best Manitoba winter festivals

winnipeg-winer-festivals
Christophe Morel, a chocolatier from Quebec, Canada, stands proudly by the chocolate voyageur he created for the 2019 Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg.

Readers of this blog will know that I am not a huge fan of winter. Our winters can be as cold as 30 degrees below zero Celsius (and colder!) and the snow can be several feet deep! But growing up here in Manitoba, Canada, has given me the opportunity to enjoy many of the great festivals our province has to offer–including a few of the best Manitoba winter festivals to help warm your spirit over the winter months.

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Thanks to Travel Manitoba for sending me this great photo from Festival du Voyageur. Photo credit: Dan Harper. The Festival du Voyageur celebrated 50 years in 2019 with a 10-day run from February 15-24. The festival will run February 14-23, 2020, for its 51st run.

Probably the best known among them is the Festival du Voyageur held in Winnipeg every February. If you’ve never attended a winter festival, this is a great one to discover, as you’ll learn about Canada’s fur trade and the importance of the Voyaguers to the development of the West. You’ll experience and learn about the music and vibrancy of Manitoba’s Metis and indigenous populations, you’ll enjoy some authentic French Canadian cuisine, and you’ll see some pretty amazing ice and snow sculptures. And you’ll have a lot of hands-on fun, too! 

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Photos of Festival du Voyageur are courtesy of Travel Manitoba. This is a festival where you can passively observe or vibrantly participate. Your choice!

While you’re at Festival du Voyageur, drop into Chocolatier Constance Popp at 180 Provencher Blvd. in St. Boniface, located right across the street from Fort Gibraltar, where much of Festival du Voyageur takes place. Constance Popp is a well-known landmark for Winnipeg chocolate lovers and offers some delicious chocolate creations that celebrate local Manitoba culture and ingredients.

In 2019, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Festival, Constance co-sponsored a Chocolate Expo in “the Dome” at Fort Gibraltar on February 17th. It was incredible to see chocolate sculptures like the one pictured at the top of this post created by award-winning Montreal-based chocolatier Christophe Morel. Constance Popp and a myriad of local artisans including muralist Charlie Johnston, sculptor Jordan Van Sewell, snow sculptor Denis Duguay, and pastry chef Helmut Mathae also participated in the chocolate sculpting extravaganza. I wonder what unique event will be included in the 2020 offerings at Festival du Voyageur? 

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manitoba-winter-festivals

I took the two photos above at the Gimli Ice Festival. The wall of snow shows you how an incredible ice sculpture like the next photo can be carved out a packed wall of frozen ice and snow.

Located close to my home in Manitoba’s Interlake region, you can take in the annual Gimli Ice Festival, held the first weekend of March. It will be held March 2-3, 2020.) There will be ice sculptures, an outdoor art exhibit, ice racing on Lake Winnipeg, and much more to warm your hearts with the Spirit of Manitoba.

Located just an hour north of Winnipeg, Gimli is well known for its terrific Film Festival and Icelandic Festival (both held in summer) so it is nice to see the success of its primary winter event now in its eighth season.

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Thanks to Travel Manitoba for these two photos taken in The Pas at the North Manitoba Trappers’ Festival.

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And for those who love rail travel, you can take a 14-hour VIA train ride from Winnipeg up to The Pas, Manitoba, where you can participate in the Northern Manitoba Trappers’ Festival to be held this coming year from February 12 – 16, 2020. This is a really fun event where you can watch dog sledders and their teams race, see lumberjacks compete in wood chopping and log climbing exercises, and appreciate the opportunity to learn about jigging, a northern indigenous dance style.

Have you been to any of Manitoba’s winter festivals? Do you enjoy winter festivals? Now that you have these dates to note on your calendar, please consider putting on your mukluks and having some fun on the ice or in the snow with a winter visit to one of the best Manitoba winter festivals.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

49 Responses

  1. The sculptures are amazing Doreen! I remember before I made my first trip to Canada with a group of hotel sales managers from Maui (in February!) people kept warning us how cold it would be and we just laughed them off. Ha! Obviously, the joke was on us. Still, an amazing place, no question.

    • Hi Marquita. I know. It’s hard to imagine it being that cold. When I was up in Churchill, it was -66C with the windchill factored in. We went dogsledding in that and I was the coldest I’ve ever been in my life!!! Have a wonderful festive season. 🙂

  2. Yeah, not a fan either. I thrive in warmth and sun–like an orchid. Ha ha. That said, like you, I always enjoy a good winter festival. Red Lodge, Montana has the snow sculpturing as well. I’d never seen anything like that before. Amazing art! Love the chocolate piece as well. Wow.

    • Hi RoseMary and thanks for your comment. Yes, I think that having winter festivals in cold climates makes winter all the more tolerable. And when there’s chocolate and creativity involved … you can’t go wrong! 🙂

  3. Michael Duncan says:

    My brother is planning to relocate to Canada next year and judging from this post, its not difficult at all to see why! Plenty of amazing sights and all the makings of a truly wholesome experience. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Phoenix says:

    Wow! I love the ice sculpture in Gimli! You really got some great photos of the events in Winnipeg and Gimli. Doreen, you’re the way I keep in touch with my roots! Love you so much!

  5. Phoenicia says:

    Doreen, I knew Canada had cold winters but 30 degrees below zero! Do people stock up on food and lock themselves in during winter? In the UK once the temperature drops, trains are delayed and cancelled. When it snows public transport almost comes to a halt. It is no fun trying commuting to work.

    The ice sculptures are a true work of art.

    • Hi Phoenicia. Yes, when it gets to -30c & colder, I definitely stock up on supplies & don’t go out any more than I have to. Most of us have ice & snow winter tires, so driving isn’t that difficult.

  6. Aparna verma says:

    Great article.
    Looks like it is a great fun in the snow festivals of Manitoba. There is so many things one can do below 0 degree and have fun.
    Thanks for sharing such an amazing article, hope i could go there some day.
    Cheers!!

  7. I have never been to a manitoba winter event. The ice sculptures really are remarkable. It takes a lot of skill to carve beauty out of what is in effect a block of something. The vision that some have enables them to see the finished picture.

    I like to look out at the snow whilst in my warm home but commuting in it – it is a no from me. In parts of the UK public transport is deeply impacted by the snow. Trains are cancelled and delayed, commuters end up driving.

    • Hi Phoenicia. Yes, I saw on TV that the UK is experiencing some harsh winter conditions. Just so you feel better about it, know that I was without heat for almost 6 hours in -30C weather, and had my water pipes freeze 2x over the past 2 weeks. It has been a very harsh winter in Canada. Hoping it warms up in time for the winter festivals! 🙂
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…A visit to the Guittard Chocolate CompanyMy Profile

  8. I have never been to a winter festival – at least not one which involves snow and ice. Like you I don’t much like winter which is lucky because living in Sydney, Australia, winter doesn’t have much of an impact. I wish I could just pop across to Canada for a couple of days though and get the experience of a winter festival – without missing too much sunshine at home.

  9. I almost thought the ice sculptures were sand sculptures. I’m not a big winter fan either but these festivals look like fun.

  10. neha says:

    its really great that Gimli Ice Festival is held so close to your home. Local festivals are a great way to get a peek into the culture of the place. We love to plan our travel around them if possible.

  11. Patti Morrow says:

    If there’s one great way to get through winter, it’s by going to festivals! It looks like Manitoba has a lot of fun ones!

  12. Karen Warren says:

    Festivals are a great way of getting through the winter. I’d love to have a go at the ice carving!

    • Thx for your comment, Karen. Yes, indeed. With our Canadian winters being such a force to contend with, having such amazing festivals to look forward to and participate in make winter much more fun! The ice carving is a very slow and skill-driven activity requiring much patience. 🙂
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…best Manitoba winter festivalsMy Profile

  13. Amazing article about winter festivals. very informative. Thanks

  14. While we are not fans of the cold, your visit to Manitoba festivals looks quite enticing. We can only imagine how fascinating the snow sculptures must be in person. Perhaps someday.

  15. My grandfather was a trapper around Hudson Bay in his youth so I’ve always wanted to go to the Trapper’s Festival in The Pas but haven’t yet made it there. We used to drive through The Pas in the summer …I had no idea it was so far by rail! It would require quite a commitment to get there from Toronto but I’m sure would be a memorable experience.

  16. Brrrrr! I’m staying home! But I might consider going to Gimli for the indoor (I assume) film festival.

    • Hi Carole. The Gimli Film Fest is held during the summer and it is AMAZING!!! there are some indoor events. But the best events are the beach film screenings. Truly an amazing feeling watching a movie on the beach with the screen installed over the water and the full moon shining above. Thx for stopping by–if only virtually! 🙂
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…best Manitoba winter festivalsMy Profile

  17. Like you, I’m not a fan of winter, but when I lived in Montana, I threw myself into their winter activities–like Red Lodge’s winter festival. I never knew things like that even took place! How remarkable. Manitoba looks amazing.

    • Thanks, Rose Mary. I admire those who can truly embrace winter and its challenges. But I have to admit that I did enjoy my visits to these incredible winter festivals as they make winter in Manitoba not only tolerable, but fun!

  18. Lori says:

    We love festivals but have never thought about Manitoba. So thanks for all the info. But like you, we’re not big fans of winter. You have snow and ice sculpting. We have sand sculptures. If I were to pick one it would be the Festival du Voyageur.

  19. Passively observe or vibrantly participate…love that. If ever I go to a frozen place for winter, it will be to attend a winter festival like Festival du Voyageur. Would love to see all those huge ice sculptures!

  20. Cathy Smolinski says:

    Sadly, I have not been to any Manitoba Winter Festivals. I participate in winter activities, but never went to a festival. We know a fellow Toastmaster who has immigrated to this country from Iran. He used to carve sand sculptures but now has embraced the art of ice sculptures here in Canada. It will be interesting to see if he is attending the Gimli competition!

  21. The Manitoba Winter festivals all sound really thrilling. For us who live in a region where it never snows, these festivals have their own appeal. The snow sculptures are remarkable works of art. Always intrigued how blocks of ice get transformed into such exquisite shapes at the hands of the artist.

  22. Agness says:

    This is so fun Doreen. Love to visit Canada in this kind of season. Got to have it in my bucket list.

  23. This looks like such a fun festival. Stunning sculptures. Would love to visit Canada some day.

  24. Wendy Peck says:

    I would love to go by train to the The Pas festival. I’ve not yet been to northern Manitoba. What a way that would be to see it. Of course, then I would want to hop on the train and go to Churchill, too. Great post.

    • Thanks for stopping by to comment, Wendy. Yes, train travel to northern Manitoba is quite the experience! The 36-hour journey from Winnipeg to Churchill is like nothing you’ve ever done before. Highly recommended! But the trip to The Pas is pretty cool, too, if you time your visit for the Trappers’ Fest.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…best Manitoba winter festivalsMy Profile

  25. Janet says:

    One thing I appreciate about Manitoba is that you can find a festival every month of the year! Thanks for reminding us to embrace winter!

  26. Linda Paul says:

    A mountain village north of Boise holds a yearly Winter Carnival with massive ice sculptures like those of Gimli. Trouble is, with climate change, we are no longer guaranteed enough snow and cold weather to work with. It is heartbreaking when the participants get their masterpieces finished, or nearly so, and along comes a Chinook to bring tears to the eyes of the artists and their sculptures.

    • I hear you, Linda. Festival du Voyageur used to be held earlier in February and very often experienced a mild spell that threatened the preservation of those incredible ice and snow sculptures. I think they’ve found that pushing the festival back a week or two has (at least temporarily) solved the problem.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…best Manitoba winter festivalsMy Profile

  27. Betty Jackson says:

    Thank you for reminding me how much fun you can have below 0 degrees c. We always hope it will stay below freezing so the beautiful snow sculptures don’t melt before we have had a good look at them and get some photos. I am reminded how much the work of hundreds of unflinching volunteers can make a bit of cold weather into a marvellous fun event for all.

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