By Beth Zollars

4 Minute Read

Winter Wonderlands

The idea of traveling to frozen tundra, standing out in sub- zero temperatures watching parades of locally made floats ridden by same local politicians and “royalty” doesn’t seem like an activity at the top of my winter to do list.

But then I discovered Winter Carnivals.

Winter carnivals, or festivals, are popular in places where winter is particularly long or severe, such as Scandinavia, Canada and the northern United States. Most winter carnivals involve traditional winter pursuits such as ice carving, snow carving, ice hockey, skating, skiing and drinking hot-toddy’s.

Lot’s of hot-toddy’s. As a matter of fact, most of the over 21 crowd (and some younger) seem to have some form of alcoholic beverage in their hand.

It’s bloody cold you know!

Here are some notable winter carnivals to check out;

I can’t say I have been to all of these carnivals, but having spent summers and winters in Upstate New York, the Saranac Winter Carnival has a special place in my heart. Here is an in-depth look at Saranac, and two other notables.

Saranac Lake, NY


FEBRUARY 1 -10,  2019


The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival began as an integral part of Saranac Lake’s history as a renowned health resort. Back in the late 1800s, the village was a thriving logging community nestled deep in the Adirondack wilderness.

Its pristine setting provided healing and rejuvenation for hundreds of tuberculosis sufferers, particularly at the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium, founded by Garry Trudeau’s great-grandfather, Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau.

In the course of “taking the cure” here, many patients experienced a renewed passion for life, and took every opportunity – in every season – to explore the natural beauty that surrounded them.

The long, cold Adirondack winters with snow-covered mountains and ice-encrusted lakes provided the opportunity to enjoy outdoor recreational activities such as skiing, sledding and skating.

In order to break winter’s chill and to promote outdoor sports and games, the Pontiac Club was formed in November 1896, and a few months later, they sponsored a one-day fancy dress winter carnival in 1897, which was expanded into the Pontiac Club Carnival in 1898.

The Winter Carnival has not been held every year. After a few years, it was held every other year. And there were huge chunks of years in the 1920s, 1930s and early 1940s when it was not held. However, it was resurrected in the winter of 1947-48 and has been held annually since that time. The Ice Palace, which had not been built since 1920, made a comeback in 1955.

A modern festival

The Winter Carnival has grown into a 10-day festival that includes sports, performances, two parades and three sets of spectacular fireworks.

Over the years, the Winter Carnival has retained the warmth, charm and camaraderie of a community celebration. The Carnival – organized by an all-volunteer group called the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee – is a community-driven festival made possible by the efforts of many volunteers and sponsors.

Yes, you read that right, Dr. Trudeau was an early settler of Saranac Lake and his Great-grandson the cartoonist Garry Trudeau

The collectible button designed by “Doonesbury” cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who was raised in Saranac Lake, has been creating the button design since 1981 to benefit the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival.

Whenever I attend, It reminds me of a by-gone area, and the hot-toddy isn’t the only thing warming my soul.

Steamboat Springs, CO


FEBRUARY 6 – 10, 2019

This celebration includes a variety of events that embrace Steamboat’s western heritage and highlight the tradition of winter sports.

The unique event includes everything from kids pulled on skis behind horses down a snow-covered main street, to the Lighted Man at the Night Show Extravaganza who’s battery-powered suit weighs 70 pounds.

Celebrating 106 Years of Winter Tradition in Steamboat Springs!

Mention a parade and fireworks and people say that’s typical. Talk about adults on shovels being pulled down main street behind horses or skiers jumping through fiery hoops and people stop to listen.

In Steamboat Springs they do things differently, and with the oldest, continuous Winter Carnival west of the Mississippi, the event is certainly no different.

About the Winter Carnival

Winter Carnival was started by the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club (SSWSC) as a way to help residents cope with cabin fever during the height of the Colorado winter season.

The event continues to this day as a way to celebrate winter; as a reason for neighbors to gather; and as an opportunity for everyone to experience a piece of Ski Town USA® history and tradition.

St. Paul, Minnesota

Saint Paul Winter Carnival

January 24 – February 3, 2019

Since 1886, the Saint Paul Winter Carnival has brought family-friendly events and community pride to Saint Paul and the Twin Cities metro area. 

Through city-wide special events, fun activities and more, the Saint Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation celebrates winter like only Minnesotans can!

History of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival

Since 1886, the Saint Paul Winter Carnival continues to bring family-friendly events and community pride to Saint Paul and the Twin Cities metro area.

The Saint Paul Winter Carnival is the oldest winter festival in the United States. It predates the Tournament of Roses Festival by two years.

Several Eastern newspaper correspondents kindled the start of the Winter Carnival by visiting Saint Paul in the fall of 1885 and returning home to report that Minnesota, in general, was another Siberia, unfit for human habitation.

A group of business owners decided to retaliate by creating a wintertime festival which would showcase all the beauty of Minnesota winters.

They worked with the City of Montreal which already had a winter carnival in place. Due to a small pox epidemic which suspended the 1886 Montreal Festival, Saint Paul lured Alexander Hutchinson, the designer of Montreal’s ice palaces in 1883, 1884, and 1885 to blueprint Saint Paul’s first ice castle.

The castle was constructed on February 1, 1886 at a cost of $5,210 with a height of 106 feet. A comparison to this first castle is the Pepsi Palace of 1992 with a cost of $1,900,000 and a height of 165 feet (a Guinness record).

The Saint Paul Winter Carnival is produced by the Saint Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation and is funded by private donations and corporate contributions. The Board of Directors, supported by hundreds of corporate and individual members, employs a full time staff to help plan this community celebration

If you have the winter blues or cabin fever, pack your long-johns and hop on a plane for some winter adventure and enjoy the Winter Festivals 2019!

Please comment below if you have visited one of the festivals or if you have more recommendations and thank you for stopping by Elizabeth by the Sea.