WINTERLUDE/OTTAWA (Feb. 5 to 21)
Once this family-friendly festival is in full swing, it seems like the entire city is out enjoying a beaver tail (Barack Obama’s favourite Canadian delicacy) and a hot chocolate while gliding down the Rideau Canal. Concerts, a light show and an ice-sculpture competition line the 7.8-km stretch of canal. And some of Ottawa’s top restaurants celebrate by offering special prix fixe menus.
ALIGHT AT NIGHT FESTIVAL/MORRISBURG (Nov. 28 to Jan. 3)
More than 250,000 white lights are strung up in historic Upper Canada Village (modelled after a small village in the 1860s), attracting 40,000 visitors to the town located 75 km south of Ottawa. Take a stroll under the stars, book a romantic horse-drawn wagon ride, or hop aboard a life-sized toy train for the full experience. This year’s event will also feature a life-sized gingerbread house.
KENSINGTON KARNIVAL/TORONTO (Dec. 21)
During the city’s month-long Cavalcade of Lights, now in its 43rd year, celebrate the longest night of the year by donning a silly mask, bringing along a homemade instrument and lighting candles at the annual winter solstice celebration in one of Toronto’s funkiest neighbourhoods. Weave in and out of Kensington’s narrow streets, where you can watch fire breathers, rooftop theatre and giant puppets dancing in a procession during this celestial carnival. Revellers light up the night in a glowing parade before heading to a local park to party around a bonfire.
BON SOO WINTER CARNIVAL/SAULT STE. MARIE (Feb. 5 to 14)
No winter carnival would be complete without an outhouse race or a goofy-looking mascot, and the Bon Soo Winter Carnival delivers both. Northern Ontario’s largest winter carnival, which attracts more than 100,000 to the Soo every year, has been celebrating Franco-Ontarian culture since 1964. The carnival features more than 100 fun events, including celebrity look-alike contests, art exhibits, dart and curling tournaments, sleigh and snowmobile rides, a polar bear swim, and competitions in which dogs compete to pull the most weight. And be sure to get a picture with the Bon Soo mascot, a slightly less refined version of his cousin from Quebec City.
NIAGARA ICEWINE FESTIVAL/JORDAN AND NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE (Jan. 15 to 31)
It might sound crazy to wish for the bitter cold, but the Niagara Icewine Festival depends on it. During the 10-day event, the main streets of Jordan and Niagara-on-the-Lake are lined with ice bars and tents featuring wine tastings, live music and art. And visit the boutiques that dot the streets of both idyllic towns. Of course, before heading home, remember to pick up a bottle of your favourite icewine.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.ontariotravel.net