Winnipeg – Festival du Voyageur
February can seem like the bleakest of months in Canada. Fortunately celebrations across the country help those who can’t escape the cold find at least a smidgen of joy in it. Winnipeg’s Festival du Voyageur (Feb. 14-23) is a prime example. An annual tradition, it celebrates French-Canadian culture through activities such as a beard-growing contest, a pea soup competition, fiddling and jigging. It’s also host to the International Snow Sculpture Symposium – a.k.a. people making things out of the white stuff that will put your childhood forts to shame.
Quebec City – Carnaval de Québec
This Canadian classic (Feb. 7-16) has been around since 1894, but know that Carnaval and its beloved Bonhomme have kept up with the times. This year’s festivities kick off with an evening of hip hop at the Ice Palace and go on to include snow tubing at a new 90-metre slope built just for that purpose, axe throwing, a Valentine’s dance night of all-female DJs, canoe racing and two Saturday night parades. Those processions will feature a “sustained barrage of electro and rock music” along with circus feats and other performances. Worth some numb toes, I’d say.
Ottawa – Winterlude
Taking over the nation’s capital – and featuring the federal government’s logo on its website – Winterlude (on until Feb 17) offers plenty of opportunity to learn about the country’s history, from cultural performances by Inuit youth to an ice sculpture (yes, really) of Métis leader Louis Riel. If you just want to enjoy some family fun though that’s fine too. At the Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier Park (technically in Gatineau), kids can try a free introduction to downhill skiing and snowboarding, get their faces painted and take selfies with the Ice Hogs, the fest’s cuddly mascots.
Montreal – Montréal en Lumière
Of all the major Canadian cities Montreal does the best job of embracing winter head-on. Marking 20 years, Montréal en Lumière (Feb. 20 to March 1; also known as the Montreal High Lights Festival) takes over the Quartier des Spectacles with a variety of culinary, artistic and interactive events. Highlights of the gastronomy program are the Air France Finest Tables, which bring in chefs from around the world (including nine with Michelin stars) and Nuit Gourmande (Feb. 22) which sees more than 100 establishments stay open until 3 a.m., for those with past-midnight cravings.
Calgary – Glow Light Festival
Shorter than the other events mentioned but still packing in the fun, this one is for everyone who is still bummed they had to take down the Christmas lights last month. The Glow Light Festival (Feb. 14-16) revolves around – you guessed it – more than a dozen light installations in the city. Each piece contains interactive elements, so organizers suggested allowing an hour or two to take it all in. And keep an eye out for ice sculptures and even an ice slide. If you get hungry along the way various food trucks will be happy to provide the fuel you need to keep going.
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