Winter Festivals Around the World

Experience the wonderful winter festivals around the world, including Carnival in Rio, Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Las Fallas in Spain.

Photo By: Frank Kovalchek, Wikimedia Commons

Photo By: Getty

Photo By: Getty

Photo By: Getty

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Photo By: Korea Tourism Organization

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Photo By: City of Sapporo

Venice's Carnevale

Carnevale, in Venice, Italy, is a huge winter festival with parades, public and private masquerade balls, entertainment and music.  The annual festival starts 40 days before Easter and ends on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.  Decorative Venetian masks are an important part of carnevale. A jury of international costume and fashion designers vote for the best mask during the last week of the celebration.

Rio’s Carnival

This world-famous festival is held before Lent, every year. It’s considered the biggest carnival in the world. Two million people flood the streets during the 1-day event that is the culmination of a fierce dance competition between rival samba schools. Each school must have an overall theme and 6 to 8 floats, and it’s not uncommon for 1 school to be represented by thousands participants.  The first festival dates back to 1723.

Sundance Film Festival

Celebrity alert! This film festival, held in Park City, Utah, showcases new work from American and international independent filmmakers.  It is the largest independent cinema festival in the US, and comprised of non-competitive and competitive sections, including feature-length documentary films. Actor Robert Redford’s company, Sterling Van Wagenen, started the first film festival in 1978.

New Orleans’ Mardi Gras

The New Orleans Carnival season officially starts, on January 6th and ends in February, the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras, aka “The Greatest Show on Earth,” specifically refers to the Tuesday before Lent. Most tourists center on Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, but most of the major parades originate in the Uptown and Mid-City districts and follow a route along St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street.

Winter Party Festival

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force hosts the White Party Festival in Miami Beach. It’s 1 of the world’s biggest celebrations for the LGBT community. During the 6-day event are 9 spectacular dance parties with more than 10,000 guests from around the world. The proceeds from this non-stop party go to local nonprofit organizations. To date, The Task Force has donated $1.2 million to LGBT Community Projects Funds of the Miami Foundation. Kick up your heels for a cause.

Quebec City’s Winter Carnival

Quebec City’s Winter Carnival is the largest and most popular winter celebration in the world. Visitors spend more than $42 million per winter in this city of winter wonder. The festival starts during the last week in January and ends in mid-February. Some of the fun festivities include the Uniprix 400-feet ice slide, dog sled racing, snow rafting, the Arctic Spas Village, outdoor dance parties, night parades, winter camping, and much more.

Frozen Dead Guys Day

Nederland, CO, hosts this unique, annual festival, based on an old story about a Norwegian citizen Trygve Bauge, and how she brought her deceased grandfather, Bredo Morstol, to the US, preserved on dry ice and stored in liquid nitrogen.  The townspeople discovered the cryonic state corpse in 1994. During the first full week of March, the town keeps locals and tourists entertained with coffin races, a slow-motion parade, “Frozen Dead Guy” lookalike contests, snow sculpture contests, snowshoe races and a polar plunge, for those who can brave a cold swim.

Yukon Quest

Looking for a fun sporting event? In February, head to Alaska to cheer on mushers and their sled dog teams, as they make their 1,000-mile, 10- to 16-day trek, from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon in Canada. The Yukon Quest Trail follows historical Gold Rush and Mail Delivery dog sled routes from the turn of the 20th Century.  The champion wins a $35,000 purse.

Ottawa’s Winterlude

In Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec, they celebrate Winterlude or in French, Bal de Neige. Canada’s National Capital Commission runs the 3-week winter festival in February, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.  There’s no shortage of things to keep people busy. Some activities and entertainment include musical concerts, an ice sculpture competition, ice skating in the largest ice playground, or relax and chill out in the ice lounge.

Hwacheaon Sancheoneo Ice Festiva

This annual festival takes place in Hwacheon, located in South Korea’s Gangwon province. This virtually untouched region is known as the first area in Korea that freezes over in the winter, and the river is covered with a thick layer of ice. Visitors can try ice fishing with their bare hands; view an exhibition of ice sculptures that take over 20 weeks to prepare; and sample raw and grilled mountain trout. The winter festival runs for almost the entire month of January.

Valencia’s Las Fallas

 Visit Valencia, Spain! Las Fallas, which means “the fires,” is a 5-day celebration that attracts more than 3 million flame-loving revelers. The focus of this annual fiesta is the creation and destruction of puppets, or ninots, designed to poke fun at corrupt politicians and Spanish celebrities, or they usually depict satirical scenes and current events. The ninots are set ablaze on March 18th at midnight, the day known as La Crema. One of the ninots is spared from destruction by popular vote. Other activities include bullfights, parades, paella contests and around the city.

Sapporo Snow Festival

This famous festival is held in Sapporo, Japan, over a 7- day period in February. It is 1 of Japan’s largest and most distinctive events. Millions of people visit Sapporo for the International Snow Sculpture Contest, to view the impeccable, frozen art in Odori Park and Susukino. And much like any major winter festival, an annual beauty contest is held to crown a new Susukino Queen of Ice.