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Snow or no snow: 4 winter festivals for the family to enjoy

No matter if you’re seeking sand or snow this winter, these four festivals will have you shaking off the winter blues. By Montoya Hudson | October 15, 2021

Winter festivals are a wonderful way to spice up your winter and make lasting memories with the family. From basking in the sun to ski races down snowy slopes, these winter festivals give your family an opportunity to experience something new together, no matter which climate you prefer.

Come out from hibernation and explore these winter travel destinations instead:

  • Snow much fun: Maneuver a snowy obstacle course

  • Ice, ice baby: Enjoy a winter wonderland while ice skating at the world’s largest ice rink

  • Holiday in the sun: Party in the Caribbean for Carnival

Winter festivals in the snow

Winterlude Ottawa in Ottawa, Ontario

Held annually in February, the Winterlude Ottawa festival has been going strong since 1979 when ancestral Canadian traditions brought families together during the long winter months for companionship and revelry. Today, the festival celebrates those traditions, and it is widely considered one of the biggest and most popular events in the country, making the city a top winter travel destination. With so many activities for the family, its designation as one of the flagship winter events in Canada is no surprise.

Take the kids to Rideau Canal Skateway to skate on the largest skating rink in the world. And if you’re feeling particularly competitive here, go for gold as a family in one of the ski races. You can often find live musical performances there, too. Confederation Park is known for its live ice sculpting demonstrations. Kids will love seeing sculptors create intricate displays from a block of ice right in front of their eyes. Snowflake Kingdom in Jacques-Cartier Park is a children’s winter wonderland where the family can slide down ice slides and go snow tubing, and older kids can even zip-line across the snow.

Winter Carnival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Long considered a top winter travel destination, for more than 100 years, the small city of Steamboat Springs -- nicknamed Ski Town, USA -- has hosted the Winter Carnival in February, the region’s only athletic winter festival. The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club offers winter feats like Nordic jumping, ski racing and even “soda pop” slaloms for kids 11 and younger.

If you don’t consider yourself (or anyone in your family) an athlete, the festival still offers plenty of fun activities. There’s a parade featuring the only marching band in the country to march on skis. Kids can also take a fun ride down a snowy makeshift obstacle course in a snow tube pulled by one of the town's horseback riding cowboys. The famous Lighted Man is a family favorite, too; especially his glowing pyrotechnic suit that launches fireworks into the night sky.

Winter festivals in the sun

Independence Day in St. Lucia

Winter sunshine is the name of the game at the St. Lucia Independence Day celebration. This winter festival, held annually in February, celebrates the anniversary of Saint Lucia becoming an independent nation. The festival is a full-fledged celebration of St. Lucia culture, and it starts the day before Independence Day. Locals and visitors alike are encouraged to don their favorite blue and yellow frocks in deference to the colors of the island’s flag. You and your family can listen to live musical performances, taste local dishes like saltfish and breadfruit and even enjoy stage productions detailing the island’s history. It all culminates with a firework display at the end of the night that is sure to be a family favorite. The celebrations carry into the next day, too, with an annual parade called “Annou We-y,” where kids can watch elaborate floats, costumes and performances all designed to make for a wonderful winter festival.

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival

The Trinidad and Tobago Carnival isn’t just a carnival; it is the Carnival. The festive occasion is celebrated in many Caribbean islands in February to mark the beginning of the Catholic season of Lent. But no country does Carnival like Trinidad and Tobago, and it is often regarded as the gold standard. That’s because the entire island participates in the festival and ensures there is something for all ages to celebrate.

The Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is technically two days before Ash Wednesday, but families will want to join the festivities a week earlier at the Trinidad and Tobago Children’s Carnival. This pint-sized Carnival celebration is the perfect way for families to dust off the winter blues and embrace the local culture. Families can watch the island’s youth “play mas” by dressing in elaborate costumes and dancing to the island’s soca music. Pageantry is on full display here, with each costume representing a part of the island’s story. These joyous parades last hours and you can easily fill your day with fun, food and music for the family to enjoy.

Make your winter travel memory

Whether at the beach or in the snow, these winter festivals are a special way to celebrate the season together. Each of these festivals offers a unique blend of fun, culture and entertainment for everyone. No matter which festival or climate you select, it is sure to be a fun-filled trip that’ll leave you with warm memories.

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Montoya Hudson is the founder of the popular blog, The Spring Break Family. She loves to share tips on travel, health and all things related to the family.