A couple years ago I had seen amazing photos of the intricate ice castles created each winter at several locations throughout the country. This award winning attraction is built using hundreds of thousands of icicles grown and hand-placed by professional ice artists. The ice sculptures include tunnels , slides, and thousands of LED lights. I immediately added the experience to our adventure bucket list and this year we were able to finally attend. Despite the windchill falling below zero, we had a magical time!
Since the St. Louis weather is not quite arctic enough to support a structure built of ice, we had to travel a bit for this adventure. The nearest location is in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, about a 5.5 hour drive. Tickets for this attraction always sell out fast especially this year with the reduced capacity due to COVID. We chose an entry time right around sunset to see the ice castles in both the day and night.
About the Ice Castles
The Lake Geneva ice castles are located at the Geneva National Resort. Plenty of signs point the way to go. Parking is free and was plentiful during our Friday evening visit.
All tickets are for a 30 minute time slot in which you must enter. There were no lines when we entered and the ticket booths were actually inside so there was at least a warm spot to wait if needed. All adults had to sign a waiver before entering.
Right away you will notice several photo ops including an Ice Castles sign and a frozen throne. The throne was actually really hard for the kids to sit on because they kept sliding off! You also have the opportunity to post for a professional photo for purchase.
An amazing LED light wall is located here as well. This was a popular spot to post for photos, especially once the sun went down.
After passing through a tall ice tunnel, you enter the main part of the ice castles. An open area is bordered by a variety of slides and tunnels. There was even an igloo to explore.
There are two sets of slides, a smaller one and a larger one. The larger slide is the more popular one. Kids must be 42″ tall to ride and the line can get long. I recommend heading to the big slide first thing.
The smaller slides are for all ages. We never saw a line as there were three slides and they are shorter. The kids went down these over and over.
The kids also loved the various tunnels to climb through. The lights inside made the tunnels an enchanting adventure.
There are just so many nooks and crannies to explore. You can pose in a small ice alcove or under a towering column of ice. This is the place to channel your inner ice queen (or king).
Each ice castle weighs over 20 million pounds. Artists grow and place over 10,000 icicles a day to build and maintain the majestic creation.
The look of each section changes depending on the light. During the day, the ice castles are a deep blue color. At night, the LED colors illuminate the ice in various shades.
Overall, we had an amazing time. The kids absolutely thought it was the coolest thing. Each year the ice castles are a little different and we hope to visit again another year.
Tips to Visit
- Tickets for the ice castles typically go on sale a few days before the official opening date in December or January, depending on location. (Lake Geneva opened in mid-January this year.) The castles typically are open through mid-February, weather dependent.
- Sign up for the ice castles newsletter or watch their social media for announcements on ticket sales. This year there was pre-sale ticket option. General admission tickets sold out in less than 2 hours.
- Ticket prices vary. This year they were between $12.99-$22.99. Kids tickets are cheaper with those under 4 being free. Weekdays are cheaper than weekends.
- Ticket entries are for a 30 minute slot. You can enter at any time during your time slot and then you can stay as long as you wish.
- If you can get a slot around sunset, (4:30 or the 5:00 slot) then you can see the ice castles both with daylight and lit up at night. Day time worked better for photos of faces and is a good option for small children as it can be hard to keep track of them in the dark.
- Most people spend 30-90 minutes at the ice castles. We stayed an hour and would have stayed longer but it was so cold.
What To Wear and Bring
- Dress very warm. Waterproof snow pants, waterproof gloves and shoes are a must. The ground is snow and wasn’t slick but you want to stay dry. Hand warmers in boots and gloves are a good option.
- If you have littles, you an bring a sled to pull them around. Strollers will not work.
- Bring a camera. There are so many photo ops. The cold may kill your battery, but a hand warmer in your pocket can keep your phone or camera going.
- Portable restrooms were located just before entering and just after exiting the ice castles. Plan ahead as once you leave, you can’t go back in.
- Snacks and hot drinks are located at the start of the ice castles as well as after exiting. We made dinner reservations at the Turf Smokehouse right next to the ice castles and it worked out perfect to warm up and eat dinner.
- Don’t miss exploring the charming downtown and lakefront in Lake Geneva. They host a National Championship Ice Sculpting contest each year as well as an ice festival with more ice carvings throughout the downtown. Both of these feature amazing frozen works of art to view.
Have you ever been to the fairytale-like experience of the ice castles?