Quebec might be internationally known for its winter carnival, but Washington folks know that right in their backyard lies two weeks of wintry wonder—and wine.
From January 12-21, the beautiful wine region of Lake Chelan is home to Winterfest, a celebration that combines good old-fashioned activities like horse carriage rides and ice sculpting with what the region is best known for: wine, bubbly, craft beer and cider. Thrown into the mix are quirky add-ons like a Polar Bear Splash, Snowga (yoga and hiking in the snow), and apple bin train rides along the glistening lake. There’s also activities just for kids, such as a magic show and a Winterfest ice slide.
The highlight of the event that spans two weekends is the Wine Walk, where festival goers get the opportunity to find out what makes the valley a premier Northwest wine destination. The glacially carved soil combined with a stretched-out summer season lends itself to bold, Bordeaux-style reds like Malbecs and Cab Francs as well as to white Gewurztraminers and sparkling wines, among others. A 3-day affair that kicks off the festival, Wine Walk brings more than 30 award-winning wineries to one huge heated tent, as well as to local stores serving wine and cheese. Prices range from $35 to $55 and buy you tickets for tastings. The $55 pass grants you admission to a Sunday “Bubble Bar” where you can sample exceptional sparkling wines for which the valley is increasingly known, enjoy a light brunch, and take home a tasting flute. All tickets come with a Winterfest Button that gives you access to other activities, including admission to the Ice Bar—the place to be, where live music from acts like funk band Soul Siren and Seattle hip-hop favorite DJ Indica go down easy with a homemade hot toddy, local wines, and beers and cider such as No-Li Born & Raised IPA, Atlas Organic Dry Cider, Rainier Beer, and Iron Horse Irish Death.
While wine is the focus of the first weekend, beer and cider are the raison d’etre of the second. Lake Chelan is quickly becoming a craft brewing destination, and this is your chance to try over 40 craft beers and hard ciders—from porters to pale ales, traditional to unique ciders--from all over the Pacific Northwest, many from the area. Alefest tickets range from $30- $45, with the entry level price buying you admission to—and tastings at—the Lake Chelan Brewers & Distillers Night on Friday, January 19th —a new addition to this annual festival. Don’t miss The Battle of the Bloody Mary on Sunday, where you can sip through zesty breakfast cocktails concocted by Lake Chelan bars and restaurants with local Blue Spirit distilled vodka, and vote for your favorites. Just like Wine Walk, all tickets include a general Winterfest Button.
There’s plenty of ways to upgrade the fun over the two weeks, but the basic Winterfest Button is your all-access path to soaking in all that the festival has to offer. While it’s included with most of the boozy passes, families can also come and simply pay $5 a person and breeze through kids’ activities, including the Winterfest ice slide and face paintings, as well as horse carriage rides, apple bin train rides, and more. Plus, watch ice carvers turn 45,000 pounds of ice into majestic pieces of art both weekends and, on Saturday, the 20th, carve an ice tower all day and night in downtown Manson, which will be lit at 6:30 p.m. and followed by live music. In downtown Chelan on Saturday, the 13th, the evening entertainment starts with a Polar Bear Splash for die-hard winter-goers, a blazing beachfront bonfire to warm up afterwards (kindled by locals’ Christmas trees), and a dazzling fireworks display that truly adds a spark of magic to the weekend. For a full list of events and ticket options, click here.
Looking for a place to stay either weekend? While the area has several hotels, there’s also a selection of family (and pet-friendly) private vacation homes for rent on and around the lake, many with waterfront views, discounted off-season pricing, and other special offers. For more information, click here.