by Joe Rashid
This winter, rather than escaping to a warmer climate, embrace the season and visit one of the many winter festivals around the United States!
January 26th – February 5th in St. Paul, Minnesota. Founded in 1886, The St. Paul Winter Carnival brings in more than 250,000 visitors a year and is the nation's oldest winter festival. The festivities officially start with the Moon Glow Pedestrian Parade by walking from the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce to Rice Park where the public is greeted with illuminated hot air balloons and beverages from the ice bar. Check out ice sculptures, watch a snow sculpting competition, or even participate in a bean bag tournament. All events lead up to Vulcanus Rex storming the “Ice” Castle and confronting the Royal King’s Guard immediately followed by fireworks and live music.
February 17th – 19th in Bend, Oregon. Started in 1999, the Oregon Winterfest has become one of Oregon's largest winter festivals. Opening with a Wine Walk, Festival activities include a Kid’s Hot Cocoa Run where participants race to make the best cup of hot cocoa imaginable. Check out the ice carvings and then warm up near the fire pit competition. Throughout the weekend you will have plenty of time to check out the Marketplace to shop at all the food, clothing and jewelry vendors.
February 3rd - 12th in Saranac Lake, New York. Founded in 1897, the Saranac Lake Winter Festival is the longest running Winter Carnival in the East. Watch the opening fireworks display at the Ice Palace which is made from real ice from Lake Flower. A parade, winter games, and the crowning of Ice Palace "royalty" are just a few of the activities. The final event of the 10-day festival is the "Storming of the Palace," a firework display.
February 3rd – 5th in Whitefish, Montana. This 58-year-old festival features the coronation of King Ullr, a legendary god of snow living in the nearby Big Mountain and the Queen of the Snows. The annual event celebrates the weekend with street and ski parades, and the annual Penguin Plunge, a cold dip in Whitefish Lake. The final day includes a pie social which leads up to the Grand Parade that closes the festivities in downtown Whitefish.
February 8th – 12th in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Founded in 1914 to cope with cabin fever, the event continues today to celebrate winter. Steamboat Springs' festival takes place downtown and features a parade, skiing and snowboarding events, and food and craft vendors. Watch as kids from the Winter Sports Club are pulled on skis behind horses right down Main Street in downtown Steamboat. On Saturday, Howelsen Hill is lit up with colors as the Winter Sports Club Athletes flip off the jumps as other skiers outline the ski turns in red. The last down the hill is the "Lighted Man," a local man wrapped in lights skis down the hill shooting roman candles out of his backpack which is the opening act to a firework show to close the night.