoor offerings make it even easier to find a reason to get outside. The winter festival is a staple across Canadian cities and an essential way to stay connected with the community amid freezing temperatures.
Here are five festivals across the country that make it worth booking a trip not despite, but because of, the cold.
Mummers Festival in St. John’s
Nov. 26 to Dec. 10, 2022
Every winter, hundreds of Newfoundlanders take to the jellybean streets of St. John’s, bodies disguised and disfigured by long johns, massive stuffed bras and pillow-enhanced bellies and butts. Some don balaclavas, some ride elaborate homemade hobby horses, and all are there for the Mummer’s Festival, one of Canada’s most unique winter experiences.
Mummering is among Newfoundland’s oldest traditions – the celebration reportedly started in the early 1800s with neighbours dressing up to visit other neighbours who’d have to guess who it was knocking at their door. Once the jig was up, drinks and food were served. Today, the practice carries on in this two-week festival, with daily costume-building workshops, jam sessions and parties, all leading up to the final parade on Dec. 10. Locals don’t care that this time of year is cold and blustery; you’ll get a friendly Newfoundland welcome for attending the festival, plus access to the renowned restaurants and pubs of St. John’s without the summertime crowds.
Chinook Blast in Calgary
Jan. 27 to Feb. 20, 2023
For four fun-packed weeks, downtown Calgary is abuzz with art installations, concerts, light shows, pop-up performing arts stages, an Asian night market and more. Several famed Calgary arts groups and festivals – including the Calgary Folk Festival and High Performance Rodeo – come together with the organizers of Chinook Blast to bring the city together in the gust of winter. Indeed, across the four weeks, there’s something for everyone: curling tournaments, art workshops, drum ensembles, special movie screenings, spoken word events and interactive programming to suit all ages and interests. There’s so much to enjoy in this awesome festival that you’ll be too busy to take notice of the cold.
Carnaval de Québec in Quebec City
Feb. 3 to 12, 2023
Billed as the world’s oldest winter carnival (the first one took place in 1894), this massive festival showcases the beauty of historic Quebec City in the snow. You’ll find events held throughout the Old City and on the Plains of Abraham. Visitors love a chance to pose with iconic festival mascot Bonhomme, a seven-foot-tall snowman, as he roams the many events and attractions. You might catch him at a nightly concert series, his eponymous ice palace, parades, tubing and tobogganing, dog-sledding, admiring snow sculptures and more. The city buzzes with festival parties and private events, and although this event is super family-friendly, there are plenty of grown-up escapades to enjoy. Don’t miss a chance to sleep in North America’s only ice hotel – Hôtel de Glace – which is erected in the city until March each year, or at least grab a drink at the hotel’s Ice Bar.
Frost Regina in Regina
Feb. 3 to 12, 2023
When it launched in early 2022, this winter festival was a smash hit among locals and visitors alike. So, the city is doing it again. At the second annual Frost Regina festival, wander the historic Warehouse District for light shows, concerts and art installations. Stop by Victoria Park, where there’s an ice rink, firepits and Indigenous storytelling. One ticketed area has a snow maze, ice bar, live entertainment, a kids’ zone and an Indigenous Village. Add in dog sledding, sleigh rides and community sport events, and the programming hits all the right notes to be a resounding success for 2023 and beyond.
Yukon Rendezvous Festival in Whitehorse
Feb. 10 to 26, 2023
By day, this two-week celebration hosts family-friendly events such as pancake breakfasts, dog sledding, chainsaw chucking (to observe, not participate in) and contests for strength, hairiest legs, best beard and other silliness. By night, events offer rowdy fun in the bars of the city, complete with Sourdough Sam competitions (in which locals earn money for charity while competing to be the ultimate Yukon man), crowning of the festival queen and performances by the Rendezvous Can-Can dancers.