2018 Pacific Northwest winter festivals worth traveling for

click to enlarge Leavenworth, a Bavarian-themed village in Washington State, lights up in the winter for visitors and festivals.
Leavenworth, a Bavarian-themed village in Washington State, lights up in the winter for visitors and festivals.

Summer isn’t the only time for adventure.

When the Northwest is blanketed in cold, dark and snow, here’s some winter festivals that revel in old traditions and imaginative new ways to take advantage of all the season has to offer.

McCall Winter Carnival

Jan. 26 - Feb. 4


“There’s ‘Snow’ Place Like Home” is the theme of the 2018 McCall Winter Carnival, a 10-day event that attracts world champion snow sculptors and thousands of visitors for activities including a snow sculpting competition, live music, zany parades, ice skating, fireworks, skiing and hot springs.

Sandpoint Winter Carnival

Feb. 16 - 25


Witness the sport of Ski Joring at the Sandpoint Winter Carnival where skiers are towed by horses at breakneck speed. Activities include live music, the Parade of Lights, the Let it Glow light parade with fireworks at Schweitzer Mountain and annual K-9 Keg Pull where dogs of all sizes race down a snow-packed course pulling everything from full-size kegs to beer cans.

Spokane First Night

Dec. 31


Spokane’s First Night features the visual and performing arts in the heart of downtown as one year fades into the next. This year’s theme is the Renaissance and costumes are encouraged. Events include the Singing in the New Year vocal competition, a dance contest and teen dance party, arts exhibits and demonstrations, kids crafts and a film festival.

Lake Chelan Winterfest

Jan 12-21

Chelan, Wash.

Over 30 years the Lake Chelan Winterfest celebration has grown to two weekends of fun aimed at the whole family with ice carvers, kids activities, a massive beach bonfire, fireworks, live music, horse carriage rides, and wine and ale tasting.

The Bavarian Ice Fest and Tmbrrr! Winter Music Festival

Jan. 13-14 and 26-27

Leavenworth, Wash.

Things get hot in snowy Leavenworth in the winter. The Bavarian-themed village is decorated with a half a million lights for events like the annual Bavarian Ice Fest, Jan. 13-14, where you’ll find live ice carving, ice fishing and games like an ice cube scramble and the Smooshing Contest, where teams of four race down the street with their toes strapped to long boards. The Timbrrr! Winter Music Festival, Jan. 26-27, is a two day event with winter sports like skiing, snowshoeing and tubing by day and live performances by up and coming indie bands by night. 

Oregon’s WinterFest

Feb. 16-18

Bend, Ore.

Fire is a defining element of Oregon’s WinterFest in Bend. People create fire pit sculptures, everything from spaceships to fire-breathing dragons, and light them for visitors along the Deschutes River. There’s also ice sculptures, motorcycle stunts, live music, and food and art vendors from around the Northwest.

Winter Light Festival

Feb. 1-3


Entering its third year, this free outdoor event celebrates winter through illuminated art installations, kinetic fire sculptures, performances and interactive family activities on the Portland waterfront.

Whitefish Winter Carnival and Skijoring Invitational

Jan. 27-28 and Feb. 2-4

Whitefish, Mont.

The mostly free, family-friendly Whitefish Winter Carnival features a torchlight ski parade, Penguin Plunge in Whitefish Lake, ski races, hockey tournament and ice sculpting. The signature event is the two-day World Invitational Ski Joring contest, Jan. 27-28, the weekend before the main carnival. Towed by horses while on skis, people race through a snow-covered obstacle course.

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