A Real-Life Winter Wonderland
I love exploring new and unique places. I love winter (as long as everyone is safe). I fell in love with the beauty of Elsa's castle in Frozen. And, I love looking for one-of-a-kind experiences to share with my family.
A few years ago, I became fixated on the magnificent ice castles and snow sculptures in China. It was fun to enjoy photos and watch videos about these magical places. In reading and learning, I came across ice castles in the United States and became immediately intrigued. You can find ice and snow festivals in many of the northern states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, etc). Some of the festivals build castles that resemble a blend of igloos met with a medieval castle. These were nice, but then social media led me to Ice Castles, a company that builds magical castles like something straight out of a fairytale. I showed my girls and we were all instantly captivated by Ice Castles. We watched youtube videos showing how these magical structures are built. We watched the progress on social media, we poured over photos and started planning to see the Ice Castles person.
This was truly a "bucket list" experience for Kansas Citians. The idea of a castle made entirely of icicles that lasts throughout the winter months was magical, fascinating, and exciting. So, we planned a weekend getaway to Excelsior, MN (approx. 7 hours from Kansas City) to see one of the Ice Castles in person!
So, what do you need to know before you visit Ice Castles?
- Ice Castles charges admission. It is cheaper on weekdays than weekends. However, weekend dates often include special shows (we saw a fire performance, they occasionally have costumed characters, and other specials to make the weekend even more magical). You are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance because they have a limited capacity and you'll want to ensure entrance into the castle.
- The castles are MAGICAL both during the day and at night. We opted to arrive after 4:30 and stayed for a couple hours to experience it in the evening as well. The castles are lit with beautiful magical LED lights in some of the displays. These were beautiful both during the day and at night and I strongly encourage visitors to try to time their visit to enjoy both experiences. You are not allowed to exit and reenter, so choose your timing wisely.
- Bundle up! The castle blocks wind well, but it is an ice castle. Wear layers, snow boots, snow pants, wool socks, stocking caps, and gloves. We brought a backpack with extra layer pieces. Hand and foot warmers are a good idea as well. We spent two hours, so keep in mind the need to stay warm for a long period of time.
- They sell concessions (hot cocoa, water, snacks, etc).
- Bring a fully charged camera - this is a dream world and you want to capture the memories!
- Plan to spend more than an hour. Eat before you go, bundle up, be rested, plan ahead so you can enjoy the experience to the fullest.
- The six locations for 2019 include Excelsior, MN (the one we visited), Lake Geneva, WI, Dillon, CO, New Hampshire, Midway, UT, and Edmonton, AB, Canada. This is an annual attraction, but they have chosen different cities over the years, so check Ice Castles for current information.
Highlights of our Ice Castle Trip:
Daytime Views of Ice Castle:
The castle is a beautiful labyrinth of ice crystals with many spectacular views.
Thousands of icicles are grown daily to create the castle, repair it as it changes with the weather, and add to the structure.
There are many beautiful archways throughout the castle.
The view looking up from under an archway! Just like Frozen in person!
The kids loved this winter wonderland!
There are many tunnels and alcoves to explore! The kids found "little rooms" (see the left) where they could crawl inside and play in their own little igloo within the castle walls.
The children loved exploring the tunnels throughout the castle!
The castle offers many great displays including a giant LED panel that is lit with brightly colored changing designs. This was beautiful both during the day and at night.
In addition to tunnels and alcoves, there are several fabulous ice slides. Some are small for younger children, and others are quite long - even the adults love this. The slides are carved into the castle and LED lights to surround the slide tunnel so the rider gets a magically lit experience. It is beautiful both inside and outside of the slide. They provide special sliding tarps for children to sit on to ride through the slides.
There are many great photo-ops throughout the castle including seats and benches made of ice.
The sun was starting to set... the lights became more vibrant and we were eagerly anticipating our nighttime view!
Nighttime Views of Ice Castle:
Nighttime did NOT disappoint! The castle is magically lit with beautiful colored lights and the vibrant colors at night are a must-see experience if you visit.
The "Wishing Well" is a water fountain in the center of the castle that spurts water. This was another beautiful backdrop.
The colors of the slides really pop at night!
We visited on a Friday night and they had live performances to enjoy while we were there. This was a great addition to our experience.
Our family highly recommends a visit to Ice Castles! We had a great time in Minnesota and found Minneapolis to be a terrific weekend getaway. This is a truly magical one-of-a-kind experience that winter lovers will thoroughly enjoy!
- If you visit the Minnesota Ice Castle, read our tips for a Minneapolis getaway!
- If you visit the Wisconsin Ice Castle, read our tips for a full Wisconsin Dells getaway!
- If you visit the Utah Ice Castle, read our tips for a Utah ski vacation!
- If you visit the Colorado Ice Castle, read our tips for a Colorado ski vacation!
Kristina Light loves taking her family on new adventures! She was thrilled to experience this "bucket list" adventure and gives the experience two thumbs up!