Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival
Each January, the Harbin Ice Festival wows visitors with its giant, frozen art. If you’re willing to brave the arctic temperatures, you’ll be in for quite the show! The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is the largest ice and snow festival in the world and home of world’s biggest ice sculptures.
When: The festival officially starts on January 5th and lasts one month. Some exhibits may open earlier and stay longer, depending on the weather.
Where: There are four main areas to take in the ice festival festivities:
- Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Expo: Sun Island is the birthplace of this international festival and the expo is known as the “world’s largest ice and snow carnival.” The expo has a different cultural theme each year and tourists can explore the giant snow art at the museum, which opens in November each year.
- Harbin Ice and Snow World: Harbin Ice and Snow World opened in 1999 and features illuminated full-sized buildings made from thick blocks of ice. Traditional Chinese fairy tales inspire the sculptures in this dreamlike theme park. It is also a great park to enjoy other cultural and sporting activities.
- Zhaolin Park Ice Lantern Fair: The Ice Lantern Fair dates back to 1963 and is the best place to view the ice lantern art. During the day, you’ll be able to see the fine details of the lantern sculptures, but evening is really the best time to go to enjoy the sparkling colored lights. This park is said to be one of the top 35 tourist attractions in China.
- Songhua River Ice and Snow Harbin Valley: This is the youngest of the theme parks, opening in 2011, and is located along the Songhua River. Visitors can view ice sculptures, watch cultural performances, and participate in many local ice and snow activities.
Ice Lanterns: The first ice lanterns date back to the mid 1600s when local fishermen and peasants used them as lights during the winter months. The first ice lanterns were made by freezing a bucket of water, pulling out the frozen bucket-shaped ice block, and chiseling a hole in the top to place a candle on the inside. Today these lanterns have become works of art as the lanterns can be carved into sculptures and filled with colored lights.
Other Activities: Though the most popular activities are the ice and snow carnival, ice sculpture competitions, and the ice lantern show, the festival includes many other fun activities. Take in the ice-sailing, sledding, ice hockey, ice football, speed skating, ski competitions, fishing, swimming, ice and snow film art show, painting exhibition, calligraphy display, photo exhibition, folk song and dance performances, and even wedding ceremonies on ice!
Feature Image: By Tracy Hunter (Flickr: Harbin Ice and Snow Festival 2013), CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Slider Image 1: By Farm (Own work), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Slider Image 2: By Dayou_X, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Slider Image 3: By Rincewind42 via Flickr