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Wednesday 6 January 2021

Ice Castles 2020/21

 Happy new year! 

Today I'm sharing our last adventure of 2020 with you. Our trip to the Ice Castles in Dillon.

If you've been here a while you'll know that the Ice Castles are always one of our highlights of the Winter. This was our third year visiting the Ice Castles, and even though we know what to expect each time, it's always a magical wonderland that leaves us awestruck. I mean, just take a look at those pictures below! Aren't the ice structures simply stunning? Don't they look like they're made of pure magic? Like little ice fairies waved their wands and the ice crystals formed together to create the most wondrous and otherworldly castle imaginable. I like to think that's how they're made! Actually, I'm pretty sure that's exactly how they're made. 

Ok, so maybe there's a little more science involved rather than fairy magic, but it's all still wonderful and like nothing else I've ever experienced. 

I just can't get enough of the Ice Castles - and that's why I took a gazillion photos to share with you!

As always, I really struggled to narrow down the photos. So go grab yourself a hot cocoa (perfect for this icy adventure) and prepare to enter a world of wonder...

Oh, and make sure to read through to the end as I've got a discount code for Little Hiccups readers!

We visited the Ice Castles on a particularly chilly day. Ok, so it's always a chilly day in Dillon in Winter, but this one was especially chilly. When we arrived at the Ice Castles at noon the temperature was around -11C/12F, the sky was grey and it was snowing lightly. Things change pretty quickly up in the mountains though, so in the 90 minutes or so that we spent in the Ice Castles the snow stopped, the sun came out a little, and then after a while the sun came out a lot. And that's why the sky changes color so much in my photos! It's not just me being a bad photographer who can't get the white balance right! It's also why the color of the ice changes so much. The ice varies from whites and greys through to vivid blues depending on the amount of light shining on it (or through it) as well as the thickness of the ice. In areas where the ice is really thick it looks bluer. Where the ice is thinner, for example where there are ice stalactites, the ice looks much whiter. The fluffy white snow on top of it all adds an extra layer of color, texture and dimension that we hadn't seen on our previous visits. 

While the ice structures are amazing to look at, the highlight for the kids was the slides. There are three different slides of varying sizes. The biggest slide is the most popular and you'll always find a line here. For this particular slide riders must be over 42" tall. Riders are given a blue mat to sit on to ensure a smooth slide - and to keep butts dry! This slide is popular with both adults and children. 

The medium sized slide is also for riders over 42" but is much shorter and therefore better suited to children - or small adults like me! Taller riders do need to be careful not to bump their head at the end of this one. There are no matts for this slide, so if you're not in waterproof pants you can expect a slightly wet butt at the end of this one! The walk to the top of this slide is one of my favorite parts of the Ice Castles as you get a great view over both the inside and the outside of the structures. 

The smallest slide, or rather, slides, in the Ice Castles is made the littlest visitors. This double slide is perfect for toddlers. Only Mathilde rode this slide as both Ava and Lola were a little big for it. If you're visiting with young kids who are tall enough for the two bigger slides but are nervous, this is a great slide to start them out on. There is no minimum height for this slide. 

Sliding may have been the kids favorite activity, but exploring the tunnels and caves was a close second. There weren't any low tunnels that required us to get down on our hands and knees to crawl through this year, but there were still plenty of tunnels to walk through. To keep things flowing smoothly and to encourage social distancing the tunnels are all one way this year with plenty of signs showing the way. Technically some of the other tunnels have been one way in the past as well, but it was a bit more of a free for all pre-covid. Visitors were really good at sticking to going the right way this time around, or at least they did during our visit. 

As you can see from the pics above, Ava wasn't dressed quite as warmly as she should've been. Lola was also a little chilly by now, so Kim took them back to the car to warm up while Mathilde and I stayed in the Ice Castles to continue sliding - and to take cheesy pics! 

Ok, time for some kid free pics of the Ice Castles...

Now for the practical stuff...

Wondering about visiting the Ice Castles during a pandemic? This year tickets are limited to keep numbers down in the Ice Castles at any given time. The upside of this (apart from safety) is that it's easier to get great photos without lots of people in the background. As always, a timed ticket must be purchased online in advance. As I mentioned earlier, all tunnels are one way and clearly marked with plenty of signage. The tunnels are more spacious than previous years too so if you do happen to find yourself coming face to face with someone who went the wrong way there's plenty of space to maneuver around. Face masks are required at all times in the Ice Castles and while lining up to enter. Cute signage outside the Ice Castles is in place to help visitors keep six feet apart while lining up to enter. Look at those adorable little yetis!

Here are my favorite tips for visiting the Ice Castles:

Dress warmly!
This seems like a given, but it seriously is really cold in the Ice Castles even on a sunny day. Dress in layers with warm boots, gloves/mittens, wool socks, snow or rain pants (to keep your butt dry on the slides!), a warm jacket and a beanie.  

Use hand/foot warmers in your gloves and shoes
These little wonders really do make a huge difference. They can take a about twenty minutes to warm up so make sure to put them in your shoes, mittens or pockets ahead of time. They stay warm for up to six hours. 

Bring sunglasses
Even on an overcast day the sun can be quite dazzling on all that white. Sunglasses definitely come in handy.

Choose your time of day based on what you want to see
If you just want to experience the natural colors of the Ice Castles then I suggest visiting earlier in the day. I personally love the natural colors of the ice best so we visited at 12:30pm and no matter what the sky was like the ice was stunning. If you'd prefer to just see the Ice Castles lit up then an evening visit is for you. If you'd like to experience a little of both, consider visiting around 4pm. That way you'll get to see the natural colors of the ice and the colorful LED lights sparkling after the sun sets. If you'd like to see the Ice Castles lit up at night check our first visit here.

Skip the stroller and bring a baby carrier or sled
If you're visiting with a baby or young toddler consider using a baby carrier. A stroller is not going to work in the thick snow inside the Ice Castles. A baby carrier is great if your little one is likely to fall asleep during your visit plus it will keep them snuggly warm. A sled is a great idea for toddlers who may get tired of walking. We dragged Mathilde around in a sled during our first visit and it was perfect.

Eat, drink and use the bathroom before entering
There are no bathroom facilities inside the Ice Castles so make sure to take this into account when arriving. There are porta-potties outside the entrance. Eating and drinking inside the Ice Castles is not allowed - and kind of tricky with a mask on anyway!

Ice Castles are located at 120 Buffalo Street, Dillon. 

Entry is by timed ticket only with openings Thursday through Monday. Hours vary depending on the day, but generally start from 12pm on weekends and 3pm on weekdays. Last entry is at 9pm. 

Weekday tickets start at $17.99 for ages 12 and up, and $12.99 for children ages 4 to 11. Children 3 and under do not require a ticket. Weekend and holiday pricing is a little higher. 

Little Hiccups reader can save 15% off their ticket purchase by using the code littlehiccups at the checkout. 

Tickets must be purchased in advance online at https://icecastles.com/colorado

We had such a great time visiting the Ice Castles again this year and I know we'll be back against next year!

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