Prepare to Freeze: Ice Sculpture Festivals Not to Miss in the Northern Hemisphere

Art is a wonderful thing. Whether you prefer paintings, photography, writing or music – human creativity can get a soul singing happy tunes. If you love winter as much as I do, you’ll be in heaven as you wander through festivals dedicated to winter and art fans – sculpture festivals whose main material is ice.

Following are a few ice sculpture festivals that are high on my bucket list. They are intertwined with photos from my first-ever ice sculpture festival – the Jerusalem 2012 “Ice City”. From everything I read, what I saw there was a small preparation to what some other ice festivals have to offer.


Ice Magic Festival, Banff National Park, Canada

What: International artists have 34 hours to create unique, spectacular ice sculpture by famous Lake Louise. They compete against one another in Calgary’s Banff National Park, located in the Canadian state Alberta.

Their creations are left in the wild until it gets warm and art turns to water.

When: January 18-20, 2013 AND until early Spring. The festival, unfortunately, ended, yet you still have time to catch a flight over there and see the sculptures.


Snow Village, Finland

What: In Lainiotie, Kittila, about 200 kilometers (approximately 124 miles) above the Arctic Circle, you’ll find a whole village made of snow and ice. According to its official website, the village spreads across 20,000 square meters (approximately 215,000 square foot), and “consists of a restaurant, a bar, lobbies, hotel rooms and suites as well as outdoor buildings such as walls, slides and sculptures, made of nothing but crystallized water”.

That’s right – you can spend the night in the frozen village. Don’t worry, the staff will give you adequate equipment so you won’t see a glacier when you look in the mirror the following day.

Staying an unfrozen human will help you, as the village offers winter activities and will even help you throw your wedding there if you wish.

When: December 10, 2012 – April 7, 2013. You might



Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, China

What: National Geographic called it one of the best winter trips you can take in 2013. Prepare to visit three parts of town to see a variety of massive, giant sculptures made of snow and ice. Some of them are lit in colors when it gets dark outside.

You might be lucky enough to see fireworks – or happy couples tying the knot. Almost 30 couples did just that in the 2010 festival.

When: January 5 – February 5, 2013. Hurry up and you might still make it!


World Ice Championship, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA

What: For a little over a month, international teams come to Alaska to compete in the ice sculpture championship. Their creations are exhibited throughout multiple blocks.

Moreover, everyone from kids to adults can take ice sculpture workshops and classes. If you participate, you’ll create your own mini ice sculpture – and even get to take it home! Just don’t be surprised if it melts on the plane – be sure to photograph it in advance.

When: February 26 – March 31, 2013


Jerusalem’s Ice City, Israel

What: Israel doesn’t get cold enough for an outside ice festival, so after requiting China’s help, colorful ice sculptures were created last year in an indoor space to represent Jerusalem locations and children’s favorite stories and fairy tales.

After that first-time success, 2013 will see ice sculptures representing Jerusalem as well as the far east. An added bonus will be Chinese acrobats performing on ice.

When: February 20 – April 30, 2013

Check out my posts about last year’s festival for more.


Which ice sculpture festivals are on your bucket list?



    • From what I read, the Jerusalem one will be fantastic – I can’t wait to go there myself. Just make sure to dress warmly, because it’ll be -10C (14 F) inside.

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