Every year as the wind starts to get colder and blow around delicate frozen crystals, Edmonton gets ready to party. I have a love-hate relationship with winter. I love how elegant the snow looks, warm drinks just taste better, and all the festivals in the city. My tolerance for cold weather is minimal though, my fingers and legs go white and useless below minus 10 degrees Celsius. However, whether it is plus 5 or minus 20 I just can’t stay away from all the awesome outdoor winter parties, festivals, and attractions Edmonton has. Every winter since we moved here from the Maritimes we make a point to visit the five Edmonton Winter Events I love.
A backyard bash celebrating the start of winter takes over 124 Street.
My favourite moments: This festival fills the street up with a hustle and bustle of music, lights, and people excited to celebrate the frosty weather. There is something magical about warming up around the fire, roasting your first winter marshmallow with a hot chocolate in hand.
Details: The entire street is lit up with lights, creating a bright and cheery nighttime atmosphere. Event goers stroll through the street taking in fire dancing, axe throwing, sleigh rides, and light installations. The main outdoor music stage and nearby beverage garden keeps going until 9 pm.
When: November on the 4th Saturday from 4 pm to 8 pm
Where: 124 Street from 102 Ave to Jasper Ave.
Parking: Hunt for open public parking (watch for residential only signs) in the area. The best spots get taken quickly, so plan to walk a few blocks to the event.
Alternatives: Take Edmonton public transit; buses run on regular Saturday schedules. Partake in winter biking, there are many trails that lead to this area.
Bathrooms: On-site, event bathrooms are available, or visit one of the local cafes, buy a hot drink, and you can use their facilities.
Food: Outside there are food trucks and sweet treats. If you want to warm up inside, 124 street has some of Edmonton’s best restaurants and cafes.
An Ice castle experience fit for royalty.
Highlights: During the day, the sunlight plays across the stalactites reflecting different shades of blue. You can get lost in the maze of ice, slip down one of the many slides, and admire the textures of the ice along the walls of the fortress. At night it becomes a whole new experience as the coloured LEDs shine through the walls and icicles. I normally end up visiting twice during the season to take in both unique experiences.
Details: Using only ice the Castle slowly grows over winter. At its peak, the entire structure has over 10,000 icicles and weighs 250,000,000 pounds. There are only two Ice Castles built in Canada.
Tips: Check out their Facebook before booking your tickets online, sometimes they have special weekend activities going on like nighttime fire dancing or Disney princess visits.
Where: Hawrelak Park
When: Opens between late December and early January. It closes when the weather gets too warm. Check the website for ticket availability.
Cost: $10 to $20, price varies by age and day of entry.
Parking: Hawrelak Park has a large free parking lot beside the Castle.
Bathrooms: Outdoor portable toilets are just through the gates near the ticket booths. Outside the ticket area, the Hawrelak Park Pavilion has heated indoor public washrooms.
Food: No food or drinks are allowed in the Castle. There’s often a mini-doughnut truck nearby once you’re finished!
Want to know the five things not to miss when visiting the Ice Castle? Click here to read my article, A Majestic Ice Castle in Edmonton, on North American Traveller.
Experience professionally created ice sculptures up close.
My favourite moments: I love visiting on the first day and watching the artists hard at work sculpting ice. The clear ice blocks slowly get shaped and texturized into creative pieces of art.
Details: This International Ice Carving competition is one of only 3 in Canada. Teams of artists come from all over the world to take part. Event goers can try carving mini ice sculptures for themselves in the L’il & Big Chippers ice carving classes. In 2019 the event will host the Canada Cup of Ice Carving.
Tips: Watch for early ticket sales, sometimes they offer discounts.
Where: Located at the corner of Whyte Avenue and Gateway Blvd. Formally was held in Steel End Park.
When: Takes place over 2 weekends, normally the last weekend of January and the first weekend of February.
Cost: $4 to $7 per person
Parking: Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market parking lot is located across the street.
Alternatives: Edmonton transit has many routes that run on Whyte Ave.
Bathrooms: There are onsite bathrooms. Just outside of the gates is a public bathroom building.
Food: On-site food trucks and a licensed Ice Bar serving up locally crafted spirits.
An outdoor/indoor kitchen party celebrating French Canadian and First Nations history.
My favourite moments: At the Mill Creek’s camps I love watching First Nations and French Canadian music and dancing. I learned how to cook bannock over a campfire for the first time at the Metis Camp. After visiting Mill Creek we follow the party up to La Cité Francophone with their outdoor patio and a giant snow slide.
Details: The festival has three main areas connected with paths decorated with snow sculptures, art, and light installations. In Mill Creek, there is the Metis Camp featuring fiddle music, dancing, and bannock making. The First Nations Camp has drumming around the campfire with Teepees serving tea and bannock. The Rutherford School has indoor music and dancing. Outdoors at La Cité Francophone the winter patio DJ keeps the party going with an ice bar and snow slide. Indoors you can find a market, food, and live music.
Tips: You can start your adventure at either Mill Creek Ravine, Rutherford School, or La Cité Francophone. Most of the events are outside but there are many fire pits, tents, and buildings at the different locations to keep visitors warm.
Where: From La Cité Francophone to Mill Creek Ravine.
When: Friday and Saturday night on the first weekend in February.
Cost: Free to attend and donations are welcome.
Parking: Side streets near La Cité Francophone or Mill Creek depending on where you want to start your adventure.
Alternatives: Regular Bus routes or walk over if you live close to the area.
Bathroom: Inside there are bathrooms at La Cité Francophone and Rutherford school. In Mill Creek, they have portable outhouses.
Food: Cafe Bicyclette serves up delicious Poutines, La Cité Francophone market offers French Canadian Treats, and the Mill Creek camps have Bannock.
Mystical nights with a perfect blend of snow and fire.
Highlights: At night, the Folk Trail is lit up in Hawrelak’s forest with fish swimming along the snow and in the trees. LED wolves play around with festivalgoers as part of this interactive theatre performance. At 7:30 pm, all the performers gather and drums lead everyone down to the night’s main event, the fire sculpture! Every night on the weekend features a different artistic structure ready to burn. We always try to visit as many nights as we can and see each unique fire. Before we leave, we visit the live music tent and then stroll out through the snow sculpture garden.
Details: Silver Skate is Edmonton’s longest running winter festival. Their night activities are just one part of this grand winter extravaganza. During the day, the park fills up with numerous winter sports.
Tips: Visit on the first day to watch the snow sculptures come to life. For the fire sculpture, arrive 10 to 15 minutes early to get a good viewing spot.
Where: Hawrelak Park on Groat Road.
When: Runs in mid-February for 10 days with events going on during the day and night.
Cost: Free and donations are welcome.
Parking: The free onsite parking lot fills up fast during the day. At night spots can be found with a bit of hunting. Free Park’n’Ride is available; check out the festival’s website for the one closest to you.
Bathroom: Hawrelak Park Pavilion has public indoor washrooms.
Food: At Night, there is a mini doughnuts truck and the canteen is open at the Hawrelak Park Pavilion.
What are some of your favourite Edmonton Winter Events? Let me know! Send me a Tweet with events to check out next winter in Edmonton or throughout Alberta!
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