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Rochester's Winter Wonders

Those of us who consider Rochester our home are certainly no strangers to winter weather. From steady snowfall, chilly winds, and icicles galore, Rochesterians know how to endure a long winter season. 

On the flip side, we also know how to capitalize on activities during the colder months. This winter season is no exception. With many events planned over the next several months, make sure to mark your calendar for the Lakeside Winter Celebration at Ontario Beach Park, the Fire & Ice Winter Festival in Downtown Canandaigua, and the Ice Wine & Culinary Festival at Casa Larga Vineyards in Fairport. 

Canandaigua’s Fire & Ice Festival Feb. 17-18

The Fire & Ice Festival in downtown Canandaigua includes two days of fun, entertainment, and togetherness with family and friends. 

One of the festival’s biggest crowd pleasers, check out the ice carving competition on Saturday, when incredibly talented carvers compete all day, crafting their magic and vying for the winning title. There will also be speed carving competitions, which include two carvers, fifteen minutes of high stakes, and one winner! 

Right on Main Street, enjoy fire shows, warm beverage trails, Siberian husky dogsled teams, and the “SOUPerb” Food Challenge. Local chefs will participate in the festival, and all local shops will be open for business and ready to welcome you. Be sure to come back Sunday to see the ice carvings lining the street and notice with fresh eyes how they changed!

This festival has something for everyone. Enjoy the idyllic streets of Canandaigua on foot or on horse and wagon rides. Amid our colder months, come warm your spirits for a weekend you won’t forget. 

Winter Fun in Roc

Seize the opportunity of the snowfall to organize a snowman-building extravaganza or make it a friendly competition. Essential tools include waterproof gloves, buckets for snow transportation, shovels, and carving tools. Don’t forget accessories to add flair to your snowy creation.

Grab a sled and visit a few local spots, including Mendon Ponds Park, which has slopes for beginners or steep drops for thrill-seekers. Check out Cobbs Hill Park, Ellison Park, Black Creek Park, or Northampton Park in Ogden for some more stops. If you don’t love sledding, grab a pair of snowshoes and head for the trails in the park.

Drawing inspiration from WinterFest events, plan a neighborhood winter fest right in your area. Bring out fire pits or outdoor propane heaters for warmth and set up stations serving hot cocoa, cider, and comforting treats. Use slow cookers to keep soups, chilis, and stews warm.

Whether indoors or outdoors, ice skating is a perfect winter activity. A popular outdoor rink that is beautiful in the winter is the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park Ice Rink in Downtown Rochester, open till March 10th, or enjoy an open skate at the Tim Hortons Iceplex and enroll your child in their Skating 101 classes.

Ontario Beach Park Lakeside Winter Celebration 

Hosted by the Ontario Beach Park Program Committee and Special Olympics New York,

this annual celebration in the beginning of February offers activities for everyone.

Enjoy ‘rockin’ music throughout the afternoon in the heated festival tent, and don’t forget to bring your skates and glide over the ice at the county-operated rink in the park. 

For snow sculpture enthusiasts, there’s an annual contest with a professional snow sculptor creating a huge masterpiece and providing tips to amateur contestants.

Enjoy wine and craft beer tastings, along with other tasty treats. For the past three decades, the iconic Chilly Chili Challenge has drawn a family-friendly crowd. Contestants in the contest each make fifteen gallons of their delicious chili, so there is certainly plenty to go around! 

Mark your calendar for Rochester’s Annual Polar Plunge where hundreds of brave and enthusiastic participants run into the lake to benefit the Special Olympics! A fun, thrilling, and memorable experience for everyone. 

NYS Ice Wine & Culinary Festival at Casa Larga Vineyards March 02

New York State is one of the few places in the world that produces ice wine, because ice wine production, traditionally known as the German Eiswein method, is a delicate process. Andrea O’Neill, Director of Marketing at Casa Larga explains, “The grapes must be frozen on the vine and picked and pressed within hours of the first freeze. It is a very labor-intensive and weather-dependent process, so very few wineries even attempt ice wine. New York is one of the few places in the entire world with the climate to support ice wine production.”

Visit Casa Larga Vineyards in Fairport on Saturday, March 2nd for the 29th Annual New York Ice Wine & Culinary Festival. Wine connoisseur or not, this is an event you won’t want to miss. During the festival, come taste the product of that hard work right in our backyard. Sample the sweet ice wines produced at Casa Larga Vineyards and other wineries in New York State. 

With two 3-hour sessions available, enjoy wine tastings, savor small plate menus from the Bella Vista Chef, tour the vineyard, shop local vendors, and more. Don’t forget to try the Ice Festival Official Cocktail, which will include an ice wine in the recipe! While this year’s cocktail has yet to be finalized, last year’s included Pom Pom Ice, 1 oz Vidal ice wine, 1 oz pomegranate juice, and 2 oz club soda (or ginger ale) in a short cocktail glass garnished with pomegranate seeds.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit

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