New England Celebrates Winter With Festivals

Don't give in to cabin fever. Cold weather doesn't have to mean staying indoors — especially in New England, where chilly temps and snow just add to the fun at February winter festivals.

When you go, bring plenty of warm clothes — and, if you're brave enough, your bathing suit, since some of the celebrations, like Newport, R.I.'s annual Winter Festival, feature a polar bear plunge. Event director David Rosenberg says more than 20,000 visitors from throughout the Northeast brave the elements to participate in the frosty festivities.

"People are excited to get outdoors after being cooped up inside for so long," says Rosenberg. "They strip down and run into the ocean, watch polo on the beach, then follow it up with hot chili and a cold beer."

Newport's annual Winter Festival, Feb. 17-26, boasts more than 150 events, including a children's fair, a chili cook-off, concerts, beach polo, the polar bear plunge and other zany activities. newportwinterfestival.com.

Head to Hanover, N.H., Feb. 9-12 for "Dartmouth College of Icecraft & Blizzardy." Dartmouth's annual winter carnival has been taking place since 1911, and this year's festivities feature a polar bear swim, an ice sculpture contest, skiing and games. facebook.com/DartmouthWinterCarnival.

Brattleboro, Vt., hosts its 61st Winter Carnival Feb. 18-26. The 10-day stretch of activities includes sleigh rides and hay rides, skiing and ice fishing, sugar-on-snow tastings and a chili cook off. brattleborowintercarnival.org.

The town of Newport, N.H., has been holding its Winter Carnival for 100 years. The 2017 event, Feb. 8-12, includes a parade, midnight ice skating, horse-drawn wagon rides, sledding, an ice fishing derby, kids' activities and entertainment. newportwintercarnival.org.

Lowell, Mass., transforms its downtown with skating rinks, a winter market with local artisans, heated tents, holiday trees, fire pits, entertainment, a soup competition and a family fun zone, for the annual Winter Fest on Feb. 24 and 25. likelowell.com/winterfest.

The U.S. National Toboggan Championships are just part of Winterfest in Camden, Maine. The weeklong celebration, Feb. 4-12, features ice carving and snow sculpting, freestyle snowboarding and skiing competitions — and a snow plow parade. camdenmaineexperience.com.

Here in Connecticut, Mount Southington ski area hosts an annual winter carnival. This year's event, on Feb. 18, includes a cardboard box race, face painting, a balloon artist and entertainment. mountsouthington.com.

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