Bookmark these can't-miss festivals and holiday traditions.
As any outdoor enthusiast can tell you, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate winter. For those who enjoy skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, riding snowmobiles and even snowshoeing, winter can't come soon enough. Winter festivals across the globe kick off the season in grand fashion, offering visitors a variety of outdoor activities from ice sculpture contests to illumination festivals. So, if you're yearning for striking surroundings and cool, cold-weather activities, these eight events are sure to fuel your passion for winter.
A Colonial Christmas
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. 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 on Dec. 2, a rite of passage that dates back to 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 (open through Feb. 20, 2017).
Grindelwald World Snow Festival
Perched at 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 Mount Eiger. Every year, sculptors from all over the world gather for the Grindelwald World Snow Festival (Jan. 16-22). The Swiss winter provides a backdrop for sculptors who expertly carve out magnificent works of icy art. What's more, the streets of the snowy mountain town are decked with temporary creations decorating every corner during the festival. Until the ice melts, the white statues create an unforgettable experience for locals and tourists alike.
The Broadmoor Holiday Show
Colorado Springs, Colorado
For over a quarter century, The Broadmoor Holiday Show (Dec. 16-29) held at The Broadmoor has been a seasonal favorite. The star-studded event features musical talent in a traditional dinner show variety format. Melissa Manchester returns as this year's headliner. The resort's gingerbread display is also a long-standing tradition for families who visit The Broadmoor during the holiday season. Enrich your visit 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.
(Courtesy of The Broadmoor)
Winter Festival of Lights
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Canada, with its host of snowy pastimes, hockey and dog sledding, offers plenty of enticing events come winter. Featuring more than 120 light shows, the Winter Festival of Lights attracts more than 1 million people annually to Niagara Falls 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 8-kilometer route that travels through the resplendent landscapes. Comprised of millions of lights, the festival allows guests to delight in dazzling displays that brighten the Canadian landscape.
Israel Orienteering Winter Cup
Orienteering, navigation races for the adventurous traveler, are often held in unfamiliar places using a map and compass. It's easy to learn and is a fun way to keep the brain – and body – sharp. Held in Central Israel, the Israel Orienteering Winter Cup, from Dec. 30-31, is a timed race in which individual participants use a specially created, highly detailed map to select routes and navigate through diverse terrain (think: prairies and badlands in the south and coastal plains in the north) and visit control points in sequence. Israel's mild winter weather is ideal for the activity. What's more, participants will discover historical, cultural and religious sites at every venue.
Stowe Winter Carnival
Stowe is the quintessential ski town. A quaint enclave in northern Vermont, Stowe's natural beauty is enhanced by picturesque covered bridges and charming shops. The 43rd Stowe Winter Carnival (Jan. 14-28) features activities that celebrate the season and enhance the splendor of this winter wonderland. Stroll downtown and watch professional ice sculptors, or participate in events such as the Snow Volleyball Tournament or the Snow Golf Competition. Dance parties and karaoke are all part of the fun, as well as trivia contests. Cap off the two-week affair with the Youth Ice Fishing Derby by learning how to ice fish followed by 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 celebrates Carnival in style come January and February. The three-quarter rhythm is supplemented by more contemporary sounds. The sweetest ball is the BonbonBall held on Feb. 24 at the Wiener Konzerthaus. This ball is known for its fun ambiance and features the famed Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Up to 4,000 guests can dance in four concert halls. A traditional highlight of the BonbonBall is the election of the year's Miss Bonbon at midnight.
(Courtesy of Alphonsus & Partner)
Reykjavik Winter Lights Festival
No one celebrates winter quite like the people of Iceland. The country's long, dark days of winter are brightly lit each year with vibrant activities during the Reykjavík Winter Lights Festival (Feb. 2-5). Take an evening swim, admire the light-art installations across Reykjavik, or sign up for the Museum Night Quiz. Plus, the interactive Paint Splatter Artwork exhibit allows visitors to illustrate a huge canvas painting by using virtual paint via their phones. And you can learn about the mythical elves and trolls of Iceland during a storytelling workshop at the Museum of Design and Applied Arts. Visitors are also entertained on Swimming Pool Night with water yoga.
(Courtesy of Visit Iceland)