Devouring all-star lobster rolls? Pond hockey under starry nights? Spellbinding songs in an intimate, acoustic-rich church? When it comes to winter festivals, Atlantic Canada impresses—even staging a weeklong festival around a centuries-old mid-Lent tradition of whimsy. Here, we offer just a few ways to bust through any winter blues by celebrating the snowy season, Atlantic Canada style.
For lobster lovers
A month-long “shell’ebration” warms up February during the 5th annual Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl.
“This festival is unique in so many ways,” says Stephanie Miller Vincent, coordinator of South Shore Tourism Cooperative. Not only is it all month, it’s also not focused on what one thinks of for a winter festival: snow or ice. “It’s focused on lobster, in the peak of lobster season on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, and those who share the love of lobster. It’s unique because it happens from Barrington, Lobster Capital of Canada, through to Peggy’s Cove and all ports and parts in between, rather than in one contained area.”
Highlights include Lucy Lobster, who crawls from the Atlantic on February 2nd, in Barrington, to predict the weather; the Lobster Roll Off, an annual all-star lobster roll competition; and the Tail End Party—one final February event. Can’t stay a month? Miller Vincent recommends finding your must-do event and building a few days around that, banding it together with local accommodations packages.lobstercrawl.ca
Hot chocolate mugs up for family fun
In Riverview, NB, Winter Carnival, February 3-12, officially launches with Ignite, an event featuring fireworks shot off from the top of the toboggan hill at Winter Wonderland Park.
Folks can enjoy the display while warming up around bonfire pits, skating around the frozen pond or enjoying local maple taffy on the snow. Toboggan hill provides thrilling rides with three different chutes, one snowboarding route, and a shelter at hilltop to warm up between runs. Access is free and community recreation coordinator Ash Arrowsmith reminds all to bring and wear helmets.
The Frozen Open is an annual skateboarding contest at Riverview Indoor Skatepark, with games room, arcade room and canteen on site. Additionally, organizers have invited two Nova Scotia artisans to create a sustainable snowshoe art piece at Mill Creek Nature Park lookout area.
“The festival feels cozy and close-knit. The reason for that is it’s a complete community effort, with over 25 community event partners and hundreds of volunteers serving up a variety of outdoor winter recreation.”
Lucy Lobster from the Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl.
For those who adore whimsy
There’s nothing quite like the week-long Acadian celebration of Mi-Carême, by the Mi-Carême Centre in Grand-Etang, Cape Breton, March 12-18. Mi-Carême itself (mid-Lent) is March 16.
“It is a whole community coming together and creating fun together,” says Natalie, centre team member. Each night, “watchers” try to guess the identities of those wearing masks, “runners,” who sing and dance. The carnivalesque tradition dates to Medieval times in Europe.
“Additionally, the way it is celebrated in the Acadian communities around Chéticamp is absolutely unique, making it the only place in the world where you’ll get to experience it!” Notable features? Toe-tapping, local live fiddle music, Acadian finger-foods, costume-
creativity, and good-spirited fun. It’s family-friendly and a great way to experience it is to contact the centre prior to visiting so they can connect you with local runners.
Mi-Carême is a whimsical celebration—designed to set conventions briefly aside, playfully wreaking havoc, as a respite in a period of penitence. That liberating feeling is still an essential feature. novascotia.com/events/festivals-and-events/festival-de-la-mi-careme-2023/-6698
Participants seemingly come by the Zamboni-load to tiny Plaster Rock, NB for the annual World Pond Hockey Championship in February.
For blasting away blues with bluegrass
Take a classic summer event and make it winter? That’s the idea behind the annual Winter Bluegrass Festival presented by the PEI Bluegrass & Old Time Music Society January 20-22 at the Delta Prince Edward by Marriott in Charlottetown, PEI. The society is recreating the magic of its flagship outdoor summer festival in an indoor winter version.
Organizers say to expect the best in local and international bluegrass and old-time music artists, luthiers, merchants, fans and promoters from the East Coast and New England; special room rates at the Delta and Rodd Charlottetown; and music stages and workshops (including an all-star meet-and-greet and photo op) at venues throughout the Delta. peibluegrass.ca
For classic fun, and culture lovers
As Atlantic Canada’s largest winter celebration. Fredericton, NB’s FROSTival (frostival.ca) rules over three weekends, January 19 to February 5. Grab your toque and join more than 100 events, from foodie-pleasing Dine Around Freddy to crafts with the kids to Science East’s popular “Adult Science Night.” It’s an ideal time to embrace winter—on the slopes of Crabbe Mountain, on sleigh rides, or at Mactaquac, a veritable fun headquarters.
FROSTival also shines brightly with Shivering Songs Music Festival, January 18-22. The songwriting and storytelling celebration, with headline performances at Wilmot United Church, started as a small folk music festival to fete a local album release and has grown into a landmark
cultural event. shiveringsongs.com
Snowmobiling + foodie forever
Snowmobiling and culinary enthusiast? Make tracks for central Newfoundland’s Exploits Valley February 10-11 for
Mid Winter Bivver (held snow permitting). With events still in planning, check midwinterbivver.com/ and
facebook.com/MidWinterBivver/ for up-to-date details. Past renditions have wowed with a Friday Fun Run, with lunch by an executive chef, and Saturday’s piece-de-resistance “Trail Mix” Interpretive Snowmobile Ride, an adventurous 150+km snowmobile ride through untouched forests, paired with interpretation and executive chefs serving a trailside feast.
For an elf-hopping good time
During December, Edmundston, NB rocks with the 3rd Grande Virée des Lutins or The Great Elves Shopping Spree. Downtown is decorated and live music, animation, and Santa’s workshop. This event all started with COVID-19. Tourism Edmundston and the downtown wanted families/kids to smile again for the holidays. They also wanted to help local shops and get locals shopping at home for Christmas. Participating business usually have special discounts, serve hot chocolate and decorate in season’s spirit.
For pond hockey playoffs
Participants seemingly come by the Zamboni-load to tiny Plaster Rock, NB, eager to hit the ice at Roulston Lake for the annual World Pond Hockey Championship, celebrating its 20th anniversary. The event, February 16-19, draws teams internationally and camaraderie is as evident as competition. The event began, and continues, as a fundraiser for a new arena for the Tobique River Valley area. Ask organizers and they’ll say something about the outdoor hockey games (think evenings under the lights with light snowfall) and community spirit (there’s some 200+ volunteers in a town of 1,500) that captured the world’s soul. worldpondhockey.ca/en/home
For those looking for a real life Whoville
Whoville come to life? You’ll find it at the Charlottetown Christmas Festival, presented by Discover Charlottetown. Born during COVID to spread out good cheer, rather than gathering en masse, the capital city hosts a Victorian Christmas Market in late November and continues through December with wine tastings, walking tours, carolers, horse and wagon rides, Christmas movies and children’s entertainment. A Whoville-inspired Christmas town shapes Victoria Row and Confederation Plaza and holiday shows go at the Confederation Centre.
For Bluenose-bound fans
In Nova Scotia, diners eagerly dig into Dine Around, the annual food festival organized by the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, that promotes winter season dining. The month-long February event is province-wide, and restaurants curate $20-$50 menus. In metro, don walking shoes and dress warmly for the Downtown Dartmouth Ice Festival, January 27-29 to see live ice sculpting in a street party atmosphere with music and food and drink specials.
For those who like to keep the winter party going
Fundy Winterfest is six weeks of celebrating winter, spanning February 1 to March 12 with several Greater Saint John Region municipalities offering events from fireworks to the Trail of Hearts. Most activities have Facebook events, at facebook.com/FundyWinterfest.