For the last few years, I have had the Ice Castles on my list to visit. In a normal year, there are 6 sites across the U.S. and Canada that have the ice castles.
The locations for the 2021 ice castle season are: Colorado, New Hampshire, Utah and Wisconsin.
HOW DID THE ICE CASTLES START?
"Each year, Ice Castles brings fairy tales to life for hundreds of thousands of families across North America. Our primary goal at Ice Castles is to make people smile. Since 2011, Ice Castles has been dedicated to creating an experience that will live on long after the ice melts. For all who enter through our icicle-adorned archways, we hope the time spent at Ice Castles is a source of joy and inspiration. Bringing joy to others has been our mission since the company’s inception. Founder, Brent Christensen, crafted his first icy creation in the front yard of his home to bring happiness and joy to his children. After moving from sunny California to snowy Utah, Christensen did what any father of six stir-crazy kids with cabin fever would do. He built an ice cave in his yard to get his kids out of the house. His stroke of genius worked!
His icy invention wasn’t just a hit with his own children. Kids from all over the neighborhood – and eventually from all across town -- got wind of his creation, bundled up, and headed outside to play at Christensen’s wintry wonderland. The kids affectionately called this winter playground an “ice castle”. And that is exactly what it is today."
GETTING YOUR TICKETS
As you can imagine, the ice castles are a popular winter attraction. Tickets generally go on sale early to mid-December every year. Tickets for the 20-21 season went on sale 12/19. It is recommended to purchase your tickets early as popular time slots fill up. (I opted to purchase our tickets for a Friday with entry between 3:30 - 4:00PM so we could see the castles during twilight hour as the sun is setting).
Select the location you want to visit
Select the green button "Buy tickets here"
When choosing an entry time, you have the 30 minute time slot to enter
Once you enter, you cannot leave. There are also no bathrooms inside and no food or drink is permitted inside.
Currently, masks are required while inside as well.
Pricing varies slightly between the 4 sites, but for the Colorado location (where I am visiting.)
General admission is $17.99 weekday / $22.99 weekend
Child admission is $12.99 weekday / $17.99 weekend
VISITING THE DILLON ICE CASTLES IN COLORADO
Dillon, Colorado is located roughly 65 miles from Denver. Denver is the closest major airport from Dillon. We flew in to Denver and then ended up renting a car. Renting a car for 3 days cost us about $100. We landed at 11:30 and ended up driving straight up to Dillon as the pass can be pretty unpredictable. We hit some traffic and got there at about 2:00.
Tip: The state of Colorado has pretty strict rules on using chains or 4WD / AWD vehicles. If you are planning to go to the mountains, I recommend renting an SUV to meet those requirements.
Entry into the ice castles is pretty easy. Check in at the ticket office. They will validate your ticket and allow you in during your 30-minute entry window. Once you are inside, you are allowed as much time as you want there. We found we could explore, go on the ice slides and take our pictures in 45 minutes. If you have kids, they may enjoy going down the ice slides more times than we did.
I am glad that I visited this year since there was a limited amount of people allowed in at a time. I didn't feel like it was too crowded and we were able to enjoy wandering through the structures without a crowd.
TIPS & TRICKS FOR VISITING THE ICE CASTLES
Allow yourself multiple hours to get up to Dillon. Though it may say only a 1 hour 10 minute drive, it can take much longer. It look us roughly 1 hour and 50 minutes. If you arrive early, there are plenty of restaurants to visit while you are waiting. We had lunch at Dillon Dam brewery as we ended up having 1.5 hours to spare. The I-70 pass is unpredictable with weather and lots of semi trucks seem to use this pass.
Get your tickets early. Tickets tend to sell out as this has become a popular attraction. Keep an eye on the website for tickets to become available early to mid-December
Dress warm. It was about 15 degrees when we were there. We dressed as if we were going skiing / snowboarding. You want ski pants because if you want to go on the ice slides it will save your butt from getting wet!
Pay attention to the signs posted around the ice castles. There are some one-way signs posted for going through the ice caves. I am not positive if this is related to controlling the traffic due to the pandemic or if it is like this every year. However, it helped space people out to keep their distance.
Pick an earlier or later time slot: It could help you avoid traffic. We left Dillon at around 4:45PM and ended up getting stuck in a white out snow storm along with many other cars and semi trucks. It ended up taking us about 3+ hours to travel the 65 miles back to Denver.
Have you been to any of the ice castles? What did you think?