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12 Spunky Winter Festivals Offer Mini Breaks with Extra Fun to Share. The best snow festivals across the US offer interactive and engaging ways to enjoy cold weather and many of them include wacky ways to have fun from frozen turkey bowling to icy golf games and my favorite a frying pan toss.  

To quell cabin fever I have assembled a few suggestions for inspiration. While each has its own personality along with a quirky tradition or two, the ones on this list make it easy to cut loose and have with your kids. If you have a favorite winter festival please let me know.  
Chambersburg IceFest (January/February). Just north of the Mason-Dixon Line and an easy drive to Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, IceFest celebrates winter with authentic food and warm hospitality. More than 70 ice sculptures will be carved weekend of snowy fun. The annual winter celebration includes Foxtrot lessons, world-class cake decorating and a chili cook off plus a 40-ft.double ice slide plus a showing of the movie Frozen at the Capitol Theater complete with magic tricks and snowflake-making. Bonus Points: Firebird, a magical story about love, hope, and trust between Tsarevna, Ivan and the Firebird.   (Chambersburg IceFest Franklin County, PA)Saranac lake Winter Carnival Snow Tube Race

Saranac Lake Winter Carnival (February). For more than 11 decades this annual celebration has been offering classic ways to enjoy winter and the event has a few wacky ways to liven up the festival.  In addition to Nordic competitions at the Dewey Mountain Cross-Country Ski Center and inner tube races and Alpine events at Mount Pisgah Ski Center, expect to find Arctic golf games, snowflake volleyball games, snowshoe softball, Frisbee games in the snow, broomball, curling,  frying pan toss competition, logging skills demonstrations, and an  icicle spike contest. Bonus Points: At the center of the carnival is the impressive Saranac Lake Ice Palace anchoring the annual parade and gala fireworks. ( 

Lake George Winter Carnival
(weekends in February).  For more than five decades this Adirondack wintertime celebration has provided attendees with ways to enjoy the chilly weather. From children’s activities and cook offs to Nordic winter games, snowy golf, sled dog encounters, and outhouse races the festival is energizing. Join the bonfire activities on Sheppard’s Cove Beach and share s’mores while watching fireworks. Each Saturday expect to see dozens of kites flying over the lake. ( Paul Winter Carnival Vulcan Reigns

Saint Paul Winter Carnival (January/February). Since 1886 Saint Paul has been hosting one of the most impressive snow festivals in the country complete with an enormous ice palace, an ice-carving contest, fun run, fire truck rides, scavenger hunts, and a Vulcan Day celebration. At the center of the festivities is an awesome snow park with snow sculptures and an impressive multi-lane snow slide. (

Navy Pier Snow Days (February).  At the heart of any visit to Chicago is Navy Pier with its energizing atmosphere and engaging entertainment. So while this in not a 10-day event I am including it because it will definitely be top quality. The festival focuses on professional snow sculpting from 10-foot blocks of man-made snow by professionals and students. The event includes activities for young children, nighttime illuminations, snow painting, and interactive snowboarding.  Shedd Aquarium staff will be on hand with Magellanic Penguins providing attendees with a chance to learn more about the penguins and kids may also enjoy the interactive Polar Play Zone. Bonus Points: As the festival concludes Navy Pier launches its annual “Neighborhoods of the World” celebration showcasing folk music, traditional dance, cuisine and crafts from various ethnic communities in Chicago. (Navy Pier Snow Days)

Polar Fest Detroit Lakes (February). Winter festivals in Minnesota define chilly fun as exemplified by the slightly wacky Polar Fest. Just a few hours from the Twin Cities where you will find more trees than people ice and snow are essential to festival fun. Scheduled competitions include The Polar Putt, Poles 'N Holes Fishing Derby, an ice tee tournament, curling bonspiels, chili cook-off, and a snowman building contest. In addition to live music expect to sample polar pancakes, try ice skating with Polar Pete and enjoy fireworks. Bonus Points: Polarpalooza at Detroit Mountain with music, tubing contests, and snow sculpting events. (

Frozen Dead Guy Days (March). Not far from Boulder, Colorado, small town of Nederland combines quirky and wacky with chilly winter fun. Family-friendly events include live music, spunky poetry reading, a parade of hearses, frozen-turkey bowling, a salmon-toss competition and Theatrical Wu Shu performances.  Bonus Points: An open house at Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center will include interactive programs with turkey vultures, raptors, spiders, scorpions and cockroaches.  (Frozen Dead Guy Days)
Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival (February). For more than 100 years Steamboat has been celebrating winter with a sense of humor and pioneer flair. In addition to classic winter sports competitions you will find free snow tubing at Howelsen Hill’s Tubing Hill, snow shovel races, a donkey jump, mountain bike races on snowy terrain, and kids on skis or snowboards being pulled by horses down Main Street. Bonus Points: For many the best part of the celebration remains the torchlight parades, bonfires, and fireworks. (

North Lake Tahoe SnowFest (February/March).  This annual festival has been attracting snow bunnies and their families for more than three decades. The latest version combines good-old-fashioned fun with a smattering of off-the-wall events. Expect to find festive parades, snow parties for all ages, pancake breakfasts, an ice cream eating contest, snowboard and skiing obstacle course for kids, snow sculpting events, and live theater. Bonus Points: The Tahoe Donner Ididarun features a race in which dogs pull covered wagon sleds across a snow covered course. (

Alpenglow Mountain Festival (February/March). This ten-day celebration of human-powered mountain sports includes snowy activities, snow sports clinics, guided backcountry split-board and snowshoe tours, natural history excursions, and Nordic skills instruction. The idea of the festival is to engage and inspire participants to enjoy and explore North Lake Tahoe’s playground with friends and family. (North Tahoe Alpenglow Mountain Festival)

Whitefish Winter Carnival (February). In Montana the legend of Ullr-the Nordic King of Winter lives on with an annual series of events including ice sculpting, parades, snow pranks, pie social, pancake breakfast, Penguin Plunge, and skijoring. Bonus Points: Whitefish is located at the gateway to Glacier National Park. (Whitefish Winter Carnival

Fur Rondy in Anchorage (February/March). For almost eight decades Alaskans have been celebrating the snow with wacky winter activities for all ages including snowshoe softball, torchlight parades, snow sculpting, ice skating, outhouse races, torchlight parades, and the running of the reindeer. At the heart of the celebration the World Championship Sled Dog Race. Bonus Points: Alaska in late winter is a great place to see the awesome Northern Lights and Anchorage is the start of the Iditarod. (

Content researched and posted by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files. Images courtesy of Saranac Winter Carnival and St. Paul Winter Carnival. Copyright updated 2018.