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Celebrate Spring at Yellowknife's Caribou Carnival

Published by Connie Motz, Writer

Country: Canada

The Experience

When you first think of Yellowknife, it might conjure up visions of snow-clad tundra, caribou hunts, or maybe even ice fishing in this northernmost territory of Canada. During the winter season, October through April, Yellowknife’s almost 19,000 residents come out to celebrate during their annual Caribou Carnival.

Since 1955, Yellowknife's Caribou Carnival has been held in the spring months of either March or April. Originally, the Caribou Carnival was designed as a get-together for local trappers who would compete in various events in the hopes of being crowned the champion.

Don’t worry about being cold in the Diamond Capital of North America. As long as you’ve dressed appropriately, there are plenty of places to warm up and enjoy a nice big mug of hot chocolate while enjoying the fun. Today’s Caribou Carnival has evolved into offering music venues, a teen dance, fireworks, entertainment, vendors with food and crafts, traditional northern games such as snow tennis and snow bowling, and ice sculpting competitions.

What’s great about the Caribou Carnival is that it's always different. They actually scaled back a few years ago and held the majority of the events indoors, but as of 2010 they were back in full swing. This year also marked the first year to enjoy live webcasts of the Carnival.

Because of the time of year during the Caribou Carnival, another big non-carnival attraction is the spectacular views of the brilliantly coloured Northern Lights (also known as Aurora Borealis). Yellowknife is one of the best locations to view them in all of Canada, you’ll be witness to this scientific phenomenon with ribbons of colour ranging from deep emerald greens to ruby reds and royal blues.

The highly collectible annual Caribou Carnival button (or pin) is a must for purchase during the Caribou Carnival. They’re widely available for sale, and there’s also an opportunity to trade and purchase pins from previous years. If you don’t purchase the coveted pin, you risk being “arrested” by the Caribou Cops who won’t release you until you’ve bought one—all in the best of fun, of course.

The Carnival Capers, usually held at the Ed Jeske Arena in downtown Yellowknife, is a great event for the entire family. Here’s where you’ll find an offering of entertainment ranging from comedians and ventriloquists to popular local performers. The arena is also where the pageant and crowing of the royal Caribou Carnival Queen takes place.

The three-day Diavik 150 Dog Race is one of the main events attracting visitors to the Caribou Carnival. Drawing mushers and their dogs from Canada, the U.S. and even France, it’s exhilarating to watch them fly by as they make their way along the solid ice of the normally unfrozen Frame Lake. The 150-mile race takes approximately ten hours to complete, and afterwards, there’s a short window to view the dogs up close and personal (including the icicles that have formed on their snouts and whiskers).




When to Go to Caribou Carnival

Yellowknife's Caribou Carnival typically falls at the end of March or early April in some cases. The winter/spring season in Yellowknife is cold, ranging from lows of -9°F to 12°F, and highs from 11°F to 32°F.

Dress warmly in layers that can easily be removed or added for comfort. Don’t forget a hat, scarf and warm gloves , and bring a good pair of winter boots designed for colder weather.

Odds n' Ends

If you’ll be renting a car, ensure there are winter precautions included with the vehicle, like a foldable snow shovel and ice scraper

Bring a tripod for your camera to get the of most out of your Northern Lights photographs. Also take advantage of eight miles of amazing cross-country skiing trails nearby and other outdoor activities like snowmobiling, ice fishing, dog sledding, and tobogganing.


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