By Diane Pham
If you’re looking for a unique winter getaway this season, skip the slopes and embark on an ice-cold architectural adventure. Numerous cities across the globe annually embrace below freezing temps by erecting spectacular structures of ice designed to stir all the senses. These icy masterpieces go far beyond being pretty sculptures that sparkle against the snow—in fact, you can actually live, play, and sleep in many of them! So pack the family into your Impala and go catch the next flight for what will surely be a once-in-a-lifetime experience you’ll talk about for years to come!
Aurora Ice Museum (Chena Hot Springs, near Fairbanks, Alaska)
This Alaskan ice-sculpture exhibition space is also the only ice hotel in the United States, designed by ice carving champion Steve Brice. Within the museum, there is a two-story observation tower with a circular staircase, life-sized jousters on horseback, a polar bear bedroom, a Christmas tree bedroom, a kid’s two-story fort made from snowballs, an igloo, and an ice outhouse, among other pieces of ice art and additional ice chambers. While you’re there, take a daytime dip in one of their natural outdoor hot springs, and then grab a snow coach to view the Northern Lights.
Hotel de Glace (Quebec, Canada)
Want to know what it’s like to snooze in a room where everything is made from ice? Each winter, the Hotel de Glace opens to the public, inviting adventurous guest to spend the night in one of their artistically designed ice rooms. Guests receive a crash course in overnight survival, and then are assigned an ice bed with a mattress, fur cover, and polar-issue sleeping bag. But bring earplugs if you’re a light sleeper. This hotel packs several people into one room and these ice walls won’t do much to damper the snores of your bunkmates.
Snow Castle (The Gulf of Bothnia, Finland)
The SnowCastle of Kemi by the Gulf of Bothnia in Finland is one of the world’s best examples of snowmanship. Builders spend approximately five weeks making snow out of seawater (natural snow is too soft) and then shape it into a massive castle with a hotel, a snow restaurant, an ice bar and even a snow chapel for lovebirds who flew north for the winter to wed.
Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival (China)
For more than three decades, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in China has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe. To create the stunning works found all throughout the city, chunks of ice are pulled straight from the frozen Songhua River and carved into life-size creations. The festival also hosts a slew of activities in its Ice and Snow World, a land made up of illuminated full-sized buildings built from three-foot blocks of crystal clear ice. And if you dare, bring your bathing suit for some “winter swimming” in the river.
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