A NEW winter-long festival is set to draw thousands of tourists to Ballarat and entertain locals with a host of exciting events.
The new festival, dubbed Winterlude and launched by the City of Ballarat and Ballarat Regional Tourism on Friday, will include ice skating in the centre of town with a pop-up rink to be constructed between the Town Hall and Myer.
Mayor John Philips said he expected Winterlude to become an annual event as big as Begonia Festival, with Ballarat's two biggest event locations, Sovereign Hill and Kryal Castle, heavily involved.
Sovereign Hill will host a Christmas in July event from June 27 to July 12, including Christmas themed activities and world-class light projections, while Kryal Castle will hold The Festival of the Flame during the same period, with "fire jousting" and a medieval feast.
Ballarat Regional Tourism chairman Stuart Benjamin said winter had always been a quiet period in Ballarat and generally a time when people, notably tourists, avoided the region.
"This will change that," Mr Benjamin said.
"This is all about getting people to come to Ballarat and spend money, while at the same time it's a great event for residents with a lot of great activities on offer."
The event will also include a host of new market, music and culinary experiences.
Ballarat's laneways will be celebrated over three weekends from July 17 to August 2, with light installations, live music and street performances.
The Mitchell Harris Wine Bar will host a new Winter Solstice Market featuring local artists, boutique shopping, live music and, of course, delicious food and wine.
Cr Philips said Ballarat's expanding food culture would also be featured, including an international food market at the Ballarat Mining Exchange on August 1.
"This new event is huge for Ballarat and for the people of Ballarat," Cr Philips said.
"Because this is what the people of Ballarat have wanted for a long time. We already have some of the best festivals and this will be another one."
For more information about Winterlude visit www.ballaratwinterlude.com.au