a real-life winter wonderland

McCall Winter Carnival

During the peak of snow season in late January, the small mountain town of McCall gathers together to celebrate all things winter for its annual Winter Carnival. Its streets transform into a real-life winter wonderland, with snow sculpting competitions, parades, fireworks shows and more.

Get the latest details from Visit McCall.

Photo Courtesy of McCall Chamber of Commerce

On the first evening of the carnival, families bundle up and walk through the snow-covered streets for the Torchlight Parade. Their faces glow in the soft candlelight as they laugh and sing carols.

The excited procession stops at the frozen shores of Payette Lake. Suddenly, the black night sky explodes in spectacular flashes of reds and whites.

The crowd silences in awe at the fireworks, a signal that the winter magic has just begun.

Black and Blue Rivalry Game

Photo Courtesy of McCall Chamber of Commerce

Later on the first night, excited fans file into their seats as long-time rival teams from Boise State University and the University of Idaho glide across the ice, anxious to begin the match. The crowd goes silent as the ref drops the puck.

With a loud smack from a hockey stick, the puck shoots across the ice. Cheers erupt from the crowd as players slam each other up against the walls of the stadium and  players race toward the goal.

Locals’ Tip: If you want to avoid the crowds, plan to drive up earlier in the week and skip the weekends.

Mardi Gras Parade

Photo courtesy of McCall Chamber of Commerce

On the first morning of the carnival, decked-out floats pass through town. Colorful strings of beads are thrown into the cheering crowd for the Mardi Gras parade.

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A colorful dragon weaves through the streets, followed by a big red fire truck led by a line of firefighters playing bagpipes. A drum line marches behind them as a team of dancers twirl to the beat.

Idaho State Snow Sculpting Championships

Photo courtesy of McCall Chamber of Commerce

All throughout the first week of the carnival, a group of talented local artists start hand-crafting intricate sculptures out of the snow for the annual Idaho State Snow Sculpting Competition. From fire-breathing dragons to friendly dinosaurs, the snow begins to take on a life of its own.

Starz on Ice

Photo courtesy of McCall Chamber of Commerce

On the second Friday evening of the carnival, excited spectators fill the seats of the local ice rink yet again to watch figure skaters in bedazzled dresses glide effortlessly across the ice.

Children stare with their mouths open, spellbound, as they watch the skaters pirouette and leap in time to the music.

Photo courtesy of McCall Chamber of Commerce

The Winter Carnival ends almost the same way it began. Visitors lift their eyes up to the sky as a stunning display of fireworks paints the night in bright reds, greens, purples and blues.

As the light of the last firework fades into the dark, the crowd cheers and another magical McCall Winter Carnival draws to a close.

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