Outdoor enthusiasts always find plenty of reasons to celebrate winter. For those who enjoy skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, riding snowmobiles and even snowshoeing, the winter can’t come fast enough. Winter festivals across the globe celebrate the season in grand fashion by offering visitors a variety of outdoor activities from ice sculpture contests to illumination festivals. These eight events are sure to fuel your passion for winter.
Ever wonder what is was like for the people of Jamestown, the country’s first settlement, to celebrate Christmas? Williamsburg, Virginia, which transports visitors back to colonial days, offers an abundance of holiday activities including the opportunity to compare Christmas customs of the time with how they were observed in the early years of the country. Hear stories about military encampments during the American Revolution and watch holiday preparations on an authentic period farm, or revel in the Yorktown Christmas Tree Lighting, a tradition that began in 1945. Have breakfast with Santa near the water at the Riverwalk Restaurant, or strap on a pair of ice skates at Liberty’s Ice Pavilion.
Perched at a majestic 3,392 feet above sea level, Grindelwald, a village in Switzerland’s Bernese Alps, is a popular skiing destination. It’s also as a base for mountain-climbing ascents up the iconic north face of Eiger Mountain. Every year sculptors from all over the world gather for the Grindelwald Snow Festival near Interlaken (Jan. 16-22). The Swiss winter provides a backdrop for sculptors who expertly carve out magnificent works of icy art. The streets of the snowy town become a charming museum with temporary creations decorating every corner during the festival. Until the ice melts, the white statues create an unforgettable experience for both locals and tourists.
The iconic Broadmoor Resort is gearing up for its Holiday Show and legendary New Year’s Eve Gala. For over a quarter century, The Broadmoor Holiday Show has been a seasonal favorite. The star-studded event features musical talent in a traditional dinner show variety format. Special guest Melissa Manchester returns as this year’s headliner. The resort’s gingerbread display is a longstanding tradition for families who visit The Broadmoor during the holiday season. Enrich your visit with a whole new experience with Santa Claus and his elves as you take the Cog Railway to the North Pole at 4-Mile Siding. Take pictures with Santa Claus, interact with the elves, and enjoy some hot chocolate and Christmas cookies.
Pandering to the cliché that Canada is all about snow, hockey and dog sleds, it comes as no surprise that so many of the top events in Canada occur in winter. Featuring more than 120 light shows, the Winter Festival of Lights attracts more than one million people annually to Niagara Falls, Ontario, and has been recognized as one of the top 100 internationally known events in North America. Canada’s foremost illumination festival (Nov. 19, 2016 to Jan. 31, 2017) encompasses an eight kilometer long route that travels through the resplendent landscapes of the Niagara Parks. Comprised of millions of lights, guests will delight in seeing dazzling displays that light up the Canadian landscape.
Orienteering is a navigation race for the adventurous traveler often held in unfamiliar terrain using a map and compass. It’s easy to learn and is a fun way to exercise your body and mind. Held in Central Israel (Dec. 30-31), the Israel Winter Orienteering Cup is a timed race in which individual participants use a specially created, highly detailed map to select routes and navigate through diverse and often unfamiliar terrain and visit control points in sequence. Israel’s mild winter weather is ideal for the activity. Israel offers a unique diversity of terrain, from prairie and badlands in the south to woods along the coastal plain and classic pine forests in the north of the country. Participants will discover historical, cultural and religious sites alongside every venue.
Stowe is the quintessential ski town. A quaint enclave in northern Vermont, Stowe’s natural beauty is enhanced by picturesque covered bridges and rustic curio shops. The 43rd Winter Carnival (Jan. 14-28) features activities that celebrate the season in grand fashion and enhance the splendor of this winter wonderland. Stroll downtown and watch professional ice sculptors work their magic or participate in such zany events as the Snow Volleyball Tournament or the Snow Golf Competition. Dance parties and Karaoke are all part of the fun, while a pub style trivia contest will test your knowledge of all things trivial. Cap off the two-week affair with the Youth Ice Fishing Derby by learning how to ice fish while sipping hot chocolate.
Have a “ball” this winter in Vienna by attending one of the more than 450 balls held each year. The city of waltzes exuberantly celebrates Carnival in January and February. The three-quarter rhythm is supplemented by more contemporary sounds, offering enjoyable dancing for every taste. The sweetest ball is the Bonbon Ball (Feb. 24, 2017) at the Wiener Konzerthaus. This ball is known for its fun and informal ambiance. Each winter the Bonbon Ball is one of the most spectacular events in Vienna, home of the famed Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Up to 4,000 guests can dance in four concert halls. A traditional highlight of the Bonbon Ball is the election of this year’s Miss Bonbon at midnight.
No one celebrates winter’s offerings like the people of Iceland. The country’s long winter days of darkness are brightly lit each year via the jubilant activities of the Reykjavík Winter Lights Festival (Feb. 2-5). Take an evening swim, enjoy the light-art installations all over the city, or sign up for the Museum Night Quiz. The interactive Paint Splatter Artwork exhibit allows visitors to illustrate a huge canvas painting by using virtual paint via their phones. Learn about the mythical elves and trolls of Iceland during a storytelling workshop at the Museum of Design and Applied Arts. Visitors are entertained on Swimming Pool Night with spectacular events like a quire festival and water yoga. All pools are heated with thermal water making it comfortable to swim outdoors during the wintertime.