Winters can be harsh in some parts of the U.S., but people in these areas sure know how to party by throwing fabulous winter festivals to celebrate the beauty of winter and the many outdoor activities that make the snowy season so fun. Here are four of the quirkiest winter festivals to add to your itinerary to make the most of a blustery winter:
Polar Fest, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, Polar Plunge, Polar Fest
The small town of Detroit Lakes, about a 3-hour drive northwest of Minneapolis, is situated among several small lakes and can be frigid in the winter. But that doesn’t stop people here from throwing a yearly winter celebration filled with fun and unique games. Come out to Polar Fest in mid-February for 10 days of family fun and spectator sports.
If you dare, come take the Polar Plunge, whereby you jump into the icy waters of Detroit Lake. The jump is accompanied by a pancake breakfast, kids’ games and activities, and plenty to eat and drink. Other typical sporting events include an ice fishing derby, an intense ice motorcycle race, a 5K fun run, a professional snowmobile race and the chance to watch curling teams from near and far battle it out on the ice.
Cedarburg Winter Festival, Cedarburg, Wisconsin
This little town 30 minutes north of Milwaukee features a winter festival filled with hilarity. Each year the festival has a seemingly paradoxical theme - one year it was Winter Safari. Competition is the name of the game at this kooky festival. You can participate in a chili contest, a musical talent contest, a winter golf tournament, a cupcake festival and a good old-fashioned snowball fight. If you happen to have an Alaskan Malamute dog, enter him or her in the sled-pulling contest.
The events kick off with a grand parade in which local businesses and citizens dress up and march through town. This event is followed by a race that you probably can’t find anywhere else in the world: A costumed bed race, on ice. Teams of five come up with elaborate costumes and race and old-fashioned bed, decorated to be a pirate ship, a school bus - you name it - down an icy street. There’s also an ice-carving contest and plenty more to enjoy at this fun family-friendly winter celebration.
Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, Saranac Lake, New York
Located in the Adirondacks in upstate New York, the small village of Saranac Lake is about a 3.5-hour drive from Syracuse and a 2-hour drive from Burlington, Vt. But don’t let the drive scare you! It’s well worth it, if only to see the famous Ice Palace.
Each year, a large group of volunteers cuts ice blocks from nearby Lake Flower. Then, an expert ice sculptor creates a stunning and large palace or castle to match that year’s theme. One year, the sculptor matched the under-the-sea theme with ice dolphins and shell benches to sit on! Kids like that they can climb on certain elements. At night, the Ice Palace is truly breathtaking - colorful lights are placed inside to make sure it glows and lights up the night.
This quaint winter carnival also boasts a fun run, a downhill ski race, a scavenger hunt, the coronation of carnival royalty and plenty of other events for 10 days of fun.