Always wanted to experience the magical winter wonderland that Queen Elsa created in Disney's animated movie Frozen? Then you are in luck. Thanks to Utah-based company “Ice Castles,” acre-sized frozen fortresses are now a reality in six of North America's coldest regions: Dillon, CO, Excelsior, MN, Lake Geneva, WI, North Woodstock, New Hampshire, Midway, UT and Edmonton in Alberta, Canada.
The seasonal attractions, usually open from January to early March each year, are the brainchild of Brent Christensen. In 2011, the father of six, who had just relocated from sunny California to snowy Utah, was looking for a way to entertain the kids during a particularly harsh winter day. The ice fort he constructed in his backyard was a hit, not just with his own kids but youngsters from all across town. The smiles and joy his simple idea brought to the children's faces made Christensen realize that his winter invention could do the same for families across the country, and "Ice Castles" was born.
Every year, at the onset of winter, the Ice Castles team heads to a select few North American cities, known for their frigid winters, to set up drip pipes, a tool used to encourage the formation of long icicles. Once enough ice has been formed to support a stable structure, a group of 20 to 40 artists descend upon the region and painstakingly hand carve the icicles into archways, caves, tunnels, and even fun slides. The creations are coated with a layer of water which, once frozen, acts like cement and binds the castle together. On average, each castle comprises about 25 million pounds of ice and takes two months to carve. Once ready, the structures are fitted with thousands of colorful LED lights, further enhancing their magical appearance, especially during the evenings. On predetermined dates, visitors can also enjoy spectacular fire shows and take photos with the resident "snow princess."
What makes the structures fascinating is their potential to change on an almost daily basis depending on the weather. A colder winter means more icicles to carve making visits later in the season especially rewarding. An unusually warm spell could render the magnificent structures unstable for visitors – or even worse, transform them into a messy puddle – cutting the already short season further. Visitors are therefore advised to check the company's website before heading over to the whimsical kingdoms. Also recommended is warm and waterproof clothing, given that, even in the coldest conditions, the icicles frequently drip. Most importantly, however, buy your tickets in advance, for entrance to these gorgeous structures, which attract thousands of visitors annually, are often sold-out months in advance!
Resources: Smithsonianmag.com, icecastles.com,atlasobscura.com.