12 Amazing Winter and Ice Festivals Around the World

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COOL AS ICE

While many people loathe February's short days and freezing temperatures, true winter warriors embrace the cold. Across the world, festivals, contests, and celebrations are dedicated to the worship of snow and ice. Here are some of the best.
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SAPPORO SNOW FESTIVAL, JAPAN

Japan's Sapporo Snow Festival began in 1950 with only six snow statues made by local students, yet drew 50,000 spectators. In this 68th year, there will be 200 sculptures, including 15 that will stand before judges in the International Snow Sculpture Contest. There are three sites: Odori, Susukino (both Feb. 6-12), and Tsudome (Feb. 1-12), which also has sledding and other winter sports.

Related: 20 Cheap or Free Things to Enjoy on a Snow Day
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HARBIN ICE FESTIVAL, CHINA

China's international ice and snow sculpture festival -- billed as the world's largest -- runs from Jan. 5 to Feb. 25 in Harbin. It includes a snow sculpture art expo, an ice lantern art fair, an ice and snow world, dog sledding, ice hotels, winter swimming, and safari-style Siberian tiger watching.
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SNOWKING'S WINTER FESTIVAL, CANADA

Deep in the interior of the Canadian Arctic, winter comes alive March 1-26 with the 22nd Snowking's Winter Festival in Yellowknife, in the remote Northwest Territories. Get there by driving on the Lake Ice Road to enjoy arts exhibits, film festivals, and rock concerts, then help judge one of the world's great ice- and snow-sculpting contests.
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BP WORLD ICE ART CHAMPIONSHIPS, ALASKA

When talking about snow and ice, few places come to mind more quickly than Alaska, where the World Ice Art Championships are serious business. Entrants compete in four competitions: single-block, multi-block, youth, and the Fairbanks Open Classic. The festival, Feb. 20 to March 31, is in its 26th year, but the championship traces its roots to the 1930s. Visitors from around the world indulge in dog sledding and take ice-sculpting lessons when not standing in awe of the artists' creations.

Related: 15 Best Places to See the Northern Lights on a Budget
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NEWPORT WINTER FESTIVAL, RHODE ISLAND

The festival billed as New England's largest winter extravaganza comes to Rhode Island Feb. 17-26. There's live country music and a Jimmy Buffett cover band, comedy, a children's fair and princess party, beach polo, a chili cook-off, and an all-ages hot drink contest with entries from local restaurants.
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ICE MUSIC FESTIVAL, NORWAY

Planning a trip to Norway? The world's only festival dedicated to ice music is a must. The Ice Music Festival lights up the town of Geilo under the first full moon of the year, Feb. 9-12. All the instruments are made completely from naturally harvested ice and snow. On the edge of the majestic Hallingskarvet plateau, the festival is a tribute to musical art unlike any other.
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INTERNATIONAL SNOW SCULPTURE CHAMPIONSHIPS, COLORADO

Plan a trip to Breckenridge for the International Snow Sculpture Championships. Artists create icy masterpieces through Jan. 28, and public viewing runs through Feb. 5. All sculptures start as 12-foot blocks of ice and snow weighing more than 20 tons. During festival downtime, visitors can enjoy the mountain, with skiing and other winter activities. Dining, shopping, arts, and culture can be found nearby.
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SARANAC LAKE WINTER CARNIVAL, NEW YORK

Feb. 3-12, the Winter Carnival at Saranac Lake celebrates all things snow and ice, continuing a tradition begun in 1897. Sporting events include arctic golf, ski races, snowshoe races, curling, a woodsman's exhibition, and pond hockey. Visitors can also try their luck at an icicle-transporting contest, "FlowerBall," and a fry-pan toss, and enjoy fireworks displays at the opening and closing of the festival.
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QUÉBEC WINTER CARNIVAL, CANADA

Jan. 27 to Feb. 12, the Quebec Winter Carnival will celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary. Enjoy slides, an ice trail, and an ice rink at Village Nordik. Take in a show of color and light at the Upper Town Night Parade. Children can test themselves on the trails of a "Polar Mission" or go ice skating with the festival's mascot, Bonhomme. There's a Jamboree crowded with snowboarders and electronic music fans, a night parade, and, of course, a snow and ice art contest at this 63rd annual event.
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ICE ON WHYTE, CANADA

The 14th annual Ice on Whyte Festival takes place in Edmonton's Old Strathcona district from Jan. 26-29 and Feb. 2-5, opening with an international ice-carving competition. Visitors can also glide down a giant ice cube slide, learn the art of ice carving, talk to fur traders, and examine a working forge.
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SAINT PAUL WINTER CARNIVAL, MINNESOTA

The Winter Carnival comes to St. Paul Jan. 26 to Feb. 5. It includes the Beer Dabbler, the state's biggest outdoor beer festival, where adults can enjoy music, food, and more than 150 types of brew. Revelers and floats take to the streets for three parades, and there's powder at Snow Park to enjoy. Carnival goers can test their stamina with a half-marathon, 10K, or 5K winter run, or compete in the Disc Golf Ice Bowl. There's an autonomous snowplow competition, carvings and ice palaces, and even a cat show.
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MELTDOWN WINTER ICE FESTIVAL, INDIANA

Visitors to the Meltdown Winter Ice Festival in Richmond get to see one-of-a-kind ice sculptures and other winter art -- but what sets the festival apart is the two-day Meltdown Throwdown, an ice "fight" between master ice carvers. The festival, Jan. 24-29, features activities for all age groups, including scavenger hunts, frozen fairy trails, winter-themed crafts, warming stations, and Chili for Charity.