While winter might bring uncomfortable temperatures and treacherous road conditions, it also brings undeniable beauty too. From sprawling expanses of bright-white snow to tree limbs dripping with glistening icicles, winter transforms the landscape into a frosty wonderland of natural elegance. Winter’s beauty is best epitomized by the formation of stunning ice palaces that take shape both naturally and artificially. From ice caves and castles to ice bars and museums, here’s a list of America’s best winter travel destinations to see winter’s beauty on full display!
What began as a father’s mission to give his daughter a memorable winter experience grew into a successful company known today as Ice Castles Inc. The company specializes in creating gigantic ice structures, complete with tunnels, slides, colorful lighting, and even pyrotechnics! Each ice castle weighs roughly 25,000,000 lb. with walls averaging about 10’ in thickness. The castles are created using a process known as icicle farming in which more than 5,000 icicles are harvested per day, all by hand. Locations differ year by year, and the company is looking to expand. Currently, ice castles are on display in:
- Midway, UT
- Lincoln, NH
- Stillwater, MN
- Wisconsin Dells, WI
- Edmonton, AB
Ticket prices, performances, and events vary from location to location, and opening dates are entirely dependent on the weather, so check with Ice Castles' official website for more information.
Artificial Ice Attractions
Winter Carnival Ice Palace | Saranac Lake, NY
Created out of ice cut from Lake Flower, the Winter Carnival Ice Palace is an annual tradition that delights community members and tourists alike! Two-by-four foot blocks of ice are used to construct the palace which has been known to reach heights of 60’ tall! The palace is completed with colorful flags, ice furnishings, and even a royal court. Visitors can walk through the mazed tunnels and marvel at this unbelievable icy creation! Saranac’s Winter Carnival is a 10-day festival held in February that hosts a number of other attractions and events in addition to the ice palace! Visit their official website for more details!
Aurora Ice Museum | Fairbanks, AK
Located in Chena Hot Springs Resort, the Aurora Ice Museum is a year-round attraction created from over 1,000 tons of ice and snow, all of which was harvested from the resort’s grounds! Kept at a steady 25º F, visitors can grab a parka (free of charge) and tour the impressive ice creation for $15, plus a mandatory appletini purchase of an additional $15 for those 21 and up. During the tour visitors can enjoy amazing ice sculptures, color-changing crystal chandeliers, and a winding staircase leading two-stories up to an observation tower. End your tour in the Aurora Ice Bar where you can sip on your appletini while sitting atop plush caribou fur-covered stools. Check out the Chena Hot Springs Resort’s official website for more info!
ICEBAR Orlando | Orlando, FL
As the largest permanent ice bar in the world, ICEBAR Orlando is a popular night-life attraction created with over 70 tons of hand-carved ice! Thermal coats and gloves are provided upon entry and cocktails are served in custom-carved ice glasses. In addition to the ice bar, ICEBAR Orlando also features the Fire Lounge, which offers a night-club atmosphere complete with a live DJ, dancing, and awesome drink specials. For other ice bars locations, check out the Minus5 Ice Experience!
Natural Ice Caves
Big Four Ice Caves | Mount Baker-Snoqualmie, WA
Visitors of all ages and abilities can get a glimpse of the Big Four Ice Caves with easy-to-access trails and boardwalks. The caves are formed from precipitation that runs down the towering cliff above. Because the caves are located under an avalanche chute, it is highly dangerous to enter the caves and explore near them, but you can marvel at their beauty from a safe distance.
Ellenville Fault Ice Caves | Cragsmoor, NY
As the largest exposed rock fault system in the United States, Ellenville Fault Ice Caves is a sight to behold! As you enter the ice caves, lights will illuminate your descent down wooden steps and across bridges. Once you’re done exploring the underground ice caves, stone steps will guide you to the beautiful rock outcropping above.
Decorah Ice Cave State Preserve | Decorah, IA
Formed from 450-million-year-old limestone and dolomite, the Decorah Ice Caves are contained within one of the largest ice caverns in the midwest. Ice is formed when winds enter the caves and chill the temperature of the rocks that make up its walls. Then, when surface water leaches in and makes contact with the chilly rocks, it freezes. Ice remains in the cave close to year-round, with a brief gap occurring in the fall.
Which icy attraction do you want to visit this winter? Let us know in the comments!