15 Best U.S. Winter Festivals That Are Worth Braving the Cold

From dazzling ice sculptures to heartwarming traditions, discover the magic of winter.
Updated May 8, 2024
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It will soon be cold outside, but you can get into the festive spirit by attending a fantastic outdoor winter festival.

Bundling up to enjoy a festival celebrating snow, twinkling lights, and great food allows you to have fun and keep more cash in your wallet instead of blowing it on an exotic vacation.

Check out these great winter festivals across the U.S.

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Lake Chelan Winterfest: Chelan, Washington

lazurny/Adobe boy hiding behind an ice sculpture

The Lake Chelan Winterfest, which takes place in Chelan, Washington, is scheduled for Jan. 12-21. The event will feature live entertainment, ice sculptures, an outdoor “ice bar,” and more.

During the festival, children and adults can hunt for a character named “Tsilly” and earn a prize if they find it.

Wintersköl: Aspen, Colorado

Piotr Golemo/Adobe female snowboarder on mountain top

The ski town of Aspen, Colorado, celebrates its love for snow with a winter festival known as Wintersköl.

The Jan. 11-14 festival includes spectacular fireworks, as well as a soup contest and craft beer festival. You can also take in a torchlight descent featuring skiers and snowboarders on the mountain.

Lake Geneva Winterfest: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

yaroslav foto/Adobe snow sculpture of two hens

Jan. 31- Feb. 14 is the perfect time to head to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for the annual Winterfest.

The festival includes the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship, giving you the perfect opportunity to see some amazing sculptors convey their artistic visions through snow.

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St. Paul Winter Carnival: St. Paul, Minnesota

salman2/Adobe winter fishing

It can get icy in St. Paul, Minnesota, and locals celebrate that fact with the Winter Carnival. The Jan. 25-Feb. 3 festival includes an ice fishing tournament for anglers who don’t mind the cold. 

Adventurous types can trade in their autumn corn mazes for a snow maze that is sure to be a fun challenge for all.

Ice!: Kissimmee, Florida

Wayhome Studio/Adobe drinks hot beverage from thermos

Yes, you can have a winterfest in Florida. Check out Ice! at the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee.

The exhibit runs through Jan. 3 and includes ice-sculpted scenes from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Saranac Lake Winter Carnival: Saranac Lake, New York

NG-Spacetime/Adobe skiers and snowboarders on top of Hidden Peak

The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival started in 1897 and is still going strong as a 10-day festival in New York. This year’s event is scheduled for Feb. 2-11.

Each year, the festival's highlight is a giant ice palace built by volunteers. You can also enjoy alpine skiing and innertube races.

Stowe Winter Carnival: Stowe, Vermont

yurakrasil/Adobe people in warm clothing in winter

Fans of “The Sound of Music” may be familiar with the Trapp family, who inspired the movie.

The real Trapp family settled in Stowe, Vermont, and you can visit the Trapp Family Lodge during the Stowe Winter Carnival.

Check out the Jan. 18-20 carnival as it celebrates its 50th season with ice sculptures, winter sports, and more.

World of Winter Festival: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Monkey Business/Adobe mature couple enjoying shopping

Art lovers should head to Grand Rapids, Michigan, from Jan. 12 to March 10 to check out the World of Winter Festival. More than 100 art installations will be on display.

This event has been dubbed the largest winter festival in the Midwest.

International Snow Sculpture Championships: Breckenridge, Colorado

cppzone/Adobe girl jumps in snow winter

The International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado, celebrate all that fluffy white stuff in the Rocky Mountains.

The ski town of Breckenridge seems like a fitting place for a competition based on snow. This year’s event is scheduled for Jan. 22-31.

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Fur Rendezvous: Anchorage, Alaska

Jorge Ferreiro/Adobe inuit woman and child

The Fur Rendezvous winter festival in Anchorage, Alaska, was once scheduled around the time when trappers and miners brought their bounty to town.

The Fur Rondy — the festival’s affectionate nickname — is slated for Feb. 22- March 3. It will include winter sports, fireworks, and a celebration of native culture.

Snowfest: Lake Tahoe, California

Martinan/Adobe beautiful couple wearing winter gear enjoying each others company outdoors during day time

California is known for its warm weather and sandy beaches, but there's also plenty of snowy fun in North Lake Tahoe.

That includes Snowfest, which is scheduled for Feb. 29- March 10. See if you’re brave enough to take a polar plunge in the lake or to play snow golf during the festival.

Meltdown Winter Ice Festival: Richmond, Indiana

jackfrog/Adobe couple do a selfie for Christmas

Head to the Midwest for some icy fun at the Meltdown Winter Ice Festival on Jan. 26-27.

The Indiana town of Richmond hosts professional carvers who transform 20,000 pounds of ice into one-of-a-kind sculptures.

Whitefish Winter Carnival: Whitefish, Montana

pikselstock/Adobe senior couple walking

Celebrate the greatest show in the snow with the Whitefish Winter Carnival in Whitefish, Montana, Feb. 2-4.

Details of this year’s event have not been released but are supposed to be “coming soon,” according to the official website.

Fire & Ice Winterfest: Lava Hot Springs, Idaho

Kate Visuals/Adobe polar bear floating on lifebuoy

The Fire & Ice Winterfest is scheduled for Feb. 2-3 in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho.

Chill out at the Polar Bear Beer Garden or heat things up at the festival’s chili cook-off. You can also check out the Polar Bear Float on the Portneuf River.

Okoboji Winter Games: Arnolds Park, Iowa

Lumixera/Adobe woman practicing yoga

The University of Okoboji Winter Games, started in the 1980s, have evolved to include all kinds of family-friendly winter fun.

The event in Arnolds Park, Iowa, is scheduled for Jan. 25-28 and will include ax throwing, a “human dog sled,” and snowga, a winter version of yoga.

Bottom line

simona/Adobe woman drinking from a cup

Winter festivals can be a great way to celebrate the season. And unlike an exotic trip to the Caribbean or Europe, you won’t have to wreck your budget to have fun.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

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