Ice Carving
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ULTIMATE Guide to the Carnaval Maine Winter Festival 2023

For more than a century, the people of Portland Maine have been celebrating the dark days of winter with a festive carnival that is designed to bring warmth and brightness into the hearts of visitors and locals alike.

The Carnaval Maine Winter Festival is a beloved annual event that continues to return year after year with new and exciting exhibits, events, attractions, and more, making it one of the best winter things to do in Maine.

Ice Carving

About the Carnaval Maine Winter Festival

Carnaval Maine is a large winter festival that has become a seasonal tradition in the city of Portland. Most years, the festival lasts for about 10 days.

The events include live entertainment, ice sculpture displays and competitions, food trucks, family-friendly activities, and a handful of special guests. Previous festivals have also included a Visit Maine Igloo, an ice sculpture station, a stage, and a beer garden, among other points of interest.

Every year, community organizers select a nonprofit organization to benefit from the proceeds of the festival, making this the type of event that allows people to come together, make memories, and support a great cause.

Previously, the festival has benefited organizations like Winter Kids, which provides children of all ages and abilities with the opportunity to enjoy winter sports in the Portland area.

Tommy's Park - Portland, Maine
Tommy’s Park | photo via @grossconfectionbar

Location of the Carnaval Maine Winter Festival

The Eastern Promenade in Portland is transformed each year when the Carnaval Maine Winter Festival takes shape. Visitors can access the festival grounds from Cutter Street, and then they can begin exploring the various facilities that host the festival events.

Things to Know Before Visiting the Carnaval Maine Winter Festival

Carnaval Maine is designed to be an attraction that draws people to the heart of Portland during the cold winter months, showcasing that Maine is more than just a summertime destination. Here are a few things that you should know before you head to the Carnaval Maine Winter Festival:

  • Typically, this is a 10-day festival experience that takes place in mid-to-late February.
  • There are live music performances each year, including some of the top acts in the entertainment industry.
  • Carnaval Maine is designed for people of all ages. There are family-friendly activities and entertainment options for adults over the age of 21, making it the perfect winter experience for everyone in Portland.
  • Tickets are required to attend the event. One ticket will give you access to one day of festivities. Sometimes, tickets can be purchased in advance for a discounted rate.
  • The Carnaval Maine Winter Festival is an outdoor event that will take place regardless of the weather, so it’s important to dress appropriately and be prepared to enjoy the cold, fresh air of Portland in the winter.
Formal Gala

Things to Do at the Carnaval Maine Winter Festival

The events and activities at the Carnaval Maine Winter Festival can vary from year to year, but for the most part, there is always a select set of things on the itinerary.

Attend the Formal Gala to Kick Off the Event

Each year, the Carnaval Maine Winter Festival kicks off with an opulent gala that brings members of the community together to celebrate the city’s hallmark event. The gala typically reflects the theme of the year, and it allows individuals, businesses, and travelers to mix and mingle in a swanky setting.

Watch Local Performers Live on Stage

Over the week, many performers across a variety of genres take to the stage to play for the event attendees. The event organizers strive to bring in new and exciting talent each year.

In the past, bands like Hello Newman and the Jason Spooner Band have performed on the aptly-named Snow Stage.

Carnaval Maine - Portland, Maine
Carnaval Maine | photo via @getmainelobster

View Ice Carvers in Action & Admire Their Sculptures

Perhaps one of the most exciting events of this annual festival is the ice carving demonstrations. Artists whose medium is large blocks of ice rely on their loud and fierce carving tools to transform frozen water into fleeting works of art.

Visitors can not only watch the ice carvers in action but also stroll through the festival grounds to see some of the impressive sculptures and displays that are designed for the competition.

Let Your Kids Create Crafts & Make Memories in the Kid Zone

For every festival, the Kid Zone is designed with the youngest festivalgoers in mind. Parents and caregivers can bring children to this area to enjoy their own special activities, such as crafts, games, obstacle courses, winter activities, and more.

Sip Some Beer From the Best Local Brewers in Maine

Some spaces in the festival are reserved for attendees over the age of 21, and the brew tent is one of those areas. Here, adults can sip frothy, freshly poured brews from some of the best local craft brewers in Maine.

As the craft beer scene continues to grow and prosper in Portland, this is becoming one of the most popular areas of the festival.

Longfellow Square - Portland, Maine
Longfellow Square | photo via Kenneth Zirkel

More Winter Things to Do in Portland

Portland is not a city that hibernates during the winter months. Mainers embrace the elements and often find themselves outdoors enjoying all that the snow and ice have to offer. So, these are just a few of the winter things you can do in Portland Maine.

Sled Down the Slickest Hills in the City

The people of Portland know that when snow starts to fall, the sled hills will quickly become the only place for people of all ages to be.

Throughout the city, you will find sled hills in local parks and neighborhoods, allowing the young and young at heart to enjoy the thrill of gliding down in their favorite saucers or toboggans.

Stroll Along the Icy Waterfront

Portland is a coastal city that is known for its breathtaking views, and those vistas become even more captivating during the winter when ice sparkles on top of the water.

Portland’s waterfront area is a hotbed of activity with plenty of shops and dining to complement the picture-perfect views. There’s no better way to spend a chilly afternoon than by walking along the water.

Warm Up in the Local Museums

Culture and art reign supreme in Portland Maine, and there are many interesting and captivating museums to explore. Some of the best museums include the Portland Museum of Art, the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, and the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Hot Suppa - Portland, Maine - Portland Restaurants
Hot Suppa | photo via @findus_eating

Winter Dining Spots in Portland Maine

Although the Carnaval Maine Winter Festival has food trucks, you might prefer to dine at a sit-down restaurant. Fortunately, there are plenty of restaurants in Portland to have a fantastic meal.

Hot Suppa

The best way to warm up during Portland in winter is to indulge in hearty Southern fare from Hot Suppa, a locally-owned restaurant in downtown Portland. Hot Suppa specializes in comfort food and is most well-known for its brunch.

Street & Co.

For fresh Maine seafood in an upscale, urban locale, consider dining at Street & Co. This intimate restaurant has been serving seafood in Portland for more than 30 years in the Old Port district.

The Highroller Lobster Co.

Starting as a food truck on Portland’s streets in 2015, the Highroller Lobster Co. has become a full restaurant that serves some of the best seafood on Maine’s coast. You’ll find unique dishes on the menu, such as lobster corn dogs, lobster grilled cheese, and whoopie pies.

Blind Tiger - Portland, Maine
Blind Tiger | photo via @angelamuir

Winter Lodging Options in Portland Maine

To make the most out of your Carnaval Maine experience, we recommend staying in Portland for at least one night. The city has several cozy and luxurious hotels and other lodging options that are ideal for an overnight or weekend stay.

The Inn at St. John

The Inn at St. John is a favorite among travelers because it is one of the few independently owned hotels in the city.

With a premier downtown location and a welcoming atmosphere, this hotel provides an authentic taste of the city’s culture. Your stay includes breakfast, which means that you will be properly fueled for the festival.

The Percy Inn

The Percy Inn is a bed and breakfast located in a charming Federal-style historic home that was built in 1830.

The inn itself has been in operation since the late 1990s, and it has become known as one of the best places to stay in Portland Maine. It is situated in the heart of Longfellow Square, putting you within walking distance of the city’s top attractions.

Blind Tiger

Blind Tiger is a more recent addition to the Portland hotel scene, and it’s ideal for travelers who are looking for a sleek and modern place to stay in the city.

Rather than describing itself as a hotel, Blind Tiger refers to its location as a guesthouse and prides itself on giving guests an immersive city experience.

Ice Festival

Plan Your Visit to the Carnaval Maine Winter Festival

Carnaval Maine is just one reason to visit Portland during the winter months. The city may be enveloped in a layer of cold and ice by the time winter arrives, but the heart of the community is sure to keep you feeling warm and toasty — no matter what you choose to do.

And while you’re here, consider checking out the many other winter things to do in Maine. It’s the perfect time to explore this winter wonderland.

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