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UPDATED DECEMBER 2019 – 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 the United States and Canada will make you rethink your definition of the word castle. Ice Castles is a winter destination that has taken North America by snow storm.
Ice Castles Colorado – Summit County
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 one of the Ice Castles for another 5 years.
Midway Ice Castles in Utah
In December 2016, on a trip to Utah, I finally visited the Midway Ice Castles, one of six Ice Castles locations across North America. The Midway Ice Castles are located about 30 minutes outside of Park City in Heber Valley, a charming yet adventurous area of Utah.
Walking up to the breathtaking creation, I got 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 frozen palace was like entering a mythical world found only in childhood fantasy books and fairy tales. Intimidating icicles dangled overhead while serene lights illuminated the ice and gently twinkled and danced along to music. Despite being surrounded by crowds of other awe-struck visitors, it seemed perfectly peaceful and strangely quiet inside this icy paradise.
It was a Friday evening and fire performers were spinning, juggling, and breathing fire. They captivated the audience with each talented twirl. I watched for a few moments before wandering away alone to check out more of this frozen fantasy world while the crowds were distracted. In one area of the Midway Ice Castles, kids giggled in glee as they slid down ice-carved slides and crawled through tiny tunnels. Their parents stood nearby watching with proud smiles. Couples snuggled together as they watched the lights inside the ice cast a romantic glow throughout the attraction.
A large fountain in the center of the icy courtyard added another visual element and made a relaxing, zen-like bubbling sound. I made my way through a series of maze-like tunnels, taking pictures with ever lighting change. The icy formations had 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 was an incredible experience! Enchanting even.
When to visit Ice Castles
Unfortunately, like all good things, the Midway Ice Castles don’t last forever. If you want to visit them, it’s best to plan your trip in January or early February. I’ve seen the Midway 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.
Other Ice Castles locations
I first visited the Midway Ice Castles, just outside of Park City, Utah, but the company that creates Ice Castles has locations in several cities across the United States and Canada. In winter 2019-2020 you can find Ice Castles in five states in the USA – Colorado, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Utah. They also have locations in the Canadian province of Alberta. I’ve since visited Ice Castles in Colorado and New Hampshire, and like the Midway Ice Castles, they were equally breathtaking.
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, wear a good pair of snow boots, gloves, and a hat. I like to say, dress as if you are going skiing (minus the helmet and skis, of course).
- 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 6 Ice Castles locations. Five of them are in the United States, including Midway, Utah; Dillon, Colorado; New Brighton, Minnesota; Lake Geneva, Wisconsin; and North Woodstock, New Hampshire. There is also one location in Canada in Edmonton, Alberta.
Prices vary by location, and the price for weekday admission is different than weekend admission, but in general plan to spend $12-$22 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 Ice Castles? We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment and let us know which location you visited and your thoughts.