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Winter Festivals Across Canada

Winter Festivals Across Canada featured image

Have you heard of Carnaval de Québec or Winterlude and wondered what they were all about? Or did you ever wonder if there were other winter festivals across Canada? Keep reading and you can discover all about different festivals throughout the Canadian Provinces and Territories. See how winter plays a large part in Canadian culture and history.

If you are a lover of winter and the outdoors, you will definitely want to check out some of these.


If you are a lover of winter and the outdoors, you will definitely want to check out some of these.



Ottawa, ON

Winterlude is an annual winter festival held in Ottawa and Gatineau to celebrate Canadian climate and winter culture. It was founded in 1979 by the National Capital Commission and takes place for 3 weekends in February, the very first Winterlude started with horse races on the Rideau Canal. Events take place over these 2 weeks with the majority happening on the weekends. Two main attractions of Winterlude are the Rideau Canal Skateway and Snowflake Kingdom, a massive snowpark with snow sculptures, activities for kids, and ice slides. There is an ice sculpture challenge that takes place in different locations throughout the festival, along with musical performances. There are various races taking place and many museums in the area will have special exhibits and events. Of course, no festival is complete without its own mascot and Winterlude takes it to the next level with a whole Ice Hog Family of mascots.

To learn more about Winterlude, check out the website. Here is a timeline of Winterlude history highlights.



Québec City, QC

In 1893 former Premier Joly de Lotbinière led a group of businessmen to create an event that would make the cold dark winter days more enjoyable and attract tourists. January 29, 1894, marks the first ever Carnaval, and since 1955 it has become one of the world's biggest and best-known annual winter carnivals. Bonhomme, the beloved Carnaval mascot was also introduced in 1955 as the festival's official ambassador. Each year an Ice Palace is built for Bonhomme, which becomes a focal point of the carnival and your best chance to run into the lovable mascot. Other activities include ice canoe races, night parades, hockey and mini golf games , axe throwing, maple taffy on snow, and many more. A Carnaval favourite is the toboggan slide on Dufferin Terrace.

Check out Carnaval's website here. For a more in-depth video click here.


Festival du Voyageur

Winnipeg, MB

The festival with the cutest mascot is the Festival du Voyageur, taking place annually for 10 days during February in Winnipeg’s French quarter, Saint Boniface. The festival celebrates French Canadian culture and embodies the spirit of the voyageurs. The word ‘voyageur’ refers to an employee of the fur-trading company who would travel long distances by canoe to make deliveries between trading posts. This festival brings Voyageur, Métis, and First Nations histories back to life through historical interpretations, old music, traditional cuisine, and more. At the festival, you can also experience snow sculptures, various shows, and contests in fiddling, jigging, beard growing, and pea soup making. The very first Festival du Voyageur took place in 1970 after a few brave citizens gathered community support to celebrate Manitoba’s Francophonie. In 1972, Léo La Tuque became the official mascot, he is a human-sized red tuque who wears black boots and a colourful traditional French-Canadian sash called a ceinture fléchée.

Here is the website for the Festival du Voyageur. Here you can read the lyrics and listen to the Voyageur Song.



Fredericton, NB

Not to be confused with the American festival in Fargo of the same name, FROSTival, celebrated in Fredericton for three weeks between January and February, is all about embracing the outdoors. Outdoor activities range from skating, skiing, and snowshoeing, to the ice sculpture showcase and crokicurl (a game combination of curling and crokinole), to name just a few. There are also lots of places to grab something good to eat and warm to drink. The festival partners with the Shivering Songs Festival, Crabbe Mountain and The Fredericton Playhouse to bring even more fun for the whole family. As they say at FROSTival, don’t hibernate, celebrate!

Check out their website.


Toonik Tyme

Iqualit, NT

Taking place much later in the year than other Canadian winter festivals is Toonik Tyme. Held during the end of April and beginning of May, this festival celebrates Inuit traditions and the return of Spring. The festival is run by a non-profit organization that focuses on making the activities inclusive and family friendly. Bryan Pearson is the founder of Toonik Tyme and started the festival in 1965. Back then each festival would have a distinguished guest, who is given the title of the Order of the Honourary Toonik. Guests included the Right Honourable John Diefenbaker, Governor General Roland Michener, and His Royal Highness, Charles the Prince of Wales. These days the Honourary Toonik goes to an outstanding member of the community based on nominations. The festival consists of traditional Inuit games, throat singing, dancing and music, a large feast, dog sledding, seal skinning, and harpoon throwing.

Toonik Tyme website.


Snowking’s Winter Festival

Yellowknife, NWT

Since 1995 Snowking has been creating a spectacular winter wonderland for his community and visitors to enjoy. This festival is centered around the Snowcastle, a huge castle built entirely from snow and ice by the Snowking himself and his crew. It takes 2 months to build, and the festival typically lasts for a month after that. The Snowcastle hosts children’s plays, musical groups, arts exhibits, film festivals, and dance parties. The castle is unique every year, so you never know what to expect; one year it had a double ice slide! The Snowking’s Winter Festival is a celebration of community, volunteerism, creativity, and active winter play all designed to awaken the winter spirit in all who come to visit.

Check out the website here.


Yukon (Sourdough) Rendezvous

Whitehorse, YT

For just over 2 weeks in February, Whitehorse celebrates its Yukon Rendezvous Festival. The festival began in 1964 with an elaborate plan to host a weeks’ worth of daily winter activities and nightly entertainment for people from Canada, Alaska and the rest of the USA. To this day, it is a festival that brings together the community and enriches the culture, society, and economy of the territory. There are lots of events which take place during these 2 weeks; like a pancake breakfast, axe throwing, chainsaw chucking, dog sledding, and flour packing. There are also performances from the Rendezvous Can-Can dancers and the Snow Shoe Shuffles, along with crowning the festival Queen. Fun Fact: sourdough is a nickname used for someone who spends a full winter north of the Arctic Circle, in this case Yukoners, and would traditionally protect their sourdough starter from the cold by keeping it close to their body. The nickname used to be part of the festival’s name, but they removed it in January of 2021.

See website here.


Mount Pearl Frosty Festival

Mount Pearl, NL

The largest winter event in Atlantic Canada, the Mount Pearl Frosty Festival hosts 80 events over 12 days in February. Events include a parade of lights, skating, sno-pitch softball tournaments, musical performances, breakfasts, indoor sports games, Frosty’s birthday party, snowshoeing, Frosty’s 5k fun run, a kid's carnival, snowga (outdoor yoga), and many more. The festival started in 1983 and has a goal to delight all ages while encouraging indoor and outdoor activities. They want the entire community to get involved by hosting a wide variety of activities, which are accessible and affordable for all.

To check out all 80 events, go to their website.


Vernon Winter Carnival

Vernon, BC

Known as Western Canada’s Largest Winter Carnival , the Vernon Winter Carnival may also be Western Canada's oldest. The first Carnival took place in 1893, with most events taking place on the ice. The first annual Winter Carnival, as they know it today, took place in 1961 and since then has been run by the non-profit Vernon Winter Carnival Society organization. This 10-day winter festival takes place in February and celebrates Vernon as a world-class destination while fostering community spirit and highlighting the culture, diversity, and spirit of the area. Each year since its annual start a unique button has been produced and since 1985, they have added a different theme to each Carnival. The Carnival hosts about 100 events, gives out awards and honours, and holds the Queen Silver Star Excellence Program which gives young women a chance to earn scholarships and volunteer hours and learn and develop new skills.

Here is their website.


Whether virtual or in person, we hope you get a chance to check out one of these festivals this winter!