Think there's nothing to do in the dead of winter? You might be surprised by how many towns go out of their way to celebrate icy weather and snow. Plus, there are few better ways to warm up than to play outdoor sports, sample regional winter cuisines, and hang out with friends old and new. Here are 12 places where you can do just that.
1. FIRE + ICE FEST // READING, PENNSYLVANIA
Reading, Pennsylvania, invites you to the 2017 Fire + Ice Fest, happening January 13 and 14, 2017. Fire will be represented with performances by Madeleine Belle and Allentown's Burning Hearts Fire & Light Theater. Professional ice sculptures will be on display throughout the event, which could serve as inspiration for the festival's ice carving competition. There's also a pancake breakfast, a chili cook-off, a Snowfall Ball, and live music. The full schedule of events can be found here.
2. BAVARIAN ICEFEST // LEAVENWORTH, WASHINGTON
The Bavarian Icefest takes place in Leavenworth, Washington, January 14 - 15, 2017. Events include dogsled rides, the "ice cube scramble" for kids, snow sculptures, ice carving, ice fishing, a snowball toss, a snowmobile sled pull, and "smooshing" (a sport in which teams of four people ski together on one set of skis).
3. ICEBOX DAYS // INTERNATIONAL FALLS, MINNESOTA
International Falls, Minnesota, celebrates its reputation as the coldest town in the 48 contiguous states with Icebox Days, a winter festival running January 18 - 22, 2017. The marquee event is the annual Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run, which features both 5K and 10K runs—no matter what the temperature is. Don't miss the other events: the moonlight snowshoe hike, the toilet seat toss, frozen turkey bowling, redneck trivia, donkey basketball, and plenty of food.
4. OURAY ICE FESTIVAL // OURAY, COLORADO
This year's annual Ouray Ice Festival happens January 19 - 22, 2017 at Ouray Ice Park in Ouray, Colorado. The public park has 200 climbing routes made of ice and mixed ice and rock, making it a popular destination for ice climbers. The festival is a celebration of ice climbing, and a fundraiser for the nonprofit park. Events will include climbing clinics and competitions, demonstrations, an outdoor gear expo, and plenty of beer.
5. HUNTER ICE FESTIVAL // NILES, MICHIGAN
The Hunter Ice Festival in Niles, Michigan is named after The Hunter Brothers Ice and Ice Cream Company, which established ice harvesting as the town's big industry around the turn of the 20th century. The festival, which takes place January 20 - 22, 2017, centers around ice sculptures, and the best artists in the craft are invited to Niles to show off their stuff. There will also be races, an Ice Ball, and a chili cook-off. Check out this year's full schedule of events at Facebook.
6. FIRE & ICE FESTIVAL // ROCHESTER, MICHIGAN
This year's Fire & Ice Festival in Rochester, Michigan, will take place January 20 - 22, 2017. The fire is provided by fireworks at night; the ice events include tube sledding, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, dogsled rides, ice skating, a broom ball exhibition, and ice sculptures. Bring your ice skates for free skating all weekend! Keep up with this year's festival at the Facebook event page.
7. ICEFEST // CHAMBERSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, presents the 15th annual IceFest January 26 - 29, 2017. The festival features a 40-foot ice slide, a snowball fight, and a "Polar Dunk Plunge." There's also nighttime dancing and dining events for those who like to stay warm, a movie night, a chili cook-off, and a cake icing competition. The premier draw will be the professional ice sculptures and ice carving demonstrations. Find out more at the festival's Facebook page.
8. SAINT PAUL WINTER CARNIVAL // SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA
This year's Saint Paul Winter Carnival will run from January 26 to February 5 in St. Paul, Minnesota, and will kick off the Carnival season in style. The huge festival boasts three parades, plus the Beer Dabbler (featuring craft beer from more than 120 breweries), the junior royalty coronation, a cat show, ice sculptures, and the usual races, parties, live entertainment, and food. Stay current with the festival's plans on Facebook.
9. ELY WINTER FESTIVAL // ELY, MINNESOTA
The Ely Winter Festival in Ely, Minnesota—which will run February 2 - 12, 2017—will kick off with an amateur snow carving contest, and later lead to the Ely Art Walk, an ice fishing tournament, snowshoe hikes, dogsledding, and a beard competition. Plus: Don't miss the ice bar! The schedule of events is here.
10. CRIPPLE CREEK ICE FESTIVAL // CRIPPLE CREEK, COLORADO
The Cripple Creek Ice Festival will run February 11 - 19, 2017 in Cripple Creek, Colorado. The theme for this year's celebration is "Safari in Ice." The town will be filled with ice sculptures, including a slide, a maze, and an ice bar. Plus, the beloved "liquor luge" will make a triumphant return. Check out the website for a full lineup of events.
11. MICHIGAN ICE FEST // MUNISING, MICHIGAN
The Michigan Ice Fest in Munising, Michigan, is a festival centered around ice climbing. This year's event will be held from February 15 - 19, 2017. There will be clinics and classes in the various levels of climbing, including rescue techniques, plus demonstrations and social climbs.
12. NEWPORT WINTER FESTIVAL // NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND
The 29th annual Newport Winter Festival will take place February 17 - 26, 2017 in Newport, Rhode Island. This festival celebrates the cold and puts a tropical spin on winter at the same time. Outdoor events will include the polar bear plunge and beach polo, plus "Polar Pineapples," where you can sip seasonal cocktails in an ice sculpture garden. There will be both a tropical drink contest and a best hot drink contest, a chili cook-off, and live entertainment. The schedule of events is growing by the day, so click here to find out more.