Don’t be Bored This Winter: Festivals Abound

HeidiTown got its real start when it became all about festivals around 2010. This virtual town was around before then, but once I started concentrating on events and festivals, things took off and the town grew. 

Best of HeidiTown 2016, Rio Frio on Ice, 5K on the Rio Grande Rive river in Alamosa, Colorado.
My first 5K! Running the Rio Frio on the Rio Grande River in Alamosa, Colorado.

I thought I’d return to my roots and share a few upcoming festivals that should be on your radar. Being blessed to have attended a lot of events over the years, these are ones that I thought were worth mentioning. While I’m sure I’ve missed some events, these stand out to me today. 

Alamosa, Colorado: A James Beard Nomination & Taco Heaven
Rio Frio 5K on Ice 2023

First, two festivals at the end of this month deserve your attention. They are super duper different, so your mood may determine where you end up. Or, if you’d like to run a race, outdoors on a frozen river, the first festival is for you.

Alamosa, Colorado: A James Beard Nomination & Taco Heaven

January 26 through 28, it’s the Rio Frio Ice Fest in Alamosa, located in South Central Colorado. We enjoyed it so much the first time in 2016 that we headed back last winter. It’s grown into a city-wide party with ice sculpting, a polar plunge, a tasting event, a disc golf tournament, moonlight cross-country skiing, ice bonfire, and more. The highlight though is still the 5K on Ice that happens on Saturday of the event. 

Alamosa, Colorado A James Beard Nomination & Taco Heaven. HeidiTown (12)
This view from Blanca Vista Park in Alamosa.

Each year there’s a theme and last year it was the 90s, so of course, I had to go. For example, when we signed up for the Rio Frio 5K on Ice I got a free scrunchie. Alamosa is not an expensive city. We got a hotel room for less than $85 per night, and the dog got to go.

A Colorado Hot Spring at 7,700 Feet Above Sea Level

Alamosa is located in the San Luis Valley, a beautiful place and without a doubt one of our favorite valleys. We go there a lot (and not always officially on the HeidiTown clock). This year’s Rio Frio Ice Fest theme is Penguin Party (so get your tux and waddle ready). 

Don't be Bored This Winter Festivals Abound. HeidiTown
Animas City Theatre where the Follies were simulcast.

On two weekends, in Durango, partiers will love the 45th Annual Snowdown, January 26 through February 4. There is always a theme. When we went it was Comic-Con Snowdown (2019) and this year it’s Peace, Love & Snowdown. I am imagining a lot of bell bottoms and beads. 

Why Do Snowdown in Durango?
Dining in Durango Pozole to Pho, It Never Gets Boring 16.
I don’t know these people. Durango, Snowdown, 2019

A TON of things are going on during this festival. I know we drank a lot, watched hot air balloons, drank some more, watched fireworks, and a parade, drank some more, watched human foosball, and then attended the Follies (a Snowdown must for locals). We also attended a bloody Mary and chili-tasting event and went dog sledding (that last one was not part of the festival, but I had so much fun).

Dining in Durango Pozole to Pho, It Never Gets Boring 7.
This is not Andy from “Parks & Rec.” Snowdown 2019.

Let’s just say that Snowdown is fun as a visitor to Durango, but it is embraced with enthusiasm by the locals, young and old. It’s a chance to let down your hair and get a little crazy. As far as mountain festivals go, this one is right up there with Ullr Fest in Breckenridge, which I adore.

Don't be Bored This Winter Festivals Abound. HeidiTown
Durango Dog Ranch

This is the perfect time of year to start planning a little Nebraska getaway to see the Sandhill Cranes. More than a million will migrate through the state from late February to early April. You needn’t be an avid bird watcher to go. Anyone with an appreciation of nature will be astounded by this event. It was like being in a David Attenborough “Our Planet” show.

Commune with Nature Birds in North Platte with Dusty Trails. HeidiTown (4)
Sunset from a bird blind in North Platte, Nebraska.
A Night with the Sandhill Cranes 


A Night with the Sandhill Cranes at the Crane Trust in Nebraska. HeidiTown (14)

We’ve been several times, going on Sandhill Crane tours in both Grand Island and North Platte in differing years. I also recommend the Prairie Chicken tours (Dusty Trails) that happen in North Platte around the same time. You probably should be a bit of a bird nerd for this outing. Dusty Trails does Sandhill Crane tours as well.

Dance Fighting in North Platte, Nebraska: Prairie Chicken Tour


Dance Fighting in North Platte, Nebraska Prairie Chicken Tour. HeidiTown (8)

This year, I’m speaking at the Nebraska Planning Conference (HeidiTown Consulting) in Kearny in March, so I hope to see the Sandhill Cranes then. 

A Visit to Kearny: Nebraska Steak, Sandhill Cranes & Vinyl  

February is all about love and no city celebrates quite like Loveland, Colorado. It is the Sweetheart City, after all. When I say a lot is happening, I am not exaggerating. Grimm Brothers Brewhouse has made a porter for the occasion, Sweetheart Winery made a special wine, and there’s even candy made by the Colorado Candy Company. In case that wasn’t enough, Top of the Lake Coffee brewed a special kind of java for the occasion. 

February 10, is the free Sweetheart Festival in downtown Loveland. The 6th annual event will feature everything from ice sculptures to bands. Starting with a 5K race in the morning and ending with Spinphony headlining The Rialto in the evening, this is the day to be in Loveland. Details at

Sweetheart Festival 2022,
Sweetheart Festival 2022

On Valentine’s Day, a Wednesday, there will be a group wedding on the ice at the Eagles game. The Eagles are a professional hockey team with their home at Blue Arena in Loveland (Blue Arena is formerly Budweiser Events Center). There is a lot of hoopla around this event where couples can also renew their vows. It’s an incredibly affordable way to tie the knot. More info at

Don't be Bored This Winter Festivals Abound. HeidiTown
Sweetheart Festival 2023

Other events are in the works in the land of love, including a beer tasting and live music event at Chapungu Sculpture Park which will be lit up in lights for the holiday. Keep tabs on as that is in development.

Centerra Lights Sweetheart Festival 2022 (1)
Chapungu Sculpture Park – Loveland Lights 2022

Last year, we made a rather impromptu road trip to Albuquerque for this event. The National Fiery Foods & BBQ Show had been on my radar for a couple of years, and we decided to go. We were glad we did. Albuquerque is an entertaining city especially if you like beer and tacos and thankfully, I love both.

Surprised by Albuquerque, New Mexico in a Good Way

I wrote about the Fiery Foods Festival on 

Don't be Bored This Winter Festivals Abound. HeidiTown
Fiery Foods Fest 2023
Living the Spicy Life at the Fiery Foods & BBQ Show

Taste of Vail is an event I’ve been attending for years. This April it runs the 3rd through 6th, and for the first time in a while, I might not make it. I might be speaking at a conference in Durango, but you should go.

ski helmet dangling from a tree at the Mountain Top Picnic at Taste of Vail.
A helmet hangs from a tree at the Mountain Top Picnic at Taste of Vail. You can ski in or take the gondola to this event.

What many people don’t realize about Taste of Vail is that tickets to events can be purchased separately, making it a more affordable excursion. Founded in 1990 by a group of food and wine enthusiasts, there’s everything from wine tastings to a picnic on the mountain (a ticket to this event includes a free gondola ride).

Find the Soul of Colorado Wine: Go to the Source
Where to Stay in Vail, Colorado Manor Vail Lodge. HeidiTown (3)
Taste of Vail 2022

Lodging options abound in Vail and the Vail Valley. Last year, we stayed at Montaneros Vail, which I wrote about for The Heidi Guide. You can save a few pennies by staying “down valley” in Eagle.  

The Sebastian, Vail, Colorado

Lastly, I want to highlight St. Patrick’s Day, my favorite holiday. I am not Catholic, and even though I have an Irish grandmother, I celebrate in a wholly pagan sort of way (some might call it the American version of St. Paddy’s Day).   

Spend St. Patrick’s Day in One of These Colorado Towns 1. HeidiTown
I love St. Patrick’s Day and so does this guy. This photo is from a long-defunked Irish festival.

I have to have some corned beef and cabbage alongside a wee dram of whiskey. A little Dropkick Murphy’s and The Elders provide the soundtrack to my jig, and there are usually a few friends who help me celebrate. It’s pretty simple. 

Spend St. Patrick’s Day in One of These Colorado Towns

St. Patrick’s Day is March 17 and falls on a Sunday, so I assume it will be an extra special religious holiday in Ireland. Here in Colorado, we plan to gig on Saturday night into the early hours of St. Patrick’s Day.

Don't be Bored This Winter Festivals Abound. HeidiTown
One of my favorite memories is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with friends in Grand Lake with Western Riviera Lakeside Lodging.

There you have it. There’s no reason to be bored this winter. Festivals and events are happening across the area, so get out there and have a little chilly fun.

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