The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in China
The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival boasts an extraordinary and majestic display of lighted ice sculptures, ice lanterns, ice hotels, dog sledding and winter sports and activities. Followed by, the Quebec Winter Carnival in Canada, the Oslo Helmenkollen Ski Festival in Norway, and the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan, Harbin’s display is the most intriguing and dazzling of the ice and snow festivals.
In its 34th year, the festival runs from December 24 to February 25, in the bone-chilling dead of winter. Located in northeast China, the city has abundant ice and snow. The ice itself is sourced from Harbin’s Songhua River, and takes upwards of 50 workers almost a month to supply the massive quantity required for the annual festival.
Millions of tourists visit Harbin each year to admire the grand ice sculptures, ice lanterns, snow sculptures and to watch and participate in the ice and snow activities. The festival is so large it is spread over multiple sites, each offering its own unique experience.
The main venue is the Ice and Snow World. Built to bring in the millennium, this massive amusement park is a famous landmark of the city, and hosts over 2000 ice sculptures and 30 recreational activities.
The festival features a different theme each year; 2016 was ‘Ice Silk Road and Snow China,’ 2015 was ‘Holy Land of Snow Kingdom and Sightseeing from Ice Heaven,’ and 2014 was ‘Fairyland.’
The creations tower above their admirers showcasing exquisite art work. Impressive by day, at night the multi-colored sculptures create a magical kaleidoscope color that will tantalize your visual senses.
The art on display includes massive ice engravings and snow sculptures created by award winning international artists.
To tantalize your auditory senses, the ice stage is alive with dramatic performances offering something for everyone. Bringing together music from around the world, the Cool Harbin Show Field hosts figure skating, hip-hop, ballroom dancing and more.
If so inclined, become a participant and experience the icy snow activities. Choose from over 20 activities including skating, curling, sleighing, spinning tops, ice biking, skiing, snow football, snow circling etc., or just have a good old fashioned snow ball fight! For those who dare, take a trip down the 350 meter long ice slide.
For those who can’t battle the cold, enjoy the festival in the 6000 square meter indoor Ice and Snow Paradise. Open all year, the temperature is maintained at a freezing -10C, and this paradise offers smaller versions of everything the festival has to offer.
Sun Island is another major venue. Encompassed by crystal lakes, rock formations, stunning architecture and beautiful flowers, the north of the island is host to several types of fauna and flora. The south, influenced by its neighbour, has Russian architectures, performances by Russian artists and an array of Russian cuisine.
Zhaolin Park, located in the concrete jungle of downtown Harbin, is named after Li Zhaolin, a national hero in the Second World War. A stark difference from the exploding floral summer, the park hosts the Ice Lantern Garden Party.
Another common venue is Central Street. Adorned by western architecture, the cobblestone-paved street is lined by colonial style homes, restored shops, and restaurants and bars, some of which date back over 100 years.
Millions of tourists flock to the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival each year. Make your trip enjoyable and memorable by doing a little homework. With an average temperature of -18C, appropriate attire and accessories are critical to not only enjoying the festival, but also avoiding frostbite! Advance purchase of tickets helps avoid long queues in the bitter cold. Finally, once there, allow yourself to be mesmerized in the magical ice kingdom!