Cool celebrations: Best winter festivals around the world

There are many fantastic winter festivals around the world. Kate Powell shares some of the best.

Harbin Ice Festival, China

The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in Sun Island Park attract local and international experts of this unique, glistening craft. The best way to marvel at the world’s largest ice festival is on a private, catered tour that also includes a tour of the Siberian Tiger Park. The month-long festival will be held in early January 2019. icefestivalharbin.com

Lake Towada Winter Story, Japan

This is the biggest winter festival in Japan’s Tohoku region, with its amazing spectacles of snow lit by lights and decorated with extraordinary carvings. With hot spring foot baths, a host of performances and pony rides, every day is packed with events and entertainment. In previous years, highlights have included bars inside kamakuras (igloos) that were carved directly into the ice walls and filled with disco lights. It will be held over three weeks in February 2019. en-aomori.com


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Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival, USA

Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival was originally founded 105 years ago, long before skiing and snowboarding made winter fun. With skiers jumping through fiery hoops, obstacle courses and people being towed around powdered streets by horses water-ski style (called skijoring), you’ll be tickled pink by more than just the chilly air. The 106th carnival is on in February 2019. steamboatchamber.com

Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival, Japan

This mind-blowing festival brings together the elemental opposites of re and ice to create an awe-inspiring ceremony each January. A huge wooden structure called a shaden is constructed by villagers and is eventually lit at the festival’s culmination – the “ re-setting battle” – which is an enormous, blazing spectacle that attracts guests and locals alike. Come for the fire and stay for the authentic ski experience. nozawaski.com

Mum walking with child

Sapporo Ice Festival, Japan

This festival has been running since 1950 and is still going strong with its phenomenal snow structures. Featuring three sites kids will love, you’ll be amazed by the interactive 1.5-kilometre stretch of snow art through central Odori Park, whiz down colossal snow slides and try snow-rafting at Tsu Dome before a bite at one of the food stalls, then see the works of some of the nest ice-sculptors in Susukino. The festival will run from late January into early February in 2019. snowfes.com

Carnaval de Québec, Canada

This is the largest winter carnival in the world, running in Canada’s historic city of Quebec in early February. The festival has a plethora of icy fun activities such as dog-sled racing, tubing, horse-drawn sleighs and skating under the stars. The Uniprix 120-metre ice slide is an adrenaline-packed attraction, while the Arctic Spas Village o ers an opportunity to warm up and unwind in divine hot tubs. You can even stay in the Ice Hotel (Hôtel de Glace), an incredible piece of architecture composed entirely of snow and ice. carnaval.qc.ca

Up Helly Aa, Lerwick, Scotland

The subarctic archipelago of Scotland’s Shetland Islands is home to one of Europe’s largest re festivals, Up Helly Aa in Lerwick. As a celebration of the region’s Viking heritage and the end of the Yule season, the festival’s key event is an incredible procession comprising nearly 1000 guizers, each carrying a flaming torch toward Valhalla, cheered on by the thousands of spectators who come to witness the spectacle. At the parade’s end, the torches are thrown into a Viking longship, which is burned in a longstanding tradition dating back to 1889. The festival will take place on the last Tuesday of January in 2019. uphellyaa.org

This story was originally published by Holidays with Kids.

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