10 dog-friendly winter events

Are you looking for a great seasonal attraction that welcomes four-legged visitors? Take a look at these top dog-friendly winter events!

Winter is a wonderful time of year. No matter where you live in North America, there’s beauty to be witnessed and fun to be had – and chances are, you’ll find it not too far from home! In fact, there are many winter events that both you and your canine companion can attend! Here’s just ten to get you started:

1. Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights

This magnificent holiday tradition has delighted guests – both two- and four-legged – for over two decades. Every year, over a million LED lights transforms the gardens’ daytime splendor into a winter wonderland displaying more than 30 holiday scenes every night throughout the season.

Families and their dogs can create their own holiday adventure as they enter through the historic roundhouse gates onto the North Pole Highway and choose which themed path to venture onto first. The Magic Forest features a Christmas wonderland of colorful dancing trees, orbs and arches all twinkling and flashing to an original score of festive music, and leads to the beloved Fairyland Caverns. In the Arctic Kingdom, Blizzard’s Pass showcases icy gardens with lighted penguins fishing and animatronic polar bears. Yule Town is the traditional route through the trail, displaying a classic vintage theme with the Legends of Christmas, which portrays classic holiday icons. Nightly entertainers also perform in the North Pole Lodge.

Where: Lookout Mountain, Georgia

When: Mid-November – December

2. Lost Pines Christmas Festival

This fun event offers plenty of dog-friendly outdoor activities to enjoy, including a downtown lighting party, Christmas parade, movie in the park and more. The festival is conveniently positioned along the Colorado River just 30 miles east from Austin. Many locals bring their pets to join the celebration year after year, while newcomers and their families travel from near and far to experience the holiday festivities, bustling art scene and vibrant nightlife. It’s a perfect getaway for pet parents who want to experience true Texan culture!

Where: Historic downtown Bastrop, Texas.

When: November 24 –December 23

3. Christmas on the Cumberland

Christmas on the Cumberland is sure to create lasting memories for the entire family this holiday season. This .7-mile stretch of the Cumberland RiverWalk is extremely captivating, boasting over one million lights. The grand opening ceremony of Christmas on the Cumberland’s 19th year is Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the McGregor Park RiverWalk. And it’s free to all humans and leashed pets!

Where: McGregor Park, Clarksville, Tennessee

When: November 20 – January 1, 2019

Photo courtesy of C2 Photography.

4. Wintersköl™

Aspen’s annual “toast to winter” returns for its 68th year this January. The four-day dog-friendly celebration features on-and-off mountain activities, festivals, and free-and-nearly-free events for the entire family. Wintersköl dates back to a quiet January in 1951 when local Aspenites decided to celebrate Aspen’s unique lifestyle with an eclectic weekend of festivities.  Today the seasonal celebration features a variety of community events, fireworks and much more.

Where: Aspen, Colorado

When: January 10–13, 2019

 5. The Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights

This Richmond holiday tradition features over half-a-million twinkling lights, hand-crafted botanical decorations, model trains, holiday dinners, roaring fires, hot chocolate, and plenty of family-friendly activities. Leashed dogs are welcome to attend on certain dates.

Where: Richmond, Virginia

When: November 23 – January 7

6. Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles

Every Saturday and Sunday from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, the picturesque lake town of Skaneateles transports visitors to 1842, as Charles Dickens is gathering research for his soon-to-be-written classic, “A Christmas Carol.” Dogs and their humans can stroll the streets as they meet Dickens, Queen Victoria, Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Fagin, Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Together they can enjoy The World’s Smallest Christmas Parade, Christmas carol sing-alongs (with awards for the most spirited!), street performances of “A Christmas Carol,” and more!

Where: Skaneateles, New York

When: November 24 – December 24

Photo courtesy of VisitCOS.com.

7. Annual Great Fruitcake Toss

This one-of-a-kind dog-friendly event, where enthusiasts travel from all over to compete for trophies and bragging rights, has been a community highlight for more than 22 years. The great fruitcake toss is the event of the winter season as the hapless dessert is launched into space with a variety of mechanical and pneumatic devices. Competitions have included the Hand Toss, Kid’s Toss, Launch, Pneumatic Gun or Canon, Team Catch or Accuracy division.  The cost of competing is simply a non-perishable food item, to be donated to the Westside Cares food bank.

Where: Manitou Springs, Colorado

When: January 26, 2019

Photo courtesy of David J. Murray ClearEyePhoto.com.

8. Annual Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth

Start the “eve” of your New Year a little early by heading downtown in the afternoon to dance in the streets to music provided by WSCA Portsmouth Community Radio. Cha-cha right up to the ice sculpture, and watch artists create an original piece of work right in Market Square. Musicians make up a good portion of the night’s entertainment, featuring artists including world music ambassador Randy Armstrong, Cormac McCarthy and his band, and the Portsmouth Symphony Players. This affair is family-friendly, and dogs are welcome at all outdoor events. Bring your pup and enjoy puppet shows, magic, face painting, storytelling, and even a sword swallower!

Where: Portsmouth, New Hampshire

When: December 31

Photo courtesy of VisitFranklin.com.

9. Franklin, Tennessee’s annual Dickens of a Christmas

‘Tis the season for Dickens! This particular recreation is set on the backdrop of historic downtown Franklin, where Victorian architecture has made the event a mainstay for over 35 years. More than 200 musicians, dancers, and personas fill the streets, including several from Charles Dickens’ stories. Visitors of the two-day festival (including canines) can expect to see and interact with the nefarious characters while enjoying delicious treats, live music, carolers and Christmas lights.

Where: Dec 8-9, 2018

When: Franklin, Tennessee

10. Winter Carnival in Quebec City

Quebec City is one of the few cities in the world that truly embraces its cold winters! Experience the old-world charm of the urban center during the season when the city transforms into a winter wonderland. Each year, citizens host their annual carnival, the largest festival celebrating the winter season in the world. Festival-goers will enjoy more than 200 family-friendly seasonal activities, including an ice palace, ice canoe races, night parades, snow slides, snow sculptures, shows, ice skating, live music, food and beverages and much more. The event is dog-friendly, except designated areas where food is served.

Where: Quebec City, Canada

When: February 8–17, 2019

Winter safety tips

Before you pack up Fido for his winter adventure, consider these seasonal safety tips.

  • Keep him warm. A good dog coat isn’t just a fashion statement, but a way to help your dog stay at a comfortable temperature.
  • Protect his paws. Dog boots are another important clothing accessory for your dog during the winter months. Not only will a good pair of dog boots keep your dog’s feet warm and dry, they’ll also offer protection against salt and other harmful ice melting agents.
  • Know his limits. Some winter days might be too cold for a long outdoor adventure. Be safe and take cues from your dog if he seems cold or uncomfortable.

Now, off to your dog-friendly winter adventure!


Tonya Wilhelm is a dog training and cat care specialist who has traveled the US promoting positive ways of preventing and managing behavior issues with a holistic approach. Named one of the top ten dog trainers in the US, she has helped thousands build happy relationships with their dogs with humane, positive training methods. She wrote Proactive Puppy Care, and other books. Tonya offers group and private dog training classes, provides training and behavior services via phone and online, and does workshops at pet expos (raisingyourpetsnaturally.com).