A Dazzling Celebration of Ice and Art
Summer isn’t the only time of year to book an unforgettable, international getaway. The Annual Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, China attracts thousands of visitors from around the globe during their month-long celebration of all things snow and ice. The celebration begins in early January and lasts a month or more, depending on weather conditions. The Harbin Ice Festival originated from an annual ice lantern tradition dating back to the early 1900’s. Today the festival features record-breaking sculptures made entirely of ice or snow, which dazzle spectators in the morning sunlight. At night, colorful neon lights illuminate the displays.
Travelers encounter everything from fishermen and mythical creatures to life-sized ice trains, and sparkling castles. Harbin’s ice sculptors are so expertly skilled at their craft that they travel globally during the off-season, creating pieces for renowned events such as the Gaylord Texan’s annual ICE! display.
Where is Harbin, China?
Harbin, meaning a place for drying fishing nets, is the capital city of China’s northernmost province, Heilóngjiang. While it was originally just a small fishing village in the 1800’s, Harbin began to gain major cultural and economic influence when it allowed a line off of the Trans-Siberian Railway to be extended through it. Today, Harbin has grown to a population of over 10 million residents. The city offers a unique blend of Chinese and European culture, architecture, and cuisine. Smoked red sausage, sweet and sour pork and stewed chicken with mushrooms are favorite dishes in the area. Russian influence has popularized novelties such as dalieba, a round Russian bread reminiscent of sourdough, and kvass, a sour, fermented drink made from brown bread.
Where to Stay, What to Do
As with any major festival, book your lodging for this event well in advance. You’ll want to be sure to locate a hotel within close range of any attractions you want to visit. Beyond the attraction of the ice sculptures, Harbin is a worthwhile travel destination all on its own. The Russian-Orthodox Church of Saint Sophia is a stunning piece of history. Although it was previously used as a place of worship, it was secularized and converted into a museum in the 1990’s. Today, it houses an art gallery related to architecture and Harbin’s rich history. The Siberian Tiger Park, near the Songhua River, gives sightseers a close encounter with the beautiful, endangered Siberian Tiger. Sun Island, Zhaolin Park, and Zhongyang Dajie Street are just a few of the many sights and stops you’ll want to add to your list.
Packing for Snow and Ice
Harbin’s bitterly cold winters make it the ideal location for a month-long ice and snow festival. With an average daily temperature of -3°F during the festival, visitors should prepare to bundle up! Woolen undergarments, waterproof footwear, and wind-resistant outerwear are essential for a comfortable trip. Many travelers also recommend sunglasses to protect against the blinding effects of snow during the daytime.
If you’ve been dreaming of visiting a real-life ice castle since you first saw Frozen, the Harbin Ice & Snow Festival is an absolute must-see! Brimming with culture and history, and home to one of the world’s most impressive winter celebrations, there is something for everyone in Harbin, China.