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Baby, it’s cold outside — and that’s when the fun begins! It’s time for New Hampshire winter festivals! Here in New Hampshire we are known for our intense, snowy winters, but that doesn’t mean we have to hunker down in our homes until spring comes.
If you’re looking for one of the best ways to celebrate the ice and snow, you’ll want to check out one of the fabulous festivals across New Hampshire in the winter months.
With events ranging from classic winter activities like ice skating and sledding to more unique offerings like murder mystery dinners and animal tracking demonstrations, there are activities for everyone to enjoy across New Hampshire this winter.
Let’s take a look at the best New Hampshire winter festivals!
Concord Winter Fest
January 27-28, 2023
Few things compare to the beauty of a well-carved ice sculpture, and there’s no better time to enjoy their beauty than a bright New England winter day!
Winter Fest 2023 will take place on January 27th and 28th on the New Hampshire State House lawn in Concord. On Friday, visitors can enjoy ice-carving demonstrations from New Hampshire’s finest ice artisans. The ice blocks will all be illuminated with colorful LED lights to create a truly spectacular display.
The official competition will run from 11:00 AM-3:00 PM the next day, with the awards ceremony scheduled for 3:15. Play cornhole, listen to live music, and enjoy free hot chocolate and s’mores while you watch the ice sculptors work. If you haven’t gotten your fill of ice after the competition, stick around for the Black Ice Pond Hockey Tournament in Concord over the same weekend.
NH Sanctioned & Jackson Invitational Snow Sculpting Competition
January 27-29, 2023
The last weekend in January is a great opportunity to watch snow artists show off their craftsmanship! The Jackson Chamber of Commerce invites a dozen snow sculptors from around the Northeast to show off their talents on an 8-foot high by 4-foot round cylinder of compacted snow.
The competition will last a full 48 hours, from noon on Friday the 27th to Sunday the 29th, and visitors are welcome to stay for the entire competition or stop by on Sunday to see the finished products. The sculptures will remain standing for one week (depending on how fast they melt) and will even be illuminated each night once the sun sets.
This year’s event will include special enhancements to celebrate the 20th Anniversary, including a scavenger hunt for kids. It will also honor beloved late sculptor Dick Devellian, with competitors gathering at the end of the event to collaborate on a sculpted tribute to Dick.
This free event will take place at Great Glen Trails/Mt. Washington Auto Road in Pinkham Notch in the White Mountains. Consider taking advantage of the areas cross country skiing, tubing, or snow coach rides during your visit! (The passes to these are sold separately.)
Incidentally, there are so many fun things to do in Jackson, one of our favorite New Hampshire winter getaways.
Hooksett Winter Carnival
January 28, 2023
The Hooksett Winter Carnival is a full day of winter fun for the whole family! The event will be held on Donati Field behind the Hooksett Town Hall. Enjoy games, snowshoeing, sledding, tubing, and more!
You’ll also be able to shop local crafts vendors, try delicious food from New Hampshire brewery The Tap House and the Wicked Good Eats food truck, and watch performances and demonstrations from local dance and martial arts groups.
There will even be a gallery of professionally-carved ice sculptures sponsored by Tom Lavery of Ameriprise Financial and Merrimack County Savings Bank.
The event will run from 10:00 AM-3:00 PM.
Nansen Ski Club Winter Carnival
January 28-29, 2023
The Nansen Ski Club, located in Berlin, NH, is the oldest in America and has been in continual operation since 1872. Their annual winter carnival is scheduled for the last weekend in January 2023. On Saturday, events will kick off with the Art Sled Rally. This is a great event where participants of all ages can decorate their sleds and race down the hill. Cash prizes are handed out for the Best Adult Sled, Best Youth Sled, Funniest Sled, Most Creative Sled, and Best Spectator Costume. There is also a prize for the sled that goes the furthest distance.
On Sunday, you can witness some of New England’s finest winter athletes compete in the 10 m and 39 m Eastern Division Ski Jumping Competition. This event was introduced to the carnival last year. The 2022 Winter Carnival was the first time Nansen Ski Club hosted a ski jumping competition in nearly 40 years. There will also be hot beverages, food vendors, and a bonfire.
While you’re in the area, be sure to visit White Mountains Community College’s free exhibit highlighting Berlin’s skiing history. The gallery can be found in the college’s Frontier Library Gallery Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays 7:30 AM-3:30 PM and Wednesdays and Thursdays 10:00 AM-6:00 PM through the end of January.
Keene Ice and Snow Festival
February 4, 2023
Wintery weather might not be everyone’s cup of hot chocolate, but the Keene Ice and Snow Festival shows that even the colder months can be beautiful. Expert ice and snow sculptors will turn Keene’s Main Street into a gallery of wintery masterpieces. In addition to watching some of New England’s most talented ice carvers and snow sculptors work their magic, you’ll also be able to sip on hot cocoa and enjoy live music and roaming circus acts.
There are a ton of family-friendly events offering free winter activities like snow sliding, roasting smores, making sugar on snow, and a “find the yeti” scavenger hunt. There will even be a kid’s train ride. There are lots of fun things to do in Keene, so it’s worth taking the time to explore this lovely town.
The event will take place in downtown Keene from 10:00 AM-4:00 PM on Saturday, February 4th, 2023.
Dartmouth Winter Carnival
Hanover, New Hampshire
February 9-12, 2023
The Dartmouth Winter Carnival originally began as a celebration of the school’s winter sports teams, but after 113 years has evolved into an opportunity for students, Hanover locals, and even visitors to enjoy all the best a New England winter has to offer. The event is planned by the Dartmouth Winter Carnival Council, a committee of Dartmouth students who choose the theme, select a winning poster and t-shirt design, and oversee the execution of a successful event.
This year’s theme is Winter CAAARRRnival 2023: Shiver Me Timbers! Events kick off with an Opening Celebration on Thursday night, including a Polar Bear Swim, Human Dog Sled Races, and a 99-Cent Ski Day.
Dartmouth’s carnival features an ice sculpting contest like many other New Hampshire winter festivals, but with a twist: you don’t have to be a professional to compete! Though registration is currently closed for the 2023 event, you can watch Dartmouth’s amateur ice sculptors at work Friday, February 10th, from 3:00 PM-9:00 PM and Saturday, February 11th, from 9:00 AM-4:00 PM.
Derry Frost Festival
February 18, 2023
If you’re going to be close to southern New Hampshire this February, the Derry Frost Festival offers a ton of wintery fun. The celebration is an annual event that first started in 1924, so there is nearly 100 years worth of traditions, history, and seasonal cheer to enjoy during the fair.
Previous Frost Festivals have included classic winter activities like ice skating and sledding. There have also been ice sculpture competitions and chili contests, as well as a puppet show and live entertainment. It’s entirely free and is a great place for the whole family to spend a snowy day!
Alton Winter Carnival
February 19, 2023
For those in the Lake Winnipesaukee region, the Alton Winter Carnival is another phenomenal seasonal celebration. There are tons of traditional frosty festivities on Alton Bay, like horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice skating, and an ice sculpture walking tour. Plus, there are a few fun activities that you won’t find at other festivals!
For instance, you can try tons of classic New England clam chowder from local restaurants and vote for the winner in the annual Chowder-Fest. There’s also some fun competitions for carnival-goers to participate in, like the Bob House Decorating and Crazy Hat Contests. Plus, there’s tons of food, drink, and entertainment for everyone to enjoy!
Winter Carnival at Wasserman Park in Merrimack, NH
February 25, 2023
If you’re looking for a fun-filled family festival that’s entirely free, you won’t want to miss the festival in Merrimack. This year’s festivities will be town’s 31st annual Winter Carnival. There are tons of crafts, events, and games for people of all ages to enjoy.
Enjoy the season’s snow by building a snowman, snow art, or going ice fishing. In addition to outdoor activities, there will be attractions indoors as well, so you can warm up if the frost starts to get to you! And if you’re up for shopping after, head to the Merrimack Outlets, one of our favorite outlets in New Hampshire, for designer shopping on the cheap.
More on Winter in NH:
- 25+ Best Things to Do in New Hampshire in the Winter
- Our Favorite New Hampshire Winter Getaways
- Our Picks for the Best NH Ski Resorts
- Where to Go Dog Sledding in New Hampshire
- Best Sleigh Rides in New Hampshire
- Where to Go Snow and Ice Climbing in New Hampshire
- Best Christmas Tree Farms in New Hampshire
- Best New Hampshire Christmas and Holiday Events
Best of New Hampshire:
- 50+ Best Things to Do in New Hampshire
- 13 Best Beaches in New Hampshire
- New Hampshire’s Best Breweries
- New Hampshire Fall Foliage Guide
What’s your favorite of the New Hampshire winter festivals?