This weekend, Mike surprised me with tickets to the new Ice Castle at Hawrelak Park – Canada’s first and largest ice castle and one of just four of its kind in the world.
We’d been seeing the ice castle in the news quite a bit the last few months – and especially the last few weeks as it officially opened on Dec. 30. We’d actually been invited to the launch event earlier in December but couldn’t make it, so it had been on our radar to visit for some time.
The holidays are so busy to begin with, I didn’t think we’d get to it until later in January (it’s in Edmonton until March 2016), but then Mike surprised me with tickets!
Read on for my review and scroll to the bottom for my tips on how to have the best visit to the Ice Castle!
The ice castle, which is being described a few different, magical ways – Narnia-like, a frozen fortress, beautiful, stunning, massive (all accurate descriptions) is Canada’s first and largest ice castle, and Edmonton is just one of four cities in the world to feature the incredible structure.
The ice castle was put together by a Utah-based company, which crafts everything by hand – literally the ice castle is made up of 25 million pounds of ice! I can’t even imagine that weight. 10,000 icicles were created each day during the last 2 months of construction to get the final result we saw on Saturday. Amazing!
It’s recommended you pre-order tickets (especially during peak times like the holidays) so Mike had bought us tickets for a 6:30 p.m. start time on Saturday.
I think you need to go to the Ice Castle at least two times – once during the day and once at night – because you’d get a completely different feel both times. Mike thought it would be cooler if we went at night, with the different colours showing up better at night.
It was very magical, but I’ve also seen photos from people who have gone during the day, and that looks more like what you’ve seen out of Narnia or Frozen, which is a different type of magic. Plus for us (we don’t have nice cameras) I’d much prefer taking non-flash, naturally-lit photos during the day.
Some people are even getting wedding photos done at the Ice Castle!
If you’re engaged or getting married in the next few months, you must get some photos taken at this once-in-a-lifetime location. Hell, I’d even arrange for just a fun family photoshoot at the Ice Castle, it looks so cool.
Admission to the Ice Castle ranges from about $10-$20 depending on day you go, age, and if you pre-order or get tickets at the door.
On Saturday night it was packed! We lucked out getting a parking spot because a super nice man was pulling out and waved us in to take his spot but when we left the car line to get in had doubled and was winding out of the park. I imagine this is because it was the last Saturday of the holiday break and lines should subside after this weekend. We also went during what I imagine is a peak time (6:30).
The Ice Castle really is for all ages. The creators of the ice castle initially made the structures for their kids so this one also features a kid-friendly slide (long line-up to get on that too though).
There’s also a cool ice fountain in the centre of the structure (which takes up about a hectare of the park).
For someone who loves to take photos wherever I go, the Ice Castle was basically like a giant photo opportunity. We stopped to take photos at the entrance, we stopped to take photos by the fountain, we stopped to take photos in the different nooks and narrow pathways. There were also different ice ‘seats’ where you could pose for images.
The Ice Castle doesn’t feel as big once you’re inside as it looks on the outside. You can get through the different paths and cave-like areas (really cool cave-like areas) pretty quickly once inside. Your time spent is extended if you’re doing photos like we did or if you’re waiting in line for the kid slide but after the initial loop, we were satisfied and ready to leave.
When we first walked into the Ice Castle I was reminded of the scene in Jurassic World where the kids see the amusement park for the very first time. It’s kind of like this awestruck, slow but epic kind of score. That’s how I would describe the music that was playing at the Ice Castle and I really think that ‘awestruck’ feel is what they were going for.
Edmonton talks a lot about embracing winter, embracing the cold, being proud of our Winter City and building events and activities based around snow and ice and the Ice Castle at Hawrelak Park does all of that.
I love Edmonton and the winters that come with it (not all the time, admittedly, but things like the Ice Castle certainly help!)
What a wonderful addition to our winter city.
And what great, worldwide attention we’re getting because of it – who doesn’t want to visit Canada’s first & largest, 25 million-pound, Narnia/Frozen-like ice castle?
The Ice Castle is in Edmonton until March (weather permitting – though Mike thinks it could easily last longer if the company didn’t actually take it down, given how much ice there is and how long it would take to naturally melt).
I would absolutely recommend you check it out – both at night and during the day (I’m hoping to take my mom soon, and go with my niece and nephew!)
A few of my tips on how to have the best visit to the Ice Castle:
- Go at least twice – once during the day and once at night for different views and experiences
- Take lots of photos – it’s basically the best photo op location (and so perfect for Edmonton!) plus it’s so unique it’s begging for photos!
- Bundle up – we probably could’ve stayed longer but we’re pretty cold!
- Bring the family – it’s for all ages, and probably even more magical to see kids’ faces light up
- Pre-order tickets online – it’s cheaper and easier!
- Go weekdays, earlier in the afternoon or later in the evening – to avoid peak hours and long line ups, but also be prepared for some line-ups!
- Make a whole night of it – bring skates to skate at Hawrelak Park (or visit the new Victoria Park freezes at after)
- Maybe bring your own portable hot chocolate! I’m thinking those takeaway cases from Tim Hortons. Like a perfect Canadian winter scene lol.
Next on our winter city/exploring Edmonton list: the icy freezeway at the Victoria Park Oval!
Learn more about Ice Castle Edmonton & get tickets here.
So have you been to the Ice Castle yet? What did you think?!