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UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2020 – When you think of castles you probably think of the ornate former homes of royal dynasties and emperors. Grand steeples and tall towers might come to mind. But an icy attraction in North America will make you rethink your definition of the word castle. Ice Castles is a winter destination that has taken North America by snow storm. There are numerous Ice Castles in the USA. Some years, you can also find them in Canada, although in winter 2020/2021, this unique experience can only be found in the United States.
Our first experience with Ice Castles
I first stumbled across Ice Castles in January 2012. It was the day after my husband and I got engaged. We were on our way from Denver to Steamboat, Colorado for a ski trip. Just off the highway in a small town in Summit County, Colorado we saw these fantastic frozen structures. They were like nothing we’d ever seen before. We were both instantly wowed. “Woah! What is that?!” I exclaimed, as we slowed down to get a better look. Although we desperately wanted to stop and check it out, we had to keep driving if we were going to make it to Steamboat before the roads got too icy and the highway shut down. I wouldn’t tour Ice Castles in Colorado for another 5 years. But the attraction itself is so unique that just seeing it from the road made me want to visit.
Ice Castles in the United States
Ice Castles is owned by a Utah-based company that creates life-size, elaborate “castles” made entirely from ice. We have visited several locations across the United States, including the Midway Ice Castles, just outside of Park City, Utah, Dillon Ice Castles in Colorado, and Ice Castles in New Hampshire. The company has locations in several cities across the United States. In previous seasons, they have also had at least one Ice Castles location in Canada.
Ice Castles locations: In winter 2020-2021 you can find Ice Castles in four states in the USA – Colorado, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Utah.
Although the Ice Castles locations may have similarities, each one is unique and different because Mother Nature helps or hinders the building process. Weather plays a big part in the design and the appearance of each castle every season. So, no two castles are the same. In fact, each castle changes from year to year because the weather plays a big part in what the castle looks like and how long it stays open.
About Ice Castles
During the day, the ice at Ice Castles appears pale blue or white, depending on the thickness of the ice. Most locations open around late-December or early January, although their opening and closing dates depend completely on the weather. So each year, the opening dates vary. We recommend checking the attraction’s website for the most up-to-date information.
At night, Ice Castles is illuminated with color-changing LED lights which add another magical layer to the attraction’s atmosphere.
The attraction is built one hand-placed icicle at a time. Over time, the ice structures grow larger and larger. Tunnel, ice caves, ice slides, fountains and narrow slot canyons like those famous in the American Southwest are all added to make the experience more immersive and entertaining for guests.
The icy formations have an organic beauty that looked like they somehow naturally formed right there in the field. The towers of ice weren’t carved or sculpted, like those at the famous Harbin Ice Festival in China. Instead, they cascaded down like frozen waterfalls. It is an incredible experience to visit Ice Castles! Enchanting even.
Dillon Ice Castles in Colorado
Ice Castles in Colorado is located in the town of Dillon, not far from the popular ski resorts of Keystone, Copper Mountain, and Breckenridge. Located right off Interstate 70, it makes for a great addition to any ski vacation or a convenient day trip from Denver.
Dillon Ice Castles in Colorado is usually the first Ice Castles location to open each winter thanks to the higher elevation at which it sits. Although weather determines the attractions opening dates, it typically opens in late December and remains open until early March.
Midway Ice Castles in Utah
Ice Castles in Midway was the first Ice Castles location. The Midway Ice Castles are located about 30 minutes outside of Park City Mountain Resort in Heber Valley, a charming yet adventurous area of Utah.
Walking up to the breathtaking creation, you’ll get the same sense of wonder that I did so many years before when I first laid eyes on one of the frozen attractions. Stepping inside the icy palace is like entering a mythical world found only in childhood fantasy books and fairy tales. Intimidating icicles dangle overhead while serene lights illuminate the ice and gently twinkle and dance along to music. Despite being surrounded by crowds of other awe-struck visitors, it seems perfectly peaceful and strangely quiet inside this icy paradise.
In one area of the Midway Ice Castles, you may find kids giggling in glee as they slide down ice-carved slides and crawled through tiny tunnels built just to their size. Parents may stand nearby watching with proud smiles or even attempt to squeeze through the small crawl spaces, much to the delight of their child.
Not to overlook the romantic element of this Instagram-worthy attraction, couples will enjoy snuggling together as they watch the lights cast a dreamy glow throughout the attraction.
Ice Castles in New Hampshire
Ice Castles in New Hampshire may be one of the most unique Ice Castles locations to visit. Located in the town of North Woodstock, outside of the cute town of Lincoln, New Hampshire, this Ice Castles location is partially built in the woods. Most Ice Castles locations are roughly an acre in size, the New Hampshire location seems a bit larger in size. Although the popular attraction can become crowded during peak hours and particularly on weekends, you’ll find moments where you turn a corner and it feels like you are wandering alone in a frozen fantasy world.
There are large fountains that make a relaxing, zen-like bubbling sound, these areas of the castle are not only visual, but tease your other senses as well. You can made your way through a series of maze-like tunnels, take pictures for your scrapbook or social media feed, and even buy a cinnamon roll or hot cocoa at the concession stand.
When to visit Ice Castles
Unfortunately, like all good things, Ice Castles doesn’t last forever. If you want to visit them, it’s best to plan your trip in January or early February. I’ve seen Ice Castles both during the day and at night. While they are beautiful at all hours, I personally loved seeing them illuminated in the evening. Weekdays are a bit less crowded, but on weekends, you can often catch special events at Ice Castles like the fire performances, or you can get your child’s photo taken with the princesses from the movie Frozen.
Pro tip: Plan your visit around sunset to see Ice Castles during the day when taking photos is easier and then also experience them illuminated at night.
Tips for visiting Ice Castles
If you plan to visit Ice Castles, give yourself about an hour to an hour and a half to tour the attraction. It’s over an acre in size, so you’ll need at least an hour to truly take it all in, explore the attraction, and whiz down the slides a couple of times. Before you visit, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Dress warmly. It might go without saying, but you’re in a giant castle of ice. It can get fairly cold, so layer up, and wear gloves and a hat. I like to say, dress as if you are going skiing (minus the helmet and skis, of course).
- Good, quality winter boots for kids and adults are strongly recommended, not only to keep your feet warm, but ensure you don’t fall. The ground at Ice Castles is made up of crushed ice and snow, which can be a bit of challenge to walk in if wearing other types of shoes.
- If traveling with small children, it’s easiest to wear your baby in a baby carrier with a winter cover. Wearing your baby is a great way to keep your little one warm while at Ice Castles. Another popular options is to pull young children in a sled. Skip the stroller. They don’t work that great on snow.
- Bring a good camera. Although smartphone cameras work fairly well, to truly capture the magnificent colors and textures of the ice, you should bring a high quality camera.
- Buy tickets online in advance. Had we stopped in Colorado all those years ago, we probably would have been turned away. The attraction often sells out, especially on weekends, so book your time slot in advance.
FAQ’s about Ice Castles
Most Ice Castles locations typically open in late December or early January depending on the weather.
You only have a couple short months to visit Ice Castles each year. Most of their locations are closed by the first weekend in March.
There are currently 4 Ice Castles locations, all in the United States. Those include Midway, Utah; Dillon, Colorado; Lake Geneva, Wisconsin; and North Woodstock, New Hampshire. In previous seasons, there have been six Ice Castles locations. The company had locations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota area and in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in the past. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has fewer locations in winter 2020-2021.
Prices vary by location, and the price for weekday admission is different than weekend admission, but in general plan to spend $12-$25 per person to visit.
Late January is the best time to plan a visit to Ice Castles because the weather is the most consistent and there is less risk of them being closed. I’d also recommend visiting on a weekday because it is less crowded, giving you a better chance to get an awesome photo!
Because of limited space and availability, it is recommended that you buy your tickets online in advance. You can buy them on the attraction’s website.
Have you been to one of the Ice Castles in the United States? Do you have a question or comment about one of the locations for Ice Castles in the USA. We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment and let us know which location you visited and your thoughts.