Written by Jackie Richards
Imagine walking through a fairytale winter wonderland. One that spans huge ice and snow sculptures, with colorful lights all around you. When I say huge, I am talking about largest ice and snow sculptures. One even took the Guinness World Record for Largest Snow Sculpture coming in at 250 meters long, 8.5 meters high, and used over 13,000 cubic meters of snow.
You have entered the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival.
The festival started in 1963, based upon Harbin’s traditional ice lantern show. It was sadly interrupted for a number of years, but resumed in 1985. And it just kept growing. Becoming official in 2001, now there are four different theme parks open for the festival.Besides a lot of ice, and a lot of snow, it takes swing saws pulled from the surface of the Songhua River, ice picks, other types of saws, and approximately 10,000 people to bring together the massive festival each year. They bring Harbin, China to life with intricate designs, colored lights, and activities that go from performances, to winter sports, to even a wedding ceremony on ice.
It is pretty cold in Harbin, China during the winter. The average temperature is -13 degrees Celsius and at night, you can be looking at -30 degrees Celsius. Yet the cold weather, snow, and ice attractions is exactly what brings over 18 million tourists each year to experience this true Winter Wonderland that lasts about 60-70 days during the cold Harbin winter.
Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Expo is held in the Sun Island scenic area. It covers 5000 meters and actually has an indoor area open all year round that is kept between -5 and -10 degrees Celsius. Each year a different cultural theme is picked, and is the home of towering, illuminated snow sculptures. It also welcomes countries like Canada, Japan, Russia, France, Italy, and North Korea (to name a few) to participate in the construction.
In Ice and Snow World, aka Bingxue Large World, you enter the most important of the four theme parks. It traverses 750,000 square meters and needs over 300,000 cubic meters of ice and snow. It is described as charming, romantic, and breath-taking. It is one of the most popular winter attractions in the world. It is no wonder it brings so many to Harbin, China seeking a glimpse of such beauty.
It costs more than $15.25 million to create another important component of the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival – the Wanda Ice Lantern theme park. It spans 500,000 square meters, and consumes 50,000 cubic square meters of ice and 10,000 cubic meters of snow. Here is the opportunity to not only enjoy the beautiful and brightly lit sculptures, you can also visit the mini ice expo which will treat you to six different types of cuisine: Chinese, Korean, Thai, Russian, German, and French. There are also various activities in the park ranging from fun and rather unique winter sports, like Ice Football or ice bowling. You can even take in a show in a 5D or 6D theatre which includes live foreign dances, and films that have ice and snow as a theme.
Last, but certainly not least, is Zhaolin Park Ice Lantern Fair. This is how the festival was born of course. Traditionally the ice lanterns were used for the fisherman at night in the Songhua River. Now, these lanterns are based on a garden art style developed from the folk art. There is a wide variety of snow and ice sculptures and range from recreations of buildings to ancient Chinese legends, and even animals. The enchanted effect comes from the added lights, best seen at 5:30 pm.
My suggestion? Bundle up, get ready to walk, and take in the Winter Wonderland Fairytale that is the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival.