U.S. News & World Report

5 Wonderful Winter Festivals Worth Traveling For

Embrace cold-weather pursuits and winter fun with snow ice sculpture competitions, concerts and more.

By Sheryl Nance-Nash

Forget staying home for the dark, cold days of winter. As temperatures cool down, awe-inspiring events and festivals around the world beckon to cold-weather enthusiasts. From an annual wine festival in Taos, New Mexico, to a snow sculpting competition in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, these thrilling events are worth facing the winter chill. Read on to discover spectacular seasonal festivals across the globe.

Aspen, Colorado

When: Jan. 11-14, 2018

Aspen‘s annual “toast to winter” dates back to January 1951, when locals began celebrating the town’s unique Nordic lifestyle. The four-day fest features a well-rounded mix of activities, including a Soupsköl (a soup cook-off), a canine fashion show, fat-biking competitions and more. Plus, there are plenty of ways to embrace Aspen’s winter paradise. Four ski mountains make up the terrain for the world-renowned Snowmassresort. Aspen Mountain, locally referred to as Ajax, rises up directly from downtown, creating an enchanting winter scene, and Buttermilk Mountain, home of the X Games, is an ideal spot for kids and beginners. Meanwhile, Aspen Highlands is home to the legendary Highland Bowl, and Snowmass offers diverse runs for all skill levels. Aspen’s beautiful scenery also makes it prime spot for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fly-fishing and even hot-air ballooning. After embracing some outdoor revelry, head out for dinner at one of Aspen’s world-class restaurants. End a perfect day at Belly Up, Aspen’s 500-person live music venue, where you’re likely to hear renowned artists. Aspen’s big-city cultural institutions, well known for their summer programming, also have plenty of events throughout the winter.

St. Barts Music Festival
St. Barts

When: January 5-21, 2018

The much-loved St. Barts Music Festival is celebrating its 34th season. The island will host a collection of international music stars and dancers to perform in informal and open-air settings around the island. The artists, who perform in the leading cities around the world, will hold classical music concerts, recitals and opera performances.

Taos Winter Wine Festival
Taos, New Mexico

When: February 1-4, 2018

If you’re a wine lover, consider heading to Taos for a four-day tasting experience with wines from nearly 40 participating wineries, a selection of breweries and one-of-a-kind food provided by local northern New Mexico restaurants. The festival features film screenings, daily wine seminars, a night of tastings at top restaurants, a traditional pig roast and après-ski drinks, culminating in a Grand Tasting – the cornerstone event that spotlights more than 150 different wines from 36 participating wineries and tastes from the area’s finest restaurants. The fun (and the libations) don’t end there. The Super Sunday Champagne Brunch on Feb. 4, 2018, includes four successive plates with sparkling wines.

With events taking place at high-end spas like El Monte Sagrado Living Resort & Spa and different resorts throughout the Taos Ski Valley, you’re sure to see plenty of highlights in Taos. Wander to art galleries and museums that dot the streets of the Historic Taos Plaza, follow U.S. Route 64 to explore national sites like the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge or hit the slopes and ski or snowboard the snow-capped peaks of the Taos Ski Valley. When you’re ready to call it a day, cozy up at the Dreamcatcher Bed & Breakfast or treat yourself to a night’s stay at Taos Ski Valley’s newest luxury resort, The Blake at Taos Ski Valley.

Winterfest and the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

When: January 27-February 4, 2018

Winter meets art in Lake Geneva every year during Winterfest for the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition. Talented sculptors and artists from across the country create works of art out of 8-foot wide by 9-foot tall snow blocks. Other must-do events and activities during the nine-day festival include the Abominable Snow Race (a 4- to 6-mile course made up of 20-plus obstacles at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa‘s Mountain Top ski area), the Human Dog Sled Race, a wine pairing dinner, live magic and illusion at the Tristan Crist Magic Theatre, historic tours of Maxwell Mansion, live music and entertainment, a chili cook-off and the Cocoa Crawl in downtown Lake Geneva.

Lake Geneva also has many scenic trails and nature areas for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and ice skating. Downhill skiers and snowboarders flock to Grand Geneva’s Mountain Top ski area or nearby Wilmot Mountain. Meanwhile, adventurers turn to Geneva Canopy Tours to zip line through the bare trees that allow clear views of the sky, and ice skaters pick from rinks found at The Abbey Resort, The Ridge Hotel, Lake Lawn Resort and Grand Geneva Resort & Spa. The best sledding hills are at Big Foot Beach State Park and near the parking lot at Sage and Mill Streets in downtown Lake Geneva.

When you’re ready to seek warmth, there are plenty of quaint downtown specialty shops, great restaurants like Sprecher’s Restaurant & Pub and Tuscan Tavern & Grill. Hunker down at The Cove of Lake Geneva or a historic hotel like The Baker House.

Banff National Park, Canada

When: January 18-28, 2018

Around Lake Louise and Banff in the winter, the annual SnowDays Festival a major event. After all, Lake Louise is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, with its beautiful crystal-clear turquoise lakes enveloped by stunning glaciers. It’s also home to the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. SnowDays includes a mix of events, shows and activities. Ice skate on the whimsical frozen surface of Lake Louise, catch the Banff Ice Magic Festival with its jaw-dropping ice sculptures from top ice artists around the globe or spend a day riding on the slopes of one of the nearby ski resorts. At night, join the festivities in town. Watch live music, ski and snowboard competitions or simply sip drinks by the fire. For more cold-weather pastimes, embrace sleigh rides, extreme winter sports, gondola riding, snowshoeing and Banff’s stunning hot springs.