Aside from the Christmas season, Edmonton winters often seems dark, cold and endless. However, winter in our city doesn’t have to involve hibernating for months on end. In fact, there are so many wonderful and inspiring outdoor festivals for us to attend.
From exploring our arts and cultural scene to eating, drinking and breathing in the cold, these six festivals have something for everyone – local design enthusiasts included!
Christmas Reflections (December 16-17 and 20-23)
With horse-drawn wagon rides, carols, crafts and warm cookies straight from the wood stove, Fort Edmonton’s Christmas Reflections is the perfect way to enjoy the holiday season while diving into the city’s past.
Marvel at the buildings of yore and partake in the traditions of our ancestors. For the kiddos, Father Christmas will be attending a pancake breakfast on the morning of the 16th to help kick things off. For the adults (and lovers of Edmonton architecture) pay close attention to the massive Rowand House, the Rutherford House and the reconstructed Ottewell Homestead.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children and can be purchased online via the Fort Edmonton website.
Deep Freeze Festival (January 13-14)
Featuring a 53-foot ice slide (and a 12-foot slide for the little ones), the Deep Freeze Festival is sure to delight fans of innovative design. Celebrating Russian/Ukrainian “Olde New Year,” Deep Freeze offers authentic culture, winter games and activities. Last year’s “Village Upside Down” presented impressive sculptural projects, and this year’s “Into the Winter Grove” is sure to do the same.
The festival, now in its eleventh year, has also been credited with helping to revive the city’s once derelict Alberta Avenue. Admission is free, but organizers ask attendees to donate a few dollars, which will keep the festival alive well into the future.
Ice on Whyte (January 25-28 and February 1-4)
A festival that focuses on music, theatre and art, with the piece de resistance being the International Ice Carving Competition.
Professional artists from around the world have 34 hours to transform a 297-pound of pristine ice into a stunning sculpture. With a family pass costing only $20 – and $7 for a single adult ticket – Ice on Whyte is an affordable way to enjoy the melding of art and design.
Flying Canoe Volant (February 2-3)
Embracing both winter and long winter nights in order to celebrate local founding cultures such as Metis and Indigenous, this festival is named for a French nobleman who skipped Sunday Mass to go hunting and was cursed to fly the night skies forever in a canoe pursued by wolves. With music and art, Flying Canoe Volant focuses on cultural, interactive events, such as lighting installations sure to wow design enthusiasts.
Silver Skate Festival (February 9-19)
Much like Ice on Whyte, the annual Silver Skate Festival has much to offer in the way of winter fun. Skate races, figure skating demonstrations, skiing, snowshoeing, live music and theatrical performances. Plus, the Hawrelak Park location is perfect for the extremely popular – and extremely impressive – ice castle, built from icicles by hand to resemble organic formations found in nature.
Compared to frozen waterfalls, glaciers and ice caves, visitors can walk through the massive sculpture. While the festival only runs for 10 days, the ice castles should be open from the end of December until March, weather permitting.
Front Yards in Bloom: Winterscapes (All Winter)
A winter-long event hosted by the City of Edmonton, Winterscapes is an extension of the popular Front Yards in Bloom initiative, which encourages Edmontonians to beautify their yard for all to enjoy. Awards are given in three categories – winter garden, winter art and winter play.
Winter gardens feature landscaped yards with winter-friendly plants and wildlife-friendly additions. Winter art includes winter scenes including snow and ice sculptures, often embellished with material, colour and lights. Winter play is all about whimsical elements such as snow slides, forts, ice creations and tree ornaments. This event offers something for everyone and is available for anyone to view.
Not a festival, but the City of Edmonton’s Winter Design Strategy is doing wonders for enticing residents into the great outdoors during the colder months. The guidelines call for the implementation of five winter design principles – incorporation of strategies to block wind, maximizing exposure to sunshine through orientation and design, using colour to bring life to the cityscape, strategic use of creative lighting and providing infrastructure that supports winter living.
With strategies like these, Edmontonians are sure to continue exploring the city (and the beautiful design and architecture it offers) all year long!