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Wall Street Journal

http://www.wsj.com/articles/snow-balls-five-winter-festivals-worth-the-trip-1418412369
Sites & Sightings
Snow Balls:  Five Winter Festivals Worth the Trip
With ice cities, reindeer races and night parades, these cold-weather events can cure you of cabin fever

Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival CORBIS

By
Matthew Kronsberg
Updated Dec. 12, 2014 8:33 p.m. ET

THE CURE FOR winter’s chill is often a crackling fire or a steaming mug of hot chocolate.  The cure for cabin fever is more elusive.  Winter festivals exist not just to celebrate the season, but also to provide an excuse for an outing.  The best fests seem to understand that it takes more than a band and some beer to make a trip worthwhile; many reward visitors with grand spectacles and oddball events.  Here, a few events that guarantee a cool, cold time.

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A Capital of Cold in China                                                                                    The city of Harbin is closer to the Russian and Mongolian borders than it is to Beijing—and for two months a year, it turns that frosty location to its advantage.  For the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival, a frozen city covering 8 million square feet is built from snow as well as ice pulled from the Songhua River.  (The centerpieces of this year’s festival will be a 160-foot-tall “fairy tower” made of ice and steel, and a frozen replica of Big Ben.)  Everything is lit from within in rainbow hues, so this festival is best visited after dark.  And there’s more to do than just gawk:  This year’s activity district will include ice skating, ice biking and an eight-sided ice slide.  But only the bravest visitors will want to join locals swimming in the frigid Songhua.  Jan. 5 to Feb. 25, 2015, iceharbin.com
Ice Dream in New York

Ice Harvest Festival KEVIN Q GRAY

In February, time isn’t the only thing frozen at the Hanford Mills Museum in upstate New York.  Before refrigeration, ice was as important to rural life as any other crop; the museum honors that past with its annual Ice Harvest Festival.  Attendees can strap on ice cleats and venture onto the frozen mill pond to watch—or help—as 6 to 8 tons of ice is removed in huge blocks, using antique tools.  The ice is packed away in an icehouse until it is used to make ice cream for Independence Day.  The winter event is not without its own treats:  Visitors can warm themselves by a bonfire, hit the soup buffet or ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.  Feb. 7, 2015, hanfordmills.org
A Big Chill in Canada


Carnaval de Québec CARNAVAL DE QUÉBEC

Billed as the largest winter carnival in the world, with more than half a million visitors, Carnaval de Québec sprawls from Quebec City’s Plains of Abraham park onto the St. Lawrence River and the snow-covered city streets.  Between the opening ceremony (at a palace built from 300 tons of ice) and the closing fireworks, there are three weeks of night parades, canoeing excursions on the icy river and mugs of Caribou, a Quebecois specialty of maple-sweetened mulled wine.  Jan. 30 to Feb. 15, 2015, carnaval.qc.ca
Snow Daze in Alaska

Fur Rendezvous CORBIS

Pamplona, Spain, may have the Running of the Bulls, but Anchorage does that town one better with the Running of the Reindeer.  That’s just one of the many events in the Fur Rendezvous (“The Rondy”), where Alaskans get to let out a little of the crazy that’s bound to build up over the long winter.  Athletic fun ranges from leaf-blower hockey and snowshoe softball to yukigassen, a Japanese team sport that combines Capture the Flag with a snowball fight.  At the Miners and Trappers Ball, the winner of the Alaska State Championship Beard and Moustache Contest is awarded the coveted title “Mr. Fur Face.”  Come for the carnival, the parades and the native art market; stay for the outhouse races.  Feb. 27 to March 8, furrondy.net
Frozen Family Fun in Minnesota

Saint Paul Winter Carnival CHRISTINE WISCH

You don’t need to understand the Byzantine, made-up mythology surrounding the Saint Paul Winter Carnival to know it’s the premiere event on the Twin Cities’ cold-weather calendar.  The struggle for power between Boreas (King of the Winds) and the Fire King informs many events—the closing torchlight parade culminates in the overthrow of King Boreas on the steps of the James J. Hill Library.  In the 10 days before that, families throng the Winter Wonderland in Rice Park and cheer on their favorite ‘bots in the Autonomous Snowplow Competition; others participate in a countywide treasure hunt, seeking a gold medallion that comes with a $10,000 prize.  The outdoor Beer Dabbler festival, with more than 150 breweries represented, draws masses to the tundra of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.  Jan. 22 to Feb. 1, 2015, wintercarnival.com

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