Written by Thomas Walsh
December 15

Winter Carnival Guide

You made it to Winter Carnival!

Now what?? This 10 day extravaganza of all things winter can be a bit overwhelming at the onset. What events should you attend? What are the must-see activities for the kiddos? Where do you go to hear live music?

This itinerary is designed to be your guide!

Regardless of when you attend or who you attend with, there is one thing that simply must be at the top of your to-do list…snow sculpture viewing. In addition to being completely free of charge, the snow sculptures are at the heart of what makes Carnival so special. Every year we are awestruck by these ice and snow creations and we know you won’t be disappointed. Pick up a sculpture to see where each sculpture is located and pick a few to go see – or tour them all!


DSC_8213The kick-off weekend of Winter Carnival is packed with things to do and see. If you have little ones, you won’t want to miss the Children’s Torchlight Parade. This family-friendly parade is free for kids to participate in and parents are welcome to walk along with them as they wave lighted wands, noise-makers and toys. The parade ends in Depot Park where the McCall Fire Department lights the official Winter Carnival bonfire that triggers the Opening Ceremony Fireworks Show over Payette Lake.

Stick around in Depot Park after the fireworks show for live music on the Main Stage and local microbrews on tap at the Beer Garden. As the music winds down, move to the Manchester Ice Center for a Winter Carnival tradition – the annual Black and Blue Rivalry Hockey Game. Cheer on your favorite team as the University of Idaho Vandals take on the Boise State Broncos.

Day two of Carnival keeps the fun going with the biggest event of the 10-day celebration…the Mardi Gras Parade. Get your spot along the parade route early and be ready to cheer as floats pass you by throwing beads, candy, and goodies! The parade starts promptly at noon! After the parade, head over to the McCall Golf Course to watch a one-of-a-kind event pioneered by two Idaho companies. The Flashpoint Snowbike Race is sure to dazzle as competitors speed around a 1 mile groomed racetrack.

For another dose of adrenaline, stop by Alpine Village for Sharlie’s Plunge, an annual fundraiser where participants dive into a freezing cold pool of water…brrrr. Since you have probably worked up an appetite after your big day of Carnival-going, pick up a quick bite to eat at the Vendor Court where you will find everything from wood-fired pizza to elephant ears to stir fry.

Before you head home on Sunday, sneak in a morning of fun. Pan for gold at the Midas Gold exhibit and get a peek back in time as you experience part of Idaho’s history or stop by the McCall Carnival Craft Faire and pick up a unique memento. Your final stop should be the Monster Dog Pull. Arguably one of the most hilarious events at Winter Carnival, watch as dogs of all shapes and sizes compete by pulling weighted sleds down a racetrack!


Idaho State Sculptures 2014 (9)The weekdays of Carnival seem to move at a slower pace after the rush of the weekend. Fill your morning and afternoons by hitting the slopes at Brundage or Tamarack. Uncrowded slopes await! On your way back through town, make sure to stop by Depot Park to watch the start of the Idaho State Snow Sculpting Championship. This competition is the national qualifier for the State of Idaho and brings some of the finest sculptors from around the State to mold and shape a 10-foot column of snow into a masterpiece.

Need a way to let the kids burn off some energy? How about an afternoon at the Activity Barn where you can enjoy lift serviced snow tubing! If the cold is too much to handle, drop the group off at PlayLive McCall for a few hours. Special events are held daily and open gaming and movie hours are available – long enough to let mom and dad take a break!

Looking for something to tempt your palate? Rupert’s Restaurant hosts three Winemaker Dinners sure to satisfy. Each multi-course dinner features dishes created by James Beard nominated Chef Gary Kucy and is paired with wines selected by the winemakers of each feature winery. For something a little stronger, join the McCall-Donnelly Education Foundation at their annual Chocolate and Spirits Tasting. Sample premium bourbons, vodkas, specialty ports and more complemented by rich dark chocolates.

Along with delicious culinary events, the weekdays of Winter Carnival also play host to a favorite Carnival pastime….BINGO! Choose from two nights of bingo, Party Bingo at Foresters or Grand Bingo at the Northfork Lodge. Ten exciting rounds at each event offer ten chances to win! And as if yelling “Bingo!” wasn’t exciting enough, the Beard and Leg Competition at the Yacht Club is back for another Carnival! Watch (or enter yourself) as participants compete in categories including longest beard, ugliest beard, and most unusual beard while the ladies compete for a chance to win the title of sexiest legs and the men compete to win the title of hairiest legs.


DSC_5942The final weekend of Carnival is less about the crowds as everyone branches out to recreate. In town, the Main Stage and Beer Garden are in full swing. Let the kids enjoy sledding at Legacy Park while you peruse the vendors along Vendor Row. Be sure to snap a few pictures in front of the newly completed Idaho State Snow sculptures in Depot Park while you are in the area!

Get out of the hustle and bustle by joining in the Snowmobile Fun Run at Bear Creek Lodge. A full day of riding with fabulous raffle prizes to be won! If a hike through the woods sounds more appealing, catch one of the Snowshoe Tours offered by the McCall Hiking Club. Hikes will start from the Little Bear Basin Nordic Area and all ages are welcome.

Nights at Carnival are always special, but the second weekend brings one of the most spectacular productions of the year. The McCall Starz on Ice is an ice skating extravaganza featuring world-renowned figure skaters and McCall Figure Skating Club members. With two chances to catch the show, you will have no excused not to go!

End your Carnival experience with another spectacular fireworks show over Payette Lake. Closing ceremonies will not only light up the night, but make one lucky person the proud owner of a brand new snowmobile! The Winter Carnival Raffle Winner will be drawn just before the fireworks close out another fabulous festival!


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