Revel in New Zealand's largest celebration of winter

May 07,2015

Want to kick off the ski season in style? Head to Queenstown for the American Express Queenstown Winter Festival.

The Queenstown Winter Festival celebrates 41 years of snowy fun and scheduled chaos from 19 to 28 June. The annual event began in 1975 after a couple of local men decided the small village needed a shake-up. The months of April, May and June were usually quiet for the New Zealand tourist town, so it was agreed that everyone deserved a party. The festival was an instant success and is now arguably the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest winter celebration.

Winter Festival can be a busy time in Queenstown, so book your hotel accomodation early to avoid disappointment. If you’re looking for options, Millennium Hotels and Resorts has three affordable luxury hotels near the hub of the festival, Earnslaw Park.

Opening party and fireworks (Free event)

Friday, 19 June

Get to Earnslaw Park at 5.30pm for the opening night celebrations. This family-friendly event kicks-off the festival with lots of entertainment on the main stage and beyond. Street performers from around the world show off their collective talents as the Feeling the Street competition winners head to the mountain town. Things really start to explode at 7pm when the fireworks hit the crisp skies above Lake Wakatipu.

Credit: American Express Queenstown Winter Festival

Everyone loves a parade (Free event)

Saturday, 20 June

Head to the streets of Queenstown's central business district for the afternoon start of the Festival Street Parade. Watch as local businesses and residents exhibit their recycling skills with this year's parade theme of sustainability.

Credit: American Express Queenstown Winter Festival ©Still Vision Photography

Bay day (Free event)

Sunday, 21 June

The first Sunday is filled with hilarious fun and a little chaos as participants show off their extreme skills in the many events at Queenstown Bay. Don't miss the Birdman competition where you will see thrill-seekers launch their home-made flying machines off the jetty and straight into the freezing lake. The madness continues with the Splash and Dash race, the Undy 500 and the Dance Battle.

Doggone it (Lift passes need to be purchased up to Coronet Peak)

Thursday, 25 June

The Dog Derby and Dog Barking events have been around since day one. The dog derby was initially for farmers and their best friends, but the slip and slide down a mountain race has been open to anyone and their dog in recent years. Get up to Coronet Peak for a noon start to watch it all unfold. Then get back to Earnslaw Park by 3pm to listen for the best bark. You never know, it may come from a human. The rules state that if your dog doesn't bark on cue, you must do the honour. Free to watch.

Credit: American Express Queenstown Winter Festival

SKYCITY Masquerade en Blanc ($159 per person)

Saturday, 27 June

Looking for an evening with other adults? Pack your best white party attire and a fancy mask for this modern-day masquerade ball. This mysterious and glamorous evening includes a glass of bubbles on arrival, entertainment, a three-course dinner and local wine.

Community carnival (Free event)

Sunday, 28 June

The festival ends with another evening of fun at Earnslaw Park. Arrive hungry and grab a bite from the many food stalls as you wander the grounds in search of your favourite performer. Be sure to enjoy a mulled wine or hot chocolate before heading back to your hotel.


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