Queenstown Winter Festival: A Celebration of Winter

the queenstown winter festival

The Queenstown Winter Festival Review and Info

In Queenstown, the first day of winter is celebrated with a four-day long festival, the annual Queenstown Winter Festival.

The Queenstown Winter Festival is a great way to get excited for one very busy (snowy) season in this tourist town. The festival brings the community together with a variety of events night and day and is a tradition as it has been running for more than 40 years!

This year (2018) I had the opportunity to check out the Queenstown Winter Festival and some of the most popular activities. In this blog, I’ll review what I did and saw as well as include some useful info!

queenstown winter festival live music
Sweet Mix Kids performing. They were one of the many different musical acts of the festival

What are the main attractions?

Some of the most popular attractions this year included the fireworks, a dog barking competition on Cardrona, lake jumping (Birdman), the Red Bull-sponsored Rail Jam competition, The Black Seeds concert, a comedy night, and a rafting race in the lake.

The events change annually so for the most updated information check out the schedule here.

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The Queenstown Winter Festival Fireworks

The biggest attraction by far is the fireworks. The fireworks happen one night every year without fail and are quite an impressive display. They are set off from a boat in the lake showcasing an amazing reflection in the water.

Thousands of people gather at the marina to watch the display, and while you think that these many people would limit the viewing space available, Queenstown is blessed with a huge waterfront area. We were able to get right up to the water’s edge to watch the show!

queenstown winter festival fireworks

Tons of market stalls around sold food, drinks, and sweets. The licensed areas sold alcohol and I treated myself of a mulled wine (which was amazing!)

With a mulled wine in hand, I watch the fireworks on the lake with the mountains in the background. It was gorgeous.

Red Bull’s Steel Rail Jam Competition

On Thursday evening hundreds of people gathered on Brecon Street near the stairs to watch a display of snowboarding and ski stunts.

Olympic Medalists from Wanaka,  Nico Porteous and Zoi Sadowski-Synott, came with a team of skilled skiers and snowboards to perform stunts on the railings of the stairs.

rail jam at the winter festival
Olympic Medalists performed stunts on the rails of the Brecon Street stairs

Earlier in the day, the stairs were covered in snow, which is an impressive task on its own as there is actually no snow in Queenstown.

brecon street rail jam red bull event
The snow-covered stairs on Brecon Street

It was a creative and fun event to watch that attracted many of the thrill seekers who love the slopes around Queenstown.

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The Music

One of my personal favorite parts of the Queenstown Winter Festival was the live music. Over the course of the four days, every time I was in town there was at least one live music act playing. The two stages set up in the heart of Queenstown allowed for some great musicians to show off their talent.

I was particularly impressed with musicians who performed in the evenings at the Bath House Stage. This was the larger stage. They went all out with this one, huge light displays and an awesome sound system was great, especially because all of the events at the Bath House Stage were free!!

MAALA performing
MAALA performing

Some of the musicians I saw were Sweet Mix Kids, MAALA, and The Black Seeds. Each of them unique from the next and brought quite a crowd.

There was also a music festival happening at Queenstown Memorial Center on Saturday night but this was a ticketed event at $40 nzd. I didn’t get a chance to check this festival out but I heard that it was a good time.

Info about the Queenstown Winter Festival

the Queenstown Winter Festival runs annually at the beginning of winter in June from Thursday to Sunday.

Although lots of the events during the festival are free, many of the most popular are actually ticketed. For example, the comedy show sells out in advance every year.

The Queenstown winter festival also brings many tourists to town for the weekend, this can mean finding accommodation or places to eat can prove to be difficult. If you are planning on visiting Queenstown for the winter festival be sure to book your accommodation well in advance.

Looking for accomodation in Queenstown? Click here to browse all of your options.

Parking is a nightmare, don’t try to find parking. Many road closures occur during the festival to account for the many people walking the streets which limits parking spaces available. Take public transit when necessary. For bus times and routes in Queenstown, click here. 

All information about the events, times, and FAQ’s can be found on Queenstown Winter Festival website here.

food trucks at the festival
Enjoying a bite to eat from one of the food trucks!

The Nightlife

For those who are looking for a party, after all of the official festivities have stopped, the bars continue the celebration!

The many people around town mean that finding a place to eat can be difficult as many places are full, but the upside is that the bars are pumping every night! The Queenstown Winter Festival brings what is already a great nightlife in Queenstown, an even bigger and brighter nightlife with special DJs, beer tastings, and late nights.

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Overall Opinion of the Queenstown Winter Festival

I loved it! On the final day of the festival, I actually said to Daniel “I wish it was the winter festival every weekend!” There was a sense of celebration in the air that was contagious.

While many places in the world dread the shorter cold days of winter, Queenstown embraces it with a celebration! And why not celebrate, winter in Queenstown means one of the busiest seasons, skiing and snowboarding, as well as breathtaking views of snow-covered mountains!

Want more information on Queenstown or just New Zeland in general, check out our other blog posts here!

-Bailey

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