Canada: Carnaval de Quebec – This year Quebec City celebrates its 400th anniversary during their annual three-week long Carnaval (January 27th – February 12th). Watch the canoe race on the icy St. Lawrence River (or join in if you dare brave the chill!) or cheer for the dog sleds racing on snow-covered streets in the distinctly French Old Quebec. Don’t miss the night parades with extravagantly designed floats and outdoor dance parties.
Britain: Shetland’s Viking festival – the country’s most far-flung islands takes their proximity to Norway seriously. Delightful Lerwick situated along the clear blue Bressay Sound sets the night on fire in Norse style with an all-out Viking-style ‘fire festival’ called Up Helly Aa on the last Tuesday of January. Scenes of elaborate costumes, traditional songs, axes and torches carried by the seriously bearded, who top things off with the ritualistic burning of a full-sized longship. The party goes long past dawn.
China: Harbin Snow and Ice festival – The capital of Heilongjiang province, Harbin is located in Northeast China and bears the brunt of the cold winter wind from Siberia, with temperatures occasionally dipping to a chilly -35 degrees Celsius. The festival starts on January 5th and lasts for a month, however the exhibits often open earlier and stay longer, weather permitting. The array of huge and intricate ice sculptures lines both banks of the frozen river and ranges from the modern, created using lasers to the traditional, lit with ice lanterns. You’ll also see icy versions of pagodas, skyscrapers, dragons, sea monsters and iconic landmarks. Winter activities include alpine skiing, the ice-lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden and for those brave enough, winter-swimming in the Songhua River.
Japan: Sapporo’s Yuki Matsuri – Drawing more than two million visitors a year, the Snow Festival on Japan’s Hokkaido island is held in Sapporo every February. It began in 1950 when local high school students built six snow statues; by 1974 it became an international contest. Hundreds of beautiful snow statues and ice sculptures line Odori Park and the main street in Susukino for seven days turning Sapporo into a winter dreamland of crystal-like ice and white snow.
USA: Cedarburg Winter Festival (Wisconsin) – This festival just north of Milwaukee takes popular summerfest events and slaps them onto snow and ice. Stop in for a frosty mug at the festival’s outdoor snow bar, or try racing a huge beer barrel across the ice without rolling over the competition. If you’ve never seen a bed race on ice, here’s your chance. Expect locals to go all out with outrageous costumes for every event at this year’s Brothers Grimm-themed festival, taking place February 4th to 5th.