Party under the Northern Lights: Three Yukon festivals to shine bright this Canadian winter

With days that hit minus twenty degrees Celsius, and nights that hit minus thirty, visiting Canada’s Yukon Territory in winter time is not for the faint of heart. But for locals and guests alike, it’s no time for hibernation. The territory, which is the smallest and westernmost of Canada’s three federal territories, and the smallest in population of any State of territory in the country, pushes through their months of lengthy night sky – complete with Northern Lights – with non-stop culture, musical and culinary events.

Here are three of their most unique festivals that might interest Australian travellers:

The Yukon Quest

The world-famous Yukon Quest awakens to the howls of hundreds of sled dogs, beginning their momentous two-week journey across the glistening, icy wilderness of northwest Canada. On 3 February, 2018, groups of 14 canines led by one human ‘musher’ will race over 1600 kilometres between Whitehorse and Fairbanks, Alaska. One thing is certain: not every team will make it to the end as they battle 40 below zero temperatures at this quintessential Yukon event in pursuit of the championship title.

Visitors from around the world will flock to the city of Whitehorse to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the Quest, including live music and celebrations as the mushers and their sled dogs gather on the starting line.

Ice sculptures at the Sourdough Rendezvous in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada.

Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous

The capital city of Whitehorse comes alive during its annual winter carnival, the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous, which runs from 16th to the 25th of February, 2018. The “Rendezvous” is filled with eccentric entertainment such as lip syncing, hair freezing, cross-dressing, and even beard growing competitions. There are also concerts, snow carving, and an entire section of the festival dedicated to the little ones, Kidsfest.

Kidsfest comes complete with Slide and Glide on the toboggan hill, face painting, and traditional fare such as the egg toss and potato sack races. And it’s all free of charge.

Thaw di Gras

And finally, Aussie travellers heading to Yukon at the end of winter are just in time to attend Dawson City’s signature event, Thaw di Gras. Also free of charge, the whole town buzzes during this lively community event with activities and competitions from the serious to the outrageous.

Take to the stage at Diamond Tooth Gerties, Canada’s oldest casino, for the ultimate lip-syncing competition, join the hockey tournament on the frozen streets of Dawson, check out the snow sculptures, and enjoy the carnival atmosphere with live music and endless merriment.

The township of Dawson City is often likened to a movie set, with its historical buildings and wooden boardwalks that hearken back to the famous Klondike gold rush era of 1898.

Getting to the Yukon

Air Canada has daily direct flights to Vancouver from Sydney and Brisbane, with connecting flights to Whitehorse and Dawson City available on Air North. For more information about the Yukon visit


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.