Photo: girl Sapporo ice festival

Bundled-up kids run elaborate ice mazes in Sapporo.

Photograph by Bertrand Desprez, Agence VU/Aurora Photos

From the January-February 2011 issue of National Geographic Traveler

These five festivals celebrate the best winter has to offer.

Sapporo, Japan: Sapporo Snow Festival
Super-sized ice sculptures dominate this festival that celebrates life in the northern latitudes. Hello Kitty, Godzilla, and Mickey Mouse share the stage with life-size igloos, icicle forests, and sculptures of prancing reindeer. February 7-13; www.snowfes.com/english

Jokkmokk, Sweden: Winter Market
Over 400 years old, this historic market for Sami handicrafts (ladle-like wooden cups, fur-lined hats) provides lots of ways for shopaholics to part with their literally cold hard cash. Broke? Check out the reindeer racing at Lake Talvatis. February 3-5; www.jokkmokksmarknad.se

Winnipeg, Canada: Festival du Voyageur
Western Canada celebrates the life of the pioneering fur traders with events like francophone and Métis music performances, a Snow Bar, and skating on the Forks River Trail, the longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world. February 18-27; www.festivalvoyageur.mb.ca

Madison, Wisconsin: Winter Festival
Costumed Wisconsinites cyclo-cross a snow-covered obstacle course in downtown’s Capitol Square for this annual fest of all things wintry. February 19-20; www.winter-fest.com

Mayrhofen, Austria: Snowbombing
No, it’s not an extreme new winter sport but a music festival that turns this quaint Alpine ski resort into a nightly outdoor rave. The Prodigy headlines this year’s roster of bands and global DJs. April 4-9; www.snowbombing.com

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