Festivals and Events in Canada

Experience an array of events and festivals in Canada no matter what time of the year you visit! Such is the diversity, cultural and natural wealth of each city and territory. Here are some the top tourist picks to get you planning.

Once you know about the festivals in Canada, all that’s left is to plan an itinerary that lets you experience one or more of them. To simplify your planning and to get the best Canada packages to visit the country, get in touch with SOTC.

Ottawa’s annual Winterlude is a seasonal experience that offers everything from ice skating to ice sculptures, music stages to children’s play areas, they’ve got it all. Merry times ahead!

One of the Canadian festivals that celebrates western agricultural traditions, also known as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”. There are rodeos, parades, music performances, chuckwagon racing and a host of other exhibitions and events.

One of the most famous festivals in Canada, Just for Laughs is the world’s largest comedy event held in Montréal, for over 30 years. Treat yourself to some good times with performances, comedy films, open-air shows, laughing all the way.

The best of the winter festivals celebrated in Canada. More than 300 activities and performances, lively parades, a 400-foot ice slide and even an ice palace – the city is truly a winter wonderland.

If you’re looking for summer Canadian festivals, Vancouver’s Celebration of Light is bursting spectacular fireworks and a lovely atmosphere across the city.

One of the top musical events in Canada is the annual Jazz Fest in Montreal that features artists from all over the world, at over 650 concerts and performances across 20 indoor and open-air stages for you to enjoy.

When winter falls, the snowflakes dance and Canada freezes over, the alpine regions of Banff and Lake Louise open up like a beautiful holiday card. The mountains come to life, there is laughter and song in the air – all thanks to the vibrant winter festival known as Snow Days. With everything from ice carving competitions to snow sculpture exhibitions, adrenaline spiking winter sports to relaxing evenings over crafted cocktails – this is a winter itinerary that you should add to your calendar! 

What to expect:

If Lake Louise and Banff are filled with snow, then Snow Days takes full advantage of that. Be prepared for a packed calendar, with highlights like:

Ice Magic:

Watch artists from all over the world, sculpt ice into different shapes, forms and sculptures. Experience the best of ice artistry as you walk around a gallery of ice castles, dragons, bars and other incredible ice-work.

Tribute Crafts Spirits Celebration:

If it’s cold outside, Banff and Lake Louise will keep you warm. The Tribute Crafts Spirits Celebration is where bars and restaurants in the area create specially curated cocktail menus and dishes that celebrate the best of food and drink in the area.

Snow Sculptures:

You’ve seen artists work their magic with ice, now see them cast their spell over snow. Bear Street in Banff is transformed into a lovely snow gallery featuring intricate or imposing shapes. It’s a treat for the eyes.

Snow Days Play Zone:

Banff and Lake Louise make winter a wonderland for your children (and your inner child) at the Play Zone. Indulge in snowboarding, skiing, biking, skating, live entertainment and other activities. When the cold gets too much, there’s cups of thick creamy hot chocolate and melted s’mores to warm you up. 

Skijoring:

Ever been pulled by a horse, a dog or a vehicle while you’re on skis? Well then, Banff and Lake Louise are the best places to discover this unique sport. Watch teams of athletes and horses from Skijor Canada, race their way across Banff Avenue, for a gorgeous exhibition of trick-riding, horse riding and ski stunts. 

The fun doesn’t end there! Snow Days has something planned for each day of the festival. If you’re in Banff and Lake Louise during this festival, check out the other activities you can partake in:

• Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition

• Tribute Cocktail Menus

• Snow Days Play Zone

• Snow Sculpture Exhibition

• Ice Magic – one hour, one block, one carver speed competition

• Ice Magic Awards Ceremony

• FIS World Snow Days

• Ice Carving Demo

• Community Novelty Races

• Skijoring

• Tribute Outdoor Tasting Experience

• Ice Magic Torchlight Dinner and Ski

(Check out the website for the updated 2020 schedule).

Apart from these activities, you can race in a sled or enter a sled derby and win exciting prizes for fastest sled, best sled crash and more. Snowshoeing, skating, skiing and other activities can be enjoyed during the festival. There’s a lot to do and see here. 

A Few Tips:

Banff’s and Lake Louise are filled with festivities to melt the most frozen heart. However, the weather outside remains freezingly cold. Make sure you layer up to protect yourself from freezing temperatures. Wool inners, tights, socks, study walking shoes, a comfortable hat, a warm coat, gloves, scarves are all essential to take on the snow. 

Transport:

Renting a car is unnecessary as shuttles are both affordable and frequent in the area. However, if you’re set on driving on your own, Hertz, Avis and Enterprise all have offices in the region, from where you can rent your own car.

Winter drapes Canada in a beautiful white canvas of snow and ice. However, every canvas needs an artist, and that’s what Ice Magic is all about. This annual 12-day ice carving exhibition, turns the frozen town of Lake Louise into a winter wonderland, where ice is carved, shaved and shaped into some of the most beautiful sculptures. Ice carvers from around the globe reach the alpine town of Lake Louise to compete at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel, which is right at the shore of the frozen Lake Louise.  

Best time to Visit:

The 2020 festival will run from 15th January to 26th January, and there are activities and events to be enjoyed throughout the run of the festival. If you choose to make your trip during the first half of the festival, you have the advantage of watching ice carvers work their magic. If you’re curious about their work, this is the best time to ask them. Most of them will take a minute to answer any burning questions. Arriving early for the competition also means that you can attend the one-hour speed carving event and the final awards ceremony. If you happen to make a mid-week visit, you can take in the beauty of finished sculptures. It’s a gallery of ice artistry – and it’s yours to savour for free! What’s more, mid-week sees a dip in crowds, so you’ll have the sculptures, parking and all the photo and selfie opportunities for yourself. If you choose to make a visit after the sun sets, get ready for a completely different kind of beauty. At night, the glittering stars from above and the lights placed under the sculptures, illuminate them beautifully. Or, you could stay for the whole week and experience all of these advantages together – the choice is yours. 

Note, that once the festival is over you still have a chance to view the sculptures – for as long as nature wants. They could melt, be damaged by weather conditions, or are taken down by the hotel. (It’s best not to risk it!)

How to Reach the Festival:

This is an incredibly popular festival in the region and parking can become a nightmare, if you do decide to drive down. Luckily, there are free shuttles available from Samson Mall. You can park your car in the village and hop on to the shuttle to the Upper Lake Louise Area. Shuttles are between 10:30 AM to 6:00 PM and are usually the most crowded between 12:00 to 16:00 PM. Plan accordingly!

What else can you do:

Winter has a second name, and that’s versatility. The snow and ice give you endless opportunities. You could go skiing or take a Gondola ride to the top of the mountains to admire the view. You and your family could take a guided snowshoe tour of the Lake Louise area, or take a cross-country ski trail near the Baker Creek Mountain Resort. Heat things up a bit, with some competitive tubing runs down the slopes with your friends. 

Tickets:

If you’re on a budget, the Ice Magic festival allows visitors in for free from Monday-Friday and on the weekends, before 10:00 AM or after 5:30 PM. 

During peak hours, you’ll need to buy tickets to visit the carving sites. Your access to the competition will depend on the kind of ticket you buy:

General Admission: $13

Seniors (55 years and above): $8

Youth (3-12 years): $6

Infants (under 2): Free

Family (2 adults and up to 4 kids): $35

If your accommodation is booked with Baker Creek Mountain Resorts, Castle Mountain Chalets, Deer Lodge, Emerald Lake Lodge and others, have free access to the competition at all times. (Check out the list of partner hotels on the official website).

One Final Note:

Winters in Canada are beautiful, but bitterly cold. Dress in lots of warm layers and winter gloves, boots, coat and hats are a must!

In the heat of summer, you may crave water, but in the icy cold of winter, Lake Louise and Banff will make you thirsty for a crafted cocktail. When the snow rolls in, bars and restaurants in this area roll up their sleeves to make the perfect cocktail for the Tribute Craft Spirits Celebration. From January 15th to 26th, the best craft distilleries from Alberta and British Columbia showcase the best Banff and Lake Louise have to offer, creating beautiful plates of food and special cocktail menus. This is a celebration of the food and beverage scene of the region, and you must sample its delights!

The outdoor tasting event:

Food and wine flow generously during the 12 days of this festival. You can enjoy a variety of different and unique cocktail menus in different bars in the area. The festival culminates with a final two-day outdoor event on January 24th and 25th. 

During the final two days, stations are set up by different bars and restaurants, offering tastings of their own spirits and a variety of hors d oeuvres (appetisers or small dishes) – all crafted from local ingredients. The event gives you a chance to meet the distillers and chefs from the Banff National Park Region and you’ll also have the opportunity to enjoy the indigenous ingredients of the area. You can purchase your coupons at the main booth, and you will receive a passport, which provides the itinerary for the event and the list of bars and restaurants participating. 

The cocktail menus:

As part of the festival, 20 bars and restaurants are participating – each of whom will create 5 cocktails, showcasing 5 craft spirits that are only available during the festival. 

Tickets:

Coupon Packages for the 2-day outdoor tasting event are:

• 10 coupons for $10

• 23 coupons for $20

• 35 coupons for $30

Festival Timings:

5:00 PM- 12:00 AM

Address:

224 Banff Avenue, T1L 1C3, Banff, Alberta, Canada. 

Which restaurants and bars are participating?

The 2020 line up for the Tribute Crafts Spirits Celebration is:

- Bohemian Spirits

- Burwood Distillery

- Central City Brewers + Distillers

- Cirka Distillers

- Confluence

- Dubh Glas

- Eau Claire Distillery

- Latitude 55

- Old Order 

- Park Distillery

- Secret Barrel

- Wild Life Distillery

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