Five Winter Festivals to Spice Up the Season

From Vancouver to Rio, these winter holiday fetes offer unique ways to celebrate the season.
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Looking for a reason to escape from hibernation this winter? Numerous festivals and carnivals around the world offer opportunities for partying and celebration during the next few months.

From climbing ice castles in Quebec City to dancing samba in Brazil, the festivities taking place at these five events make them well worth the trip.

Winter Carnival -- Quebec City, Canada
(Jan. 30-Feb. 15, 2009)

Quebec City's 17-day-long carnival -- the largest winter festival in the world -- offers classic wintertime activities like dogsled races, ice sculpture gardens, massive snowball fights and canoe races on the ice-packed St. Lawrence River. Revellers can climb an enormous ice palace and enjoy a hot drink called Caribou (usually some combination of maple syrup, whiskey and wine or rum), which street vendors sell in horn-shaped cups.

Bonhomme, mascot of Quebec City's 17-day-long carnival --the largest winter festival in the world.

The 400-year-old city's fortified historic district, atop a steep hill beside the river, makes a spectacular setting for the event. Keep an eye out for Bonhomme, a giant snowman who serves as the festival's beloved mascot, and don't forget your hat and mittens: The average high for February in Quebec City is 21 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sundance Film Festival -- Park City, Utah
(Jan. 15-25, 2009)

Once a year, Hollywood stars and up-and-coming names in the film industry flock to Park City in the snowy mountains of Utah to attend this independent film festival founded by actor Robert Redford.

If you decide to join them, you can get an early glimpse of some of the best films set to be released in 2009 and hob-knob with celebrities in laid-back setting. Rumor has it this year's offerings will include more international productions than usual. And after the credits roll, you can hit the slopes at three local ski resorts or explore Park City's quaint shopping and dining scene.

Carnival -- New Orleans


Carnival -- Rio De Janeiro

Carnival -- Venice

(February 2009)

These festivals, which take place in the weeks leading up to the Christian holiday of Lent, usually include parades with elaborate floats, street parties and lots of music and dancing. The events go by different names in different parts of the world and honor local traditions, but wherever you celebrate Carnival, prepare for riotous partying and an unforgettable experience.

New Orleans' Mardi Gras (Feb. 24, 2009) is the best-known version of Carnival in the U.S., but the largest Carnival celebration in the world takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Feb. 20-24, 2009). Rio's Carnival culminates with a massive parade featuring dozens of Samba bands and outrageous costumes. For an Old World take on Carnival, head to Venice, Italy, where the first recorded Carnival was held in 1268. Venice's Carnival (Feb. 13-24, 2009) is famous for the intricately designed masks worn by revellers.

Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival -- Whistler, B.C., Canada
April 17-26, 2009

The world will be watching the slopes around Whistler, British Columbia, a year from now, when Vancouver hosts the 2010 Winter Olympics. But you can beat the crowds and get a preview of the new trails created for the Olympians, by attending this festival hosted by Vancouver-based technology company


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Besides world-class skiing and snowboarding, the festival will feature rock, reggae and hip hop concerts, equipment demos and all sorts of skiing and snowboarding competitions.

Prague Winter Festival - Prague, Czech Republic
(Jan. 2-7, 2009)

This one's coming up soon, but there's still time to make plans to attend one of the world's premier celebrations of opera and ballet. Prague is home to some of the world's finest opera houses and concert halls, and at this event you'll see some of the world's top performers practice their craft at the historic city's venues. The 2009 festival will begin with a performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni in the very theatre where the composer first introduced the opera in 1787.

Zack Anchors is a freelance writer from Portland, Maine.