Winterfest is a charming tradition that has retained its intimate feel despite the fact that it’s become an increasingly popular destination.

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 Lake Chelan is most commonly associated with summertime fun, but why limit yourself to visiting only once a year? Lake Chelan Winterfest, which takes place from Jan. 12 through Jan. 21 this year, is the perfect way to enjoy some summer-style fun (while wearing a cozy winter coat, of course).

Dating back to the 1980s, Winterfest is a charming tradition that has retained its intimate feel despite the fact that it’s become an increasingly popular tourist destination over the past few years. The wide streets are shut down so they can only be traversed by horse-drawn carriages and pedestrians.

How exactly does one evoke the summertime spirit during the dead of winter in the Pacific Northwest? Read on, because the following events are sure to do the trick.

Ice sculptures

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Ice sculptures are a lovely substitute for sandcastles — especially the ones in Lake Chelan. There are approximately 20 ice sculptures during Winterfest, and the most beloved showpiece is the ice throne. Constructed out of 50 blocks of ice, visitors can sit on it and (of course) snap that perfect Instagram picture.

The individual ice sculptures are also a sight to behold. Experienced ice teams head to Lake Chelan and visitors can watch as they construct the sculptures using chainsaws and drills. Although the theme varies, there are always wildlife sculptures as well as a Husky-themed ice carving.

The ice sculptures are spread out all around town, and the carving is timed so there’s always an artist at work for visitors to watch.

Another highlight is the Ice Slide. Sculptors come together to build a mountain of snow in the middle of the street, put together 50 blocks of ice, and form a massive slide that lights up. Predictably, going down the lit-up slide is a favorite activity for young visitors. After all, who needs a water slide when you’ve got an ice slide?

Beach bonfire

Lake Chelan’s beach bonfire will have you clamoring to head to the beach in January. Residents turn over their Christmas trees to be burned in this community fire. Approximately 600 trees are stacked up and on Sat., Jan. 13, the fire concludes the day’s festivities.

As the sun starts to set, a procession heads to the beach for the bonfire. When visitors arrive at the beach, they’ll find that it looks remarkably like summer because people are in their swim attire to prepare for the Polar Bear Plunge. After a countdown, visitors jump into the freezing lake and then hurry over to the “instant heater” of the bonfire. As they dry off and warm up, a fireworks show takes place over the lake.

Live music

If you miss summer’s outdoor concerts, you’re in luck because live music is a major component of Winterfest. The first weekend boasts an impressive lineup, with musicians and bands from a variety of genres. Here are the artists who are headed to Lake Chelan to put on a Winterfest show:

Fri., Jan. 12

5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Aaron Crawford

7 p.m. -10 p.m. DJ Indica

Sat., Jan. 13

3 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. Live Music

4 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. Kevin Jones Band

5 p.m. – 6 p.m. Miller Campbell

7 p.m. -10 p.m. Soul Siren

Ice Tower Lighting

The Ice Tower Lighting, which combines fire and ice for a dramatic effect, takes place Sat., Jan. 20. An ice tower that’s around 10 feet tall is built during the day and visitors gather to watch the spectacle. The tower, which resembles an ice chimney and is ornately decorated, comes together only to be dramatically burned down later in the day. Wood is inserted inside the tower and, at around 6 p.m., the tower is lit on fire and visitors watch as a massive amount of ice melts in a span of less than 20 minutes. There’s something you don’t see every day!

Snowflake Lane

Instead of spending their free time at the beach, kids head to Snowflake Lane to play on the ice slide and participate in organized activities as well as arts and crafts. For the grownups, there’s the delightful Wine Walk, an opportunity to meet winemakers and sample local wines in either the heated Tasting Tent or in Lake Chelan’s boutique shops.

Escape to our winter wonderland: Lake Chelan Winterfest plays host to Washington’s most exciting winter festival. Glide over the snow in a horse-drawn carriage, sip and savor at our wine walk or watch the kiddos race down the ice slide.