Although winter can be a daunting season, it is also filled with gala celebrations including Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ day. It seems there is no shortage of reasons to celebrate and have a party during winter months, so we’ve gathered together a guide to America’s Best Winter Festivals to temp you off the couch. Grab your mittens and slip into your Ughs and head on out to a gala WinterFest, Ice Fest or Brew Fest from New England to California!
Guide To America’s Very Best Winter Festivals
Massachusetts – Salem So Sweet, Feb 5-7
Chocolate, ice sculptures, and a citywide retail promotion take center stage at Salem’s annual Valentine celebration in February. Always a sell-out, the Chocolate & Wine Tasting at Colonial Hall opens the festival on February 5 at Colonial Hall.
New Hampshire – Mt. Washington Chocolate Festival, 2/28
The annual Mt. Washington Chocolate Festival attracts folks to cross country ski, snow shoe, or drive between beautiful country inns taking in spectacular scenery, welcoming hospitality and treats of chocolate at every inn along the Chocolate Trail. There will be chocolate fountains and fondue, brownie sundaes, chocolate cookies, chocolate-dipped strawberries and more.
The Winnipesaukee Pond Hockey Classic returns for its 7th annual tournament in Meredith, NH on February 5th-7th. The Pond Hockey Tournament brings teams in from all over the country and is one of the most sought after tournaments in the country. You’ll feel like a kid again!
Maine – Rockland Parade of Pies, Jan 31
dubbed “Pie Town USA” by the Food Network, is living up to its name as planning is underway for the 12th annual pie-a-thon to celebrate National Pie Day (National Pie Day is celebrated each year on Jan 23rd). The town of Rockland, ME will go pie-crazy on Sunday, January 31, 2016 from 1:00 – 4:00pm when the Historic Inns of Rockland are joined by as many as 20 additional Rockland, ME businesses and restaurants to welcome hungry pie eaters to the town for the 12th Annual Pies on Parade Pie Tour. Hungry pie lovers will sample more than 40 different pies at over 25 businesses, restaurants and inns throughout Rockland.
Camden – Mardi Gras, Jan 23 – Feb 7
Activities of the 9-day long “Mardi Gras of Maine” include a Snow Plow Parade, fireworks over Camden Harbor, the Frost Heave Challenge for best winter-themed drink, the Amphitheatre Ice Fest, winter-related movie screenings, a Mardi Gras concert, costume parade and downtown dance. I’ve included a schedule of events and images of some of the key activities. The festival culminates with the 26th annual U.S. Toboggan Championships, where costume-clad teams hurtle their traditional (and sometimes not-so-traditional) wooden toboggans down a 400-foot-long iced chute.
Bar Harbor Winter Beer Festival, Jan 16, and Acadia Winter Festival 2/26 – 3/6
The Bar Harbor Winter Beer Festival is unlike any other in the state and we can’t wait for it! Atlantic Brewing will be playing host to the outdoor beer festival – in Maine – in January! Bring your mittens.
Acadia National Park’s centennial anniversary, as well as the National Park Service’s takes place in 2016. Acadia Winter Festival is a 10-day long celebration of the park, in two locations with over 45 activities planned. This will surely get us out of the house and help cure our winter blahs!
Greenville, Moosehead Lake – Wilderness Dog Sled Race, Feb 9
You don’t need to travel to Alaska to experience a 100-mile wilderness dog sled race. The Moosehead Lake region of Maine welcomes spectators to a unique weekend out of it. Guests staying at AMC’s Little Lyford Lodge & Cabins can ski out to the race trail for a good vantage point as the teams pass by, surrounded by the wild, remote beauty of the Maine Woods.
Rhode Island – Newport Winterfest, Feb 12-21
Dubbed “New England’s Largest Winter Extravaganza,” the annual Newport Winter Festival features over 150 events. The Festival offers a unique winter experience combining food, festivities, music, and fun for all ages.
Connecticut – Saybrook Fire & Ice, Jan 16
The Saybrook Point Inn in Old Saybrook, Connecticut is hosting its third annual Fire & Ice event. Free and open to people of all ages, the festival features a beautifully sculpted ice bar, elegant champagne tastings of Perrier-Jouët & Mumm Cordon Rouge, sushi sampling, and charming horse-drawn carriage rides along the shores of southern Connecticut. Younger attendees will enjoy children’s movies, face painting, and a strolling magic show.
New York – NYC Wine Festival in Time Square, Feb 6
What better way to beat the winter blahs than with wine? The 7th Annual NYC Winter Wine Festival takes place Feb 6. in Times Square, suffice to say, that is an exciting destination! The 4th Annual New Jersey Winter Wine Festival returns to the area as well at the Hilton Short Hills on Feb. 26.
Fingerlakes Wine Weekends – Bacon on the Lakein, Mar 19-20
Cayuga Lake Wine Trail – You’ll receive a souvenir wineglass at your starting point winery and recipe cards at each of the 16 wineries as you savor all the delectable bacon! Besides sampling bacon infused dishes, you’ll sample a wine that compliments that dish, and also be offered up to 3 more additional wine tastings. In addition, make sure to visit each of the 16 wineries to be eligible to win a BBQ themed gift basket containing BBQ sauces, utensils, and so much more!
Seneca Lake Wine Trail – Chocolate & Wine Weekend, Feb19-21
Pick up your gift item at your chosen starting winery then start sampling chocolates, or foods prepared with chocolate, creatively paired with wine along the Seneca Lake Wine Trail. Over the 2-1/2 day event, visit 30 unique participating wineries and enjoy a weekend of fun and relaxation.
Florida – Emerald Coast 30A Song Writers Festival, Jan 15-17
This Americana-inspired music event featuring 150 accomplished songwriters such as Jackson Browne, Grace Potter, Ani DeFranco, Shawn Mullins, and others, is taking place over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend with live shows being featured in indoor and outdoor venues along the 26-mile stretch of Scenic Highway 30A, located along the sugar-white sands of this Gulf coast Panhandle paradise.
Fort Lauderdale, Taste of Ft. Lauderdale
Florida Keys – 32nd Annual Winter Star Party, Feb. 8-14
Big Pine & the Lower Keys. Approximately 600 astronomers from around the world gather to view southern constellations, comets and stars in the Lower Keys’ clear night skies during the Winter Star Party — virtually the only place in the continental U.S. where they can be viewed.
Louisiana – New Orleans Mardi Gras of course!, Feb 9
What more needs to be said…http://www.neworleanscvb.com/calendar-events/mardi-gras/parade-schedule/
Minnesota – City of Lakes Loppet Festival, Feb 5-7
Minneapolis has a great and unique annual Loppet Festival (cross-country ski festival in the city). Over 15,000 people participate and volunteer in everything from fat-tire winter bicycling to cross-country ski races to ski-joring to speed skating. A beautiful and fun Luminary Loppet where candle luminaries light the trail for the skiers is a gorgeous sight.
Iowa – Davenport Icestravaganza, Jan 16
As all eyes are are voting in Iowa, Davenport celebrates the winter with Icetravaganza featuring interactive ice sculptures, live music, kids’ activities, ice princess guests, giveaways and eagle watches. If you want to see eagles in flight, Iowa is the best place outside of Alaska to see eagles in the wild. There are eagle watching festivals all winter long across the state.
New Mexico – Red River Mardi Gras In The Mountains, Feb 4-9
Red River’s favorite winter celebration – six days of music, balls, food, parades, beads and costumes! This year’s theme is Roaring 20s. Live music will be everywhere with Forest Huval and Bon Temps bringing Cajun and Zydeco sounds straight from the bayous.
Colorado – Aspen Winter Sköl, Jan 14-17
Wintersköl™ is Aspen’s annual “toast to winter” and returns for its 65th year Jan. 14 – 17, 2016. The four-day celebration features on and off mountain activities, festivals and free and nearly free events for the whole family. Winterskö dates back to a quiet January in 1951 when local Aspenites decided to celebrate Aspen’s unique Nordic lifestyle with an eclectic weekend of festivities. The four day celebration features Soupsköl, the Canine Fashion Show, WinterFest, the Fat Cycle Challenge, fireworks over Aspen Mountain, and much more.
Nederland – Frozen Dead Guy Days, Mar 11-13
Frozen Dead Guy Days is known as one of the most unique and quirky festivals in the country and continues to be a world-renowned spectacle. The home-grown frosty fest pays homage to Bredo Morstol who is frozen in a state of suspended animation on dry ice high above Nederland. Colorado’s “most frigidly fun festival” features outrageous events like the Blue Ball, coffin races, costumed polar plunge, ice turkey bowling, frozen T-shirt and brain freeze contests, Snowy Human Foosball, a parade of hearses and a frozen salmon toss.
Yuma – Midnight at the Oasis, Mar 4-6
One of the West’s premier classic car and nostalgia festivals, Midnight at the Oasis features three days of music, family fun and over 1,000 of the coolest cars on display! There will be a “cruise-in” to kick things off on Friday and then live concerts Friday and Saturday evenings.
Wyoming – Jackson Hole, 3 Weekend Winterfest, Jan 29 – Feb15
The WinterFest spans three weekends with the first stage of the EUKANUBA Stage Stop Sled Dog Race starting from
Jackson’s famous Town Square. Some of the fun and unusual activities include equestrian racing events, the horse-drawn chariot Cutter Races at Melody Ranch and Ski Joring, where galloping horses pull skiers over a hair-raising winter course of jumps and turns.
Oregon – Eugene Oregon Truffle Festival, Jan 29-31
The 11th annual Oregon Truffle Festival has three elegant and unique Weekend Experiences to offer bridging the Old and New Worlds of all things truffle. As always, enjoy new events, new venues and new faces to help celebrate Oregon truffles, culinary tradition, craft beers, artisan spirits and the best of Oregon wine.
California – Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe, Winter Wonder Grass, Apr 1-3
The excitement of music, mountains and brews returns to Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for the second annual WinterWonderGrass Tahoe festival. This is a unique three-day event featuring world-class bluegrass and acoustic roots performances, craft breweries and local food vendors under the snow covered peaks of Squaw Valley.
Palm Desert Food and Wine Festival, Apr 8-10
The Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival brings some of the nation’s most celebrated culinary talent to an iconic desert landscape. Long time regarded as the go-to vacation getaway for the stars (think celebs of yore like Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra to today’s Leonardo DiCaprio), the Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival is continuing the tradition by bringing chefs and food lovers experience grand cuisine.
So don’t let cold weather keep you indoors, there are lots of great reason to get out and party this winter!