10 Canadian festivals that will help you beat the winter blues


Here in Canada, we embrace winter the best we can. But between early sunsets, drives in bad conditions, and shovelling all that powder, even those who love winter most can find themselves feeling a little blah at times. That’s why our nation hosts some of the biggest and most unique festivals around to get you out of the house and away from that fireplace for some good ol’ fashioned community spirit and winter fun. Whether live music, winter sports, art or history are your game, we can almost guarantee that one of these festivals is worthy of your time.

Niagara Icewine Festival (January 9 – 25, 2015)

Going against most popular New Year’s resolutions, the Icewine Festival is a three-weekend event that celebrates the winter grape harvest by offering samples of gourmet food and VQA wines from more than a dozen of the Niagara region’s best wineries and restaurants. In January, annual visitors to the area can take part in the indoor-outdoor winter festivities that include ice wine bars, fire pits, ice sculptures, and live music. Tickets start at $10. More info: www.niagarawinefestival.com

Riverfest Elora’s Ice Jam (March 7, 2015)

Home of the awesome GTA-escape and summer swimming hole known as the Elora Gorge, this region also hosts a day-long, mid-winter music festival on Sunday, March 7 to remind us that in Canada, winter lasts right up until spring. To help get Ontarians through the last legs of winter, Arkells and Rich Aucoin—who are both well-recognized for their live performances—will be headlining the Ice Jam. More info: www.facebook.com/icejam

Winterlicious (January 30 – February 12, 2015)

Photo by Ideya/Shutterstock.com

From January 30 to February 12, more than 200 Toronto-area restaurants are taking part in the annual culinary event, Winterlicious. Restaurants offer limited menus at a fixed rate ($18-28 for lunch, $25-45 for dinner), so it can be an opportunity to treat yourself to a three-course meal at a reasonable price. Reservations begin January 15, though it’s worth noting that spots at more popular locations can go fast. More info: www.toronto.ca

Winterlude (January 13 to February 16, 2015)

For three weeks in winter, our nation’s capital transforms into a winter wonderland complete with ice sculptures, downhill skiing, snow slides, and truly something for all ages. The Rideau Canal Skateway loops through downtown Ottawa and forms the world’s largest skating rink. Jacques Cartier Park becomes Snowflake Kingdom, and a jam-packed schedule ioncludes live entertainment, an ice-carving competition, and animal tracking on snowshoes, among many other sights and events. Oh, and we can’t forget the Beavertails. More info:  www.canada.pch.gc.ca

Ice on Whyte (January 23 – February 1, 2015)

Ice on Whyte
Photo courtesy of uberdoodles.com

Who knew that Edmonton was known as Festival City because of how many events the city puts on year-round? The annual ice-carving festival Ice on Whyte is definitely one to remember, as sculptors from around the world come to downtown Edmonton to carve 500 blocks of ice into wintery characters. From January 23 to February 1, visitors can take a free sleigh ride to the festivities from downtown Edmonton, where there will also be live music, entertainment, and ice slides. More info: www.iceonwhyte.ca

Festival du Voyageur (February 13 – 22, 2015)

Sometimes, there truly is no better way to celebrate Canada’s winters than to imagine how people lived through them hundreds of years ago—you know, before fluffy robes, insulation, and heated towel racks. For one week in February, you can visit Voyageur Park in Winnipeg, Manitoba to get a taste of true French-Canadian culture. The Festival du Voyageur has been occurring annually since 1970 and includes lessons on the fur trade as well as French-Canadian heritage and Francophone and Aboriginal cultures. A winter feast opens the festival and is said to incorporate the joie de vivre culture of sharing. Closing the week will be a musical performance by the three-piece alt-country band Elliot Brood. More info: www.festivalvoyageur.mb.ca

Griz Days (February 27, 2015 – March 1, 2015) 

Griz Days
Photo courtesy of fernie.com

The most Canuck of all Canadian festivals happens over one wild weekend in the mountain town of Fernie, British Columbia. This year, Fernie’s Griz Days will be happening from February 27 to March 1 and will include events and contests such as axe throwing, leg wrestling, bacon eating, log tossing, snowshoe racing, and a fire-starting competition. A typical fan favourite is the final-day Raging Elk Dummy Downhill, where hand-built elk dummies are sent down hills and off jumps. More info: www.tourismfernie.com

2015 Canada Games Arts and Cultural Festival (February 13 –  March 1, 2015)

This year, the 2015 Canada Games in Prince George, B.C., and the annual winter music festival Coldsnap have been combined to create a pretty fantastic super-festival, fuelled by 100 percent Canadian talent. The integrated event will be a combination of artists (including Alan Doyle, Tanya Tagaq, Tim Hicks, and Said the Whale to name a few) and 2400 athletes ages 12 to 35. Held from February 13 to March 1, the event is already being called the largest of its kind to be hosted in northern B.C. Full passes or tickets to individual events are available for purchase online, and all admission for entertainment is free. More info: www.canadagames2015.ca

Carnaval de Quebec (January 31 – February 8, 2015)

Quebec Carnival
Photo by Maridav/Shutterstock.com

A round-up of Canadian feel-good festivals would not be complete without the ultimate winter mardi-gras—Quebec City’s Carnaval. Often rated among the best winter festivals in the world, Quebec’s Carnival was actually inspired to beat chills and encourage tourism in the winter months as early as 1894, though the official Carnaval—complete with the famous mascot Bonhomme and the incredible ice castle—was not created until 1955. Famous winter events include the snow bath, night parades, snow sculptures, and slides, and the sometimes treacherous ice canoe race. More info: www.carnaval.qc.ca

Sun Peaks Winter Okanagan Wine Festival (January 16 – 25, 2015)

Combining British Columbia’s best assets—grapes and slopes—is an event that has been recognized as one of the best winter festivals in Canada. From January 16 to 25, there are a range of fun wine, skiing, and food-centric events offered including a blind tasting party, the Moonlight Snowshoe and Mulled Wine, and The Comforts of Grilled Cheese and Wine (which would be a no-brainer, if it wasn’t already sold out). Tickets range from $30 to $130. More info: www.sunpeaksresort.com