5 Best winter festivals
The holiday season can be stressful and overwhelming, especially if you're stuck doing all the work. Instead of stressing over the trees, presents, lights and cookies, why not pack up your family for a winter festival instead?
Whether you're in need of a pre-Christmas getaway or a post-holiday vacation with your family, one of these festivals is sure to keep your kids entertained and give you peace of mind. And if you're worried about passports, long flights or spending all of your gift money, don't sweat! These festivals are all in the beautiful U.S.
Winter WonderFest - Chicago, Illinois
There's more to do than just shop during the holiday season in the Windy City. Check out the incredible Winter WonderFest, which takes place Dec. 6 to Jan. 12. The event, which is held at the iconic Navy Pier, features a 170,000-square-foot winter playground, complete with an indoor ice skating rink, fair-style slides, rides and parades. There's also a Create a Cookie cottage that gives kids a chance to make up their own holiday cookies. Stay at the Four Seasons to be sure you're near all of the seasonal festivities.
Anchorage Fur Rendezvous Festival - Anchorage, Alaska
The residents of Anchorage know how to make the best out of cold and wintery conditions, which is why the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous Festival (or Rondy) is such a success. From Feb. 21 to March 2, the town comes alive with fun winter events, like ice bowling, running of the reindeer, team snowball fights, Native American blanket toss and a Miss Rondy competition. There's also a frostbite footrace, snow sculpture contest, Alaska "hold-em" competition and outhouse races, too. It's truly a one-of-kind experience, if you can handle the below-freezing temperatures.
Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
For a getaway that combines your love for the mountains and a holiday extravaganza rolled into one, go to the Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, that runs Nov. 9 to Jan. 4. The theme park transforms into a winter wonderland, complete with holiday decorations, a sea of lights and tons of themed activities, like ice skating and carving. In town you'll find an amazing 4-D Polar Express experience, a Christmas ice-skating production, Santa's workshop and a Kris Kringle shopping mall for kids. For the older kids and adults, there's evening caroling, lights, a fireworks show and an Appalachian Christmas performance.
Stowe Winter Carnival - Stowe, Vermont
After a month or so of eating and loafing, a few days of skiing, snowboarding and ice carving are exactly what your body needs. The Stowe Winter Carnival, which runs Jan. 18-26, takes place during Stowe's prime skiing time, so you can expect tons of snow and crowded trails. When not skiing, check out the other events taking place during the carnival, like snow volleyball, ice-carving competitions and a kids carnival. For the adults, there's a nightly "meltdown" with fireworks and adult-friendly beverages and events.
St. Paul Winter Carnival - St. Paul, Minnesota
Home to the nation's oldest carnival, the Winter Carnival has been around in St. Paul since 1886. The event started as a way to prove a reporter wrong — it's not too cold in St. Paul to enjoy the outdoors in late January and early February. The carnival draws over 350,000 visitors a year and offers a ton of great activities for all ages, like kids events and a parade crowning a snow queen. There's also a half marathon, a beer dabbler (where you can try local brews from around the city), snow-plow competitions, fireworks and tons of live music and other entertainment.