If you’re a member of Team Snow, and planning to embrace all that winter has to offer, you may be wondering where to find like-minded people. What are the best winter festivals of snow and ice in the world? Our correspondent Julie Chang Murphy put on her favorite puffer jacket and investigated. Here’s how to find the best winter wonderlands this year.
what are the best winter festivals of snow and ice in the world?
One could try to chase away the winter blues by booking a tropical vacation in the middle of January or by taking nootropics to boost our moods, but we have another idea. Why not lean into the enchanting beauty of winter by attending a “Winter Wonderland” exhibit or festival? All around the world, people in countries that experience cold, snowy climates have been gathering together for these weekend and week-long festivities, some since the late 1800s.
They aren’t necessarily Christmas and holiday themed markets, though we love those too. Instead, they are a showcase- maybe of the old-fashioned sort like a world’s fair- when people were still able to be awed and delighted by human ingenuity and the wonders of nature. There are monumental ice castles, winter sporting activities, mesmerizing light installations, live performances and even, carnival rides for the young and young at heart.
how to see the best winter wonderlands in the world
We’ve rounded up the top “Winter Wonderlands” around the world to help you make the most out of the darkest and coldest days of the year.
1. St. Paul, Minnesota Winter Carnival
The humble Midwestern city of St.Paul has been home to the oldest Winter Carnival in the United States since its founding in 1886. With 3,000 tons of snow molded into an ice park complete with mazes, slides, sculptures and even a mini-golf course, thIs is a bonafide winter extravaganza. And when you’re not competing in snow sculpting contests (or admiring from afar), attending the Orchid Show and various parades, there are Ice Bars to warm up your spirit. (January 23- February 2, 2020)
2. The Fur Rendezvous (aka Fur Rondy) in Anchorage, Alaska
While not the oldest, Fur Rondy proclaims itself the largest winter festival in North America, and it might certainly be the wackiest, which makes sense when there’s only 5hrs of daylight that time of year. You can amuse yourself by racing reindeer in the Running of the Reindeer event, being tossed on a giant blanket in the beloved Blanket Toss, or watch the famed 1,000 mile dog sled race that makes its way across Alaska. Carnival rides run throughout the week as do snow sculpting contests. And vendors exhibit the best Alaskan furs, continuing its legacy as one of the original events of Rondy. (February 22 – March 8, 2020)
3. Carnaval de Quebec, Canada
Québec Winter Carnival is undeniably a major winter event and even has its own mascot, a friendly snowman named Bonhomme. An enchanted forest on the grounds of the Quebec Aquarium is lit up with 500,000 luminous LED lights to set the stage. Participants can test their outdoor mettle with canoe races across the St. Lawrence River or grab a toboggan for an exhilarating half-mile ride down a century-old track. For more low-key adventures, there are family fishing tournaments and parade spectating. Signature food and beverages that are unique to Quebec- the legendary Grog, a hot drink made of maple syrup, pure cranberry juice, cinnamon, sweet grass and cloves, and sweets like sticks of maple taffy and fried dough with frosting and candy toppings. (February 7 to 16, 2020)
4. Wintersköl in Aspen, Colorado
Wintersköl celebrates what makes winter in Aspen so special, with four days of events across town and all four mountains. Aspen’s annual “toast to winter,” dates back to a quiet January in 1951 when local Aspenites decided to celebrate their town’s unique Nordic lifestyle. Look for the requisite snow sculptures, an evening torchlight descent on Aspen Mountain followed by fireworks, ice skating, fat-bike races, and après ski parties. And if you have a dog, there’s even a canine fashion show. (January 9 – 12, 2020)
5. Sapporo, Japan Snow Festival
This snow festival had humble beginnings in 1950 when local middle and high school students created six snow sculptures in Odori Park. Today, it is host to the International Snow Sculpture contest and the oversized creations are truly spectacular. The very popular Tsudome Site hosts snow tubing and there is an ice skating rink as well. Hokkaido specialty gourmet food awaits the cold, tired and hungry. (January 30 to February 11, 2020)
6. Harbin, China International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival
Harbin is known as the coldest among China’s major cities and each year, starting from the opening ceremony, there are multiple ice and snow expos and competitions. The festival also features skiing, an indoor children’s ice park filled with ice slides and attractions, sledding and fishing. But Harbin’s main claim to fame these years has been the Ice Lantern Show in Zhaolin Park with huge, detailed recreations of iconic buildings and world-famous figures to animals and interpretations of ancient legends, lit up with colored lights to create a magical effect. (January 5 to February 20, 2020)
7. Garden of Morning Calm in Gapyeong County, South Korea
If snow and ice sculptures aren’t your thing, then this garden of lights might be enough light therapy to last the entire winter. Just one hour from Seoul, it is the biggest festival of lights in Korea. Every winter, this famed private arboretum with ten themed gardens is revived with 30,000 colorful, mesmerizing bulbs. The main gardens are Hakyung Garden, Hometown House Garden, Bonsai Garden, Moonlight Garden, Sky Path and Garden of Eden, and at night, it is a different kind of winter wonderland- like being in a kaleidoscope of color. (December 9, 2019 to March 31, 2020)
8. Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, London
Amid the traditional winter markets, the 13th Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is a veritable amusement park with festive fairground rides, ice skating, various theatrical shows including a circus, and a beautifully rendered ice sculpture kingdom centered around Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. And if you’re in the caroling mood, book a private Hutte in the mini alpine village for some drinks and karaoke. New this year, visitors can view London’s skyline in the world’s tallest transportable Ferris wheel. (November 21 2019 to January 5, 2020)
9. Winter Lights Festival in Reykjavík, Iceland
When folks aren’t chasing the illusive Northern Lights in the sky, Reykjavik hosts a winter lights spectacle on the ground. While the event is named for the beautiful light art installations that brightens up the city, there are more than 150 events mixing art and industry, environment and history, sports and culture. And best of all, there are both indoor and outdoor thermal pools open to the crowds. (February 6–9, 2020)
10. The Netherlands Ice Sculpture Festival in Zwolle
Set in the medieval city of Zwolle, this year’s theme “JOURNEY THROUGH TIME”, will be filled with 40 artists’ crystal clear creations and glittering snow sculptures of everything from ice dinosaurs, steam locomotives to paintings by Rembrandt. A plaza with fairground attractions has been created for children and an ice bar for adults. And for everyone- traditional winter treats like Dutch sausages, mulled wine, and apple strudel with warm vanilla sauce. (December 14, 2019 to March 1, 2020)
how to see the best winter wonderlands in the world
Which Winter Wonderland has captured your imagination? We are happy anywhere there is a credible excuse to drink hot chocolate. Winter is coming and it looks spectacular!
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Crediting her training as a cultural anthropologist at Wellesley College, Julie has immersed herself in various industries in the last 15 years including fashion design, event planning, fitness and even investigating police misconduct. Julie lives in NYC where she loves trying every ramen and dumpling restaurant with her husband and three children. She finds joy in bold prints, biographies of fierce women. Also kickboxing and spending way too long finding the perfect polish color to express her mood.
Join our community
For access to insider ideas and information on the world of luxury, sign up for our Dandelion Chandelier newsletter. And see luxury in a new light.