Winterfest returns with new tour packages

Winterfest is returning with guided tours to help visitors — and local staycationers — make the most of winter on the North Fork. The five-week celebration of local culture has evolved over the years from an offseason wine and music festival to an all-encompassing showcase of vintners, breweries, distilleries and artists.

Founded in 2006 as an economic engine designed to draw crowds to the North Fork before peak tourist season, the 12th annual Winterfest is returning February 22 through March 24 with a little something for everyone. Some of the scheduled events include specialty cocktails tastings at Long Island Spirits and live music at The Bay Street Theater — more events are expected to be added within the coming weeks.

There are three “Winterfest Experience” tours: a brewery tour on Feb. 23; a “mixed” tour of wineries and breweries on March 2 and a winery tour on March 9. Participants have the option of a day package starting at $150 per person that includes transportation to the destinations on the tour, stops at other scenic North Fork locations and lunch.

There is also an overnight option starting at $425 per couple that includes everything in the day package, plus transportation to Winterfest evening shows. Guests can chose from overnight stays at Hotel Indigo, Hilton Garden Inn, Residence Inn by Marriott and Duncan Inn in Jamesport as part of the package.

Tour information is available on longislandwinterfest.com.

Winterfest gets underway on Friday, Feb. 22 with a kickoff party from 7 to 10 p.m. at Hotel Indigo East End, featuring live music by the East End Trio and Paul Mahos of New Life Crisis. Restaurants, wineries and breweries will offer special tastings and there will be a Chinese auction.

Early bird tickets are on sale for $35 through Jan. 15. The pre-party price increases to $40 after Jan. 15 or pay $50 at the door. For tickets and information about participating vendors, concert schedules, bus tours or the kick-off party, visit longislandwinterfest.com.