Light shines brightest in the dark of winter. Better dress warmly for Montréal en Lumière, a winter festival that features entertainment, grandiose light installations, an ice slide, and a zip line spanning two city blocks. One of the highlights is gastronomy, and a dizzying plethora of dining events are on offer. A free cheese festival (Fête des Fromages d’Ici) showcases cheeses from Quebec and is held just across the street at Complexe Desjardins (Feb. 18 to 20). On Nuit Blanche (or “sleepless night”), 200 free activities are offered until dawn (Feb. 27). The festival runs Feb. 18 to March 5. montrealenlumiere.com
Fire & Ice in upstate New York’s Thousand Islands is a three-day festival (Feb. 18 to 20) featuring more than 20,000 pounds of spectacularly carved ice sculptures against the backdrop of the St. Lawrence River. More than a thousand guests braved the cold last year to attend the event. It takes place at the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel, whose patio is transformed into a bar made of ice, complete with ice benches. An admission fee of $20 includes small bites, beer and wine samples, fireworks, and DJ entertainment. 1000islandsharborhotel.com
Proving that chocolate isn’t limited to Valentine’s Day, the sweet confection figures in a number of winter events, albeit sometimes with a dose of fitness thrown in—to offset the guilt, maybe?
Chocoholic cross-country skiers or snowshoers can head to Mount Washington Valley in New Hampshire on Feb. 28 for the 27th Annual Chocolate Festival, simply known as the “Sweetest Day on the Trails.” Chocolate fountains, brownie sundaes, and chocolate-dipped strawberries will fuel those hardworking gourmands who wend their way from trailside stop to trailside stop. crosscountryskinh.com
La Chococourse, a 5K walk/run event at Parc Maisonneuve in Montreal on March 19 also features chocolate stations. It’s untimed so walkers and runners can give free rein to their temptations.
If a leisurely walk around the lake is more your cup of tea, head to Lake Seneca, N.Y., for the Chocolate & Wine Weekend in Seneca, N.Y. (Feb. 19 to 21). Thirty wineries will open their doors, offering creative pairings of chocolate and wine. senecalakewine.com
And there’s yet more sweet stuff coming: 110 maple producers across New York State open their doors during the 21st Annual Maple Weekends (held during two weekends: March 19 to 20 and April 2 to 3). Visitors can sample maple products for free and get a firsthand glimpse at maple syrup production. For example, Catskill Mountain Maple in DeLancey, in the Catskills region, offers a complimentary pancake, egg, and sausage breakfast until 2 p.m., and lessons in how to make candy and maple cream. The complete list of participants can be found at nysmaple.com
If warmer climes beckon, head on south for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival (March 2 to 6). The festival celebrates Charleston’s culinary culture with more than 100 events, which include a tasting of small-batch whiskeys made from heirloom grains at High Wire Distilling; a half-day boat tour and dinner with chefs Nico Romo and Virginia Willis highlighting sustainable fish; a day at Scott’s BBQ in Hemingway, South Carolina; and much more. charlestonwineandfood.com
Now in its 15th year, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (Feb. 24 to 28) in Miami Beach brings 350 chefs, winemakers, and food personalities for tastings, throwdowns, demos, and intimate dinners. Think “Paellas by the Pool” hosted by José Andres; brunch with Nigella Lawson; and “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown” with Guy Fieri. This year, the festival branches out to Fort Lauderdale, with dinners matching celebrity chefs with local chefs and Seaside Eats hosted by Robert Irvine. sobefest.com
Farm-to-table cuisine, fine wines, and local and celebrity chefs all come together at Flavor! Napa Valley (March 16 to 20), during Cabernet season. The roster of events include the Celebrity Chef and Winemaker Golf Tournament, wine tours, a wine dinner celebrating the Judgement of Paris, and a brunch party at The Meritage. flavornapavalley.com
For a taste of Denmark with warmer temperatures, head to the village of Solvang, Calif., which was settled by Danes and whose architectural façades reflect traditional Danish style. Taste of Solvang (March 16 to 20) features a blind wine tasting challenge, a wine and beer walk, a tasting trail through Solvang, and a class on the art of smorrebrod and aebleskiver, and a Danish St. Patrick’s Day mash up dinner with Danish-inspired bites from chefs from Santa Ynez Valley. solvangusa.com
For the 28th year, the “hottest show on earth” showcases more than 1,000 chili pepper products. The National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show takes place at the Sandoa Resort & Casino in Albuquerque on March 4 to 6. fieryfoodsshow.com
The Nth 2016 Ultimate Whisky Experience, a luxury tasting show presented by Universal Whiskey Experience, will be held in Las Vegas on March 2 to 5. This year’s edition sees the launch of the oldest whisky in the world, Mortlach 75YO by Gordan & Macphail. Expect walk-around tastings, a whiskey speed dating event, dinner at Joel Robuchon, and a High Roller Day, featuring whiskeys valued at more than $3,000 a dram. universalwhiskyexperience.com