I am ALL about festivals, fairs, and carnivals and when I realized I had never been to the McCall Winter Carnival, I knew I needed to attend! Each year the winter carnival is two weekends long and usually starts the last weekend in January and goes until the first weekend in February. This year, 2022, the winter festival is happening from January 28th-February 6th.

If you’re interested in a bit of history, this celebration was inspired by the Payette Lake Winter Games that were first held in 1924. They then converted the games to the McCall Winter Carnival in the 1960s and it has evolved over the years to what it is today. I’m not going to lie, this festival is VERY crowded—probably the most crowded I’ve ever seen McCall in my life!  In fact, they bring in over 60,000 people to McCall every winter carnival. That being said, it was still a blast and I highly recommend going, even if it’s just one time.

One of my favorite things about the festival is that every year they do a different theme so you’ll see the ice sculptures all over town with a similar likeness. When we went the theme was was Legends, Myths, and Superheroes. Check here for next year’s dates and themes.

Want more ideas on what to do in McCall in the winter? Check out this post. While you’re at it, let’s be friends on Instagram!

A Weekend Guide to the McCall Winter Carnival

A Weekend Guide to the McCall Winter Carnival

WHERE TO STAY

The Shore Lodge

This is McCall's most famous resort. It's located right on Payette lake and has gorgeous views, great amenities, and wonderful restaurants. If you're looking for a bit more of a luxurious stay, then hands down stay at the Shore Lodge! I've loved it every time I've stayed. See the most recent prices here.

Airbnb Cabin Rental

I highly recommend booking a cabin if you can find one close to the lake or close to town. My grandparents have a cabin in McCall, so I've always gotten lucky to get to stay with them, but I've also rented a few different cabins in McCall and it's always been so much fun. See all of the open cabins here.

Hotel McCall

A cute boutique hotel in McCall is hands-down Hotel McCall. They also usually have a deal with Brundage Ski resort to get free passes with a night stay, so check that deal out! It's also located in the heart of downtown and within walking distance of all of the wonderful ice sculptures and restaurants of the small downtown area.  See the most recent prices here.
 

Scandia Inn

This is a newer boutique hotel in McCall and is located near downtown with a beautifully streamlined look. It's a bit more of a walk to the lake, but not too far! See the most recent prices here.
 
 
 
brundage mountain
mccall winter carnival Idaho

SEE & DO

McCall is seriously one of my favorite places in all of Idaho and I love it in all seasons. See my girls weekend guide to McCall here

While you're here for the McCall Winter Carnival, it's even more special because there are so many different events going on. Here's what I recommend doing:

Check out the ice sculptures 

This was the main reason I wanted to come up to the carnival. I had seen the ice sculptures in photos and I was dying to see them in person. The sculptures are scattered all over town, so you can either get a map on the Winter Carnival website to see where they are all located or just go on a scavenger hunt for the best ones. They usually have one on top of Brundage Mountain so it's worth planning a ski day!

Watch the parade & fireworks

Each big weekend, they will do a parade and fireworks - here's a schedule for 2022. This will change each year but is something to look at to see what other activities there are to do and what times the parade and fireworks are.

Go skiing or snowboarding at Brundage Mtn or Tamarack Resort

I grew up going to Brundage Mountain and it's one of my favorites in Idaho because of it's terrain and laid-back vibes. Head up early (or during the parade hours) to avoid a ton of crowds. When we were up there, it felt like we had the mountain to ourselves because everyone was at the parade in town. Tamarack Resort is also close by in Donnelly and will probably be even less crowded!

Check out the food trucks, bonfire & music

Each night there's live music, food trucks, and a bonfire by the water. Check the schedule for times, but it's super fun to listen to live music while you eat some good grub outside.

Go on a sleigh ride, tube, or fat bike at the Activity Barn

I've been to the Activity Barn to go tubing a few times and have been on a few sleigh rides in McCall to go see reindeer. Both are so much fun! I've also always wanted to try fat biking. Check out the Activity Barn for all of these fun adventures.

Take a dip at the local hot springs

There are a few hot springs around McCall, but some of the ones that you can actually pay to go to are Burgdorf and Gold Fork. Gold Fork gets really crowded during this time of year, so just be conscious of this. If you're more adventurous you can rent snowmobiles at "Cheap Thrills" Rentals and take them into Burgdorf Hot Springs. Remember to be respectful of these hot springs and don't trash them! Idahoans take their hot springs really seriously. 🙂

Have a night out on the town

The winter carnival brings out all sorts of wild and fun crowds! Head over to Foresters or The Yacht Club for some crazy times. One of them usually throws a party on this weekend, so look out for that and a potential cover charge.

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mccall winter carnival
hot spring idaho
mccall winter carnival experience
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EAT & DRINK

BREAKFAST/BRUNCH

Keep in mind that a lot of these places might be busy, so if you can get reservations, try doing that!

Foglifter Cafe - Go here for cozy cafe vibes and great breakfast options.
Cafe 6 Three 4 - This is a fun little cafe in an old gas station. They have great sandwiches, bowls, and great coffee!
Stacey Cakes - This is a newer bakery with lovely pastries, cinnamon rolls, quiche, and beautiful desserts. 
 

LUNCH

The CutWater @ ShoreLodge - I love eating here for lunch. It's so peaceful and has a view of the water, plus their food is amazing.
My Father's Place - Go here for the perfect down-home burger, fries, and a shake. Don't forget to get fry sauce!
Stax - This is a great spot to grab an awesome sandwich and soup.
Salmon River Brewing - Need a liquid lunch? Come here for a beer flight and great pub food.

DINNER

Bistro 45 - This is a great spot in the summertime because of its outdoor area and bocce ball. I haven't been here in the winter, but their food is great.
Frenchies on 3rd - This is a newer Creole/Cajun restaurant that serves lunch and dinner. Try a po-boy!
Steamers - This is a popular spot for steak and seafood in town.
The Sushi Bar - I haven't been here yet because every time I go the wait is over an hour! People love this place which is surprising because it's sushi in a mountain town, but there's something good about it!
Ragazza Di Lago - This is a newer spot by a chef that's opening up multiple locations in Idaho because people just love his food. It's right on the water and in the perfect location for dinner!

 
Ruby's kitchen food
Ruby's Kitchen place

I hope you have a fun time at the McCall Winter Carnival! Let me know if you've discovered any other really fun activities to do there in the comments below!

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Mccall Winter Carnival
mccall winter carnival

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