What are the Ice Castles?
As a full-fledged daydreamer, I’ve always been fascinated by stories of magic, castles, elves, dragons, otherworldly destinations, etc. I just love the idea of escaping reality and immersing myself into the unknown. It’s why I love traveling and experiencing different cultures so much. When I heard that there were castles made entirely of ice and snow I couldn’t believe it. I had to visit and see it for myself!
Ice Castles is an award-inspiring winter attraction whose primary goal is to make people smile and be a source of inspiration. The enchanting winter attraction is currently located in four states across the United States (New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Utah, and Colorado) each with unique designs and features all due to changes in the temperature, ice formation, and the ice artisans whimsical touch. The Ice Castle crew usually starts constructing each ice castle in November, but it can vary each year. Daytime temperatures need to be below freezing before construction can start.
Each castle is over 20 million pounds and is built entirely by hand using hundreds of thousands of icicles hand-placed by professional ice artists. With the help of mother nature and an abundance of water, it takes a team of 20 to 40 artisans to sculpt and coax the ice/snow into a system of tunnels and caves. The entire process takes about two months, and when it’s all said and done, a typical structure is about an acre in size.
Each ice castle is completely special, so you’ll never see the same castle year after year. Frozen inside the ice castle walls are thousands of LED lights that light up and twinkle to music. You can sit on an ice throne, crawl through ice tunnels, slide down an ice slide, and walk through archways that showcase beautiful icicles above you. You also have the option of taking a fun sleigh ride through a beautiful snow-covered forest – exclusive to the NH location. The entire landscape is truly otherworldly and a masterpiece. It’s no wonder why it’s one of the most photographed winter attractions in the country.
The idea for this winter wonderland attraction began with a simple ice cave crafted by Brent Christensen in his front yard in Utah. Brent wanted to provide his children with something fun and entertaining to help fend off cabin fever during the frosty winter months. The idea was a hit with his family and neighborhood. Eventually, the idea transformed into something bigger where now hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world can enjoy annually. (Thanks Brent!)
Since I live in New York, the nearest ice castle to me was the location in North Woodstock, New Hampshire – which is about a five-hour drive…phew. Upon arriving I was immediately captivated by its ethereal beauty. It felt like I stepped into an enchanted winter wonderland created by Queen Elsa in Disney’s animated movie Frozen. (Have you ever seen the movie? If so, are you a fan?).
What to wear to the Ice Castles?
Dress warmly! You will be spending a significant amount of time sightseeing and taking photos. It can get pretty cold quickly, so layer up! The ground inside of the Ice Castles is made up of snow and crushed ice, so your feet will be prone to getting wet and cold easily.
I highly recommend you wear some of my favorite winter gear:
- Snow boots with good traction.
- Snow pants (especially if you are planning to take a ride on the slide, crawl through tunnels, and sit on icy furniture).
- Winter jacket / Parka jacket
- Thermal sweathirt
- Thermal socks
- Winter gloves
- Hand warmers
- Toe warmers
- Scarf or neck gaiter
- Winter hat or beanie
When is the best time to visit the Ice Castles?
The Ice Castles usually open at the end of December or the beginning of January every year and remains in good condition all the way through March, depending on the weather. If you want to visit the Ice Castles without as many crowds, try and plan your visit during the week, as weekends are very popular and tend to get very crowded. No one wants to deal with overcrowding – I feel like it takes away from the overall fantasy. If you want to experience the Ice Castles during both the daytime and nighttime then I recommend you get tickets one hour before sunset.
How much does it cost to visit the Ice Castles?
Ticket sales will be available via their website once the construction of the ice castle is finished. Since this attraction is weather-dependent, make sure to keep tabs on their website or social media pages for updates before visiting. It would suck big time to commute all the way to the attraction and have a big CLOSED sign hit you in the face (it’s happened to me before lol).
Try to book your tickets in advance, online. Tickets do sell out, especially on the weekends and holidays. They are actually cheaper if you purchase them online. When you buy a ticket, you are actually buying an arrival window. Ice Castles will send you an email with a unique QR code, so there’s no need to print your tickets. They scan the code right from your phone! They request that you arrive within your 30-minute arrival window. Once you are inside the castle you can stay as long as you’d like, but let it be known that there is no re-entry allowed once you leave the venue.
A limited number of standby tickets are available on-site for a higher price vs getting them online, however, they cannot guarantee tickets if they have reached their max capacity. Guests who try to purchase standby tickets on-site will either have an extremely long wait time to get in or be turned away if they have sold out for much of the day.
Online ticket prices for 2021:
- General admission weekday (ages 12+): $19.99
- General admission weekend (ages 12+): $24.99
- General admission weekday (ages 4-11): $14.99
- General admission weekend (ages 4-11): $19.99
- Children 3 and under are free and do not require a ticket for admission.
Things to know / tips before visiting:
- Try and plan your visit during the week, as weekends are very popular and tend to get very crowded.
- Before getting on all of your snow gear, make sure to use the bathroom at a local business or at the portable bathrooms near the entrance. There are no bathrooms in the castle!
- Arrive a bit early to ensure you can find parking before your time slot. Parking is free.
- Outside food and beverages are not permitted at any Ice Castles location. So make sure to eat something! Don’t cut your stay short because you are getting hangry!
- Make sure to hit the ice slide first thing! Then you can spend the rest of the day exploring the grounds. If you put aside riding the ice slide to the end you might feel too cold at that point and waiting in line will be the last thing you want to do.
- You’re not allowed to bring strollers inside. Sleds are recommended only for pulling small children. There are no features built to accommodate sledding and sleds are not permitted on the slides.
- Make sure to bring a camera and take tons of pictures! It’s not every day you get to experience something so magical and that has such a dramatic backdrop. By the end of it all, I’m sure you’ve captured moments that look like they were straight out of the pages of National Geographic.
- If you want to elevate your photography be sure to check out my blog post where I share all of the camera gear I use on my travel adventures.
- Tripods, monopods, and drones are prohibited.
What COVID Precautions are Ice Castles taking?
- A 6-foot distance must be maintained between each household group at all times while seated.
- All Ice Castles employees will be masked for the enhanced safety of their staff and guests.
- Guests are required to wear masks / face coverings in common areas, near other guests, and when interacting with employees.
- To facilitate adherence to physical distancing guidelines, Ice Castles may reduce capacity or close some features of the attraction. Please be patient and understanding with these necessary operational changes.
- High touch surfaces, such as sliding mats and tablets used at ticketing and concessions, will be sanitized routinely.
- Crawl spaces, slot canyons, and tunnels will adhere to a one-way traffic flow when possible and will be marked accordingly.
- Hand sanitizing stations will be conveniently located near the entrance, exit, restrooms, and concession areas.
If you’re someone who loves a good fairytale and believes the first snow to be one of the most magical days of the year, you need to visit an ice castle this winter. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience these amazing works of art with your family / friends while winter is thriving!
If any of you guys have any questions about this attraction, let me know! I would love to answer or help in any way.
P.S. Check out my Instagram reel to see most of what I talked about on video.