‘Tis the season for holiday company but if you’re looking to get out and do some exploring, Idaho’s winter festivals are the way to go. You can check out these free events spread out all over the state featuring fireworks and laser shows, snow sculptures, dogsled races and possibly even some winter activities you’ve never seen before. No festival or carnival is the same so get ready to create your own winter adventure at each stop.
1. The McCall Winter Carnival
The McCall Winter Carnival is a 10-day celebration of all things winter. Favorites include fireworks over Payette Lake for opening and closing ceremonies, a Mardi Gras Parade, Children’s Torchlight Parade, live music, Sharlie’s (polar) plunge, and the famous snow sculptures. Bring your appetite and a sense of adventure and join in the fun at the Spirits and Chocolate tasting, beer garden, wine dinners featuring local wineries, karaoke, bingo, a comedy show, monster dog pull, the high-octane FlashPoint Snow Bike Race, and more.
2. Fire and Ice Winter Festival
Beat the winter blues with a weekend of fun-filled adventure in beautiful Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, during the Fire and Ice Winter Fest. The event features a Polar Bear Float down the Portneuf River where brave contestants compete for the fastest time down the river and for the most original costume in the inner tube flotilla. There is a Running of the Bulls event, where participants run down Main Street in swimming suits and flip flops just for the fun of it. After the chilly run, all contestants are rewarded with a soak in Idaho’s World Famous Hot Pools in Lava Hot Springs. Enjoy zip line adventures, wine tasting, karaoke events, a chili cook-off, casino night, comedy night and indoor swimming pool carnival games for the kids with relays, races, games and prizes. Don’t miss the torch parade on Lava Hot Springs’ L Mountain.
3. Winter Carnival and Fishing Derby
Held in Soda Springs, this is not your normal carnival. The Fishing Derby is hosted at the Clear Springs Fish Hatchery. There are prizes for the largest fish and the money raised by the fishing derby goes to help support community causes. If you’re not a fan of fishing, enjoy a free movie at the Idan-Ha Theatre or check out the Snowmobile Fun Run and other carnival attractions.
4. Great Snow Fest
The Teton Valley Great Snow Fest includes snow sculpting, ice sculpting, skijoring (skiers fly over a jump and around obstacles while being pulled by horses), snowmobile snowcross competitions, fat bike races and dog sled races. You can also check out the Backcountry Film Festival, kids igloo building, a snow plane rally and exhibition, Nordic races, ice skating, wildlife cross country ski tour and the festive Snow Ball!
5. Sandpoint Winter Carnival
The Sandpoint Winter Carnival is pure fun celebrating the best of the snowy season, indoors and out. The 10 day carnival is packed full of activities including a laser light show, ski events at Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort, Winter Bites with culinary favorites and Idaho wines, Cirque de Sandpoint (featuring a unique group of players, performing various acrobatics, dance routines, fire spinning and an aerial show), cornhole tournament, and lively parties. On the final Saturday, enjoy a spectacular fireworks display above the snow-covered mountains at Schweitzer.
- Winter driving conditions: there’s an app for that. You can download Idaho’s 5-1-1 app to get the latest information on road conditions, delays or closures. If the app isn’t your thing, you can dial 5-1-1 for information.
- If you don′t have traction or snow tires, you may want to keep tire chains in your vehicle just in case.
- To be prepared for a worst-case scenario during your winter travels, keep a winter driving kit in your car. It could include items like sand, blankets, water, snacks, matches and a flashlight.