Classic winter sports, town festivals, an inn-to-inn chocolate tour — our perennial favorite New Hampshire winter events have it all.
By Yankee Staff
Jan 03 2019
Jackson Snow Sculpting Contest | Top 10 New Hampshire Winter EventsPhoto Credit : Photo by Tim Shellmer
From a free-for-all of fun on the Dartmouth campus to a chocoholic’s ideal day in the White Mountains, our list of the top 10 New Hampshire winter events has something for everyone. Read on to see our picks, then tell us about your own favorite New Hampshire winter events in the comments!
Started as a front-yard project in Utah, Ice Castles has grown into a company that builds frozen art installations/tourist attractions across North America — but New Hampshire claims its only location east of Minnesota. Previously sited at the Hobo Railroad in Lincoln, the acre-size ice installation moved in 2019 to a new, permanent home on Clark Farm Road in North Woodstock. An entrance ticket grants visitors access to a glittering array of ice-carved tunnels, fountains, slides, frozen thrones, and towering ice formations; color-changing LED lights and a musical soundtrack enhance the experience. Also new in 2019: Visitors can purchase separate tickets for a horse-drawn sleigh ride through an enchanted winter forest. (Note: The weather dictates the start and end of each display;
Wine lovers won’t want to miss this monthlong festival, one of the signature events of the winter season at one of New Hampshire’s grandest hotels. Among the highlights are the weekly Grand Vintner’s Dinners, each of which starts with a wine reception and passed hors d’oeuvres before moving on to a four-course menu carefully selected to enhance each wine. Other attractions include large-scale tastings in the ballroom, more intimate Flight Nights, and Bubbles and Jazz Brunches, featuring premium sparkling wines from around the world.
This is the event for people who, as children, took building snowmen a little too seriously. Talented snow sculptors from across the region converge on the village of Jackson for a weekend of creating chilly masterpieces — everything from giant jack-in-the-boxes to ballerinas — from 8-foot-high cylinders of packed snow. Although most pieces are not finished until Sunday, spectators are welcome throughout the process; nighttime illumination makes an after-dark stroll a must. In addition to the artistic endeavors, there will be a bonfire for roasting marshmallows, a torchlight parade, a scavenger hunt, and plenty more to keep folks entertained.
First launched in 1984, the New Hampshire Farm & Forest Expo aims to bring together people who work and manage the land while also inviting the public to come learn more about these industries. It features workshops on topics as varied as hydroponic growing systems, dairy goats, and the proper care of chainsaws; a trade show filled with New Hampshire–made equipment, products, and food; and family activities (check out their twist on bingo: “Farmo”). And did we mention there will be lots of fuzzy and furry animals? All this awaits at the DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Downtown.
Come celebrate the sport of hockey in perhaps its purest form: played outdoors on frozen ponds, just like when you were a kid. Each year pond hockey players from more than 40 states and six Canadian travel to Lake Winnipesaukee to help showcase “a culture that refuses to fade into history,” as they face off in a four-by-four round-robin tournament. There will be over 550 games over the course of the weekend, with teams divvied up among open divisions, a women’s division, and a number of just-for-fun divisions. In addition to the sports action, fans can enjoy an on-ice beer garden, as well as live music Friday and Saturday nights at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion.
Join in a weekend of seasonal fun at the oldest collegiate winter festival, held annually on the campus of Dartmouth College. Since the carnival’s birth in 1910, it has focused on celebrating winter, snow, and outdoor sports. Events include ski competitions, a human dogsled race, a polar bear swim, and snow-sculpture contests, all offered with a playful dose of Ivy League goofiness. Plus, there’s a screening of the 1939 movie Winter Carnival, a kitschy romance film set at Dartmouth.
Billed as the oldest continuous town winter carnival in the U.S., the Newport Winter Carnival is still going strong after more than 100 years. The townwide celebration packs its multiday schedule full: pancake breakfast, broom hockey, a softball tourney played on snow (aka “snowball”), ice skating, a parade, horse-drawn wagon rides, fireworks, and pickleball, table tennis, dodgeball, and other sports tournaments — and more! Don’t miss the always popular Queen’s Pageant.
The World Pro Ski Tour is a nationwide slate of events featuring the “dual” format of alpine ski racing, which places two athletes side-by-side for maximum downhill excitement. Waterville Valley Resort has the distinction of hosting one of these rare opportunities to see Olympians, national champions, and NCAA champions mixing it up in dual slalom action.
Escape from winter by stepping into a world of exotic flora at the Courtyard Marriott Nashua. The Granite State’s most accomplished orchid growers, along with representatives from other New England states, take the spotlight during this weekend filled with exhibits, plants, supplies, jewelry, artwork, and more. Come out and get expert answers to your questions, and take in a lot of beautiful blooms.
Billing itself as “the greatest show on snow,” this venerable competition has been held in Laconia since 1929 and is sanctioned by the International Sled Dog Racing Association (ISDRA). Mushers and their dogs travel from across New England and beyond to compete in the derby, which offers races in junior and adult divisions, the latter of which includes an open class over a rigorous 16-mile course. All races begin and end on Main Street, making it easy for spectators to cheer on their favorite pups.
Your chocolate indulgence is totally guilt-free when you cross-country ski or snowshoe between stops on this annual inn-to-inn tasting tour (though no one will hold it against you if you drive). Chocolate-dipped strawberries, chocolate fountains and fondue, brownie sundaes, and chocolate cookies of all kinds are just some of the treats on offer along the route, which is part of the 25-plus miles of winter trails connecting Intervale, Kearsarge, and North Conway that are maintained by the nonprofit Mount Washington Valley Ski Touring & Snowshoe Foundation. Even better: More treats await the chocoholics who complete the tour.
What are your favorite New Hampshire winter events? Let us know!