Travel Tips

Ice Sculpture Events: Where to See Sculptors Work Their Winter Magic

Locations in this article:  Los Angeles, CA Nashville, TN

Winter is quickly approaching, and with that come winter events. But if you want to go beyond ice skating, consider checking out ice sculpture festivals and events. Contributing writers Jim and Barbara Twardowski discovered some of the more unique–and family-friendly–ice sculpting events around North America. Keep reading to find out which ones you can’t miss this winter.

Ice Land Ice Sculptures at Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas

ice land

Image Credit: Jim Twardowski

Inside an insulated tent with temperatures set to a climate-controlled chilling nine degrees, artisans from Harbin, China are wielding ice picks and chainsaws to shape some 900 tons of ice into a holiday event in Galveston, Texas. Inside the 28,000 square-foot space, they are working around the clock for 45 days chipping away at pink, blue, and green blocks of ice. If the blocks of ice were stacked one upon another, they would be the height of eleven Empire State Buildings.

ice land 2

Image Credit: Jim Twardowski

This international team is creating ICE LAND: Ice Sculptures with SpongeBob SquarePants. The ice sculptures are the latest addition to the annual “Festival of Lights” celebration at Moody Gardens.  Surrounded by palm trees and lush tropical landscaping, guests will be given courtesy parkas, taken inside a staging area to see a video of how the winter wonderland was built, swoosh down a slide made of ice, and tour through nine holiday-themed displays of Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants and the inhabitants of Bikini Bottom.

The ice sculptures debut on November 15 and runs through January 3, 2015.  Tickets and hotel packages can be purchased online at Moody Gardens.

Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tennessee


Two million holiday lights have been hung at Music City’s largest hotel—the Gaylord Opryland Resort.  The 2,882 room resort’s annual, A Country Christmas signature event is ICE!.  The exhibit portrays the characters from the beloved holiday poem “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”  After seeing the Ma in her kerchief and Pa in his cap, guests can head for the hills covered in real snow and go snow tubing down the six-lane Arctic Plunge.  Shows and attractions begin November 14.

CHILL at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California


The ocean liner-turned-floating hotel in Southern California presents the third annual winter event CHILL. Ticket holders will walk through larger-than-life sparkling ice sculptures and ride down three frigid ice slides inside a 14,000 square foot igloo.  Families will see a replica of the Queen Mary, dancing dolphins, and a Surfing Santa enhanced with LED lights.  The exhibit opens November 21 and runs through January 11.

Ice Festival in Cripple Creek, Colorado

Image Credit: Maria Cunningham

Image Credit: Maria Cunningham

The 7th annual Cripple Creek Ice Festival in Colorado will take place over two separate weekends in February of 2015.  Each year features a different theme—from a Mythological Wonderland to a Military Salute to Under the Sea.  This year’s theme is sure to be a kid-pleasing choice—Cartoons in Ice. While the children play on interactive sculptures, parents can indulge at the ice bar with a liquor luge.

Ice Magic Festival in Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada


Banff loves winter and throws a month-long celebration called SnowDays with weekday events and weekend festivals.  On the second weekend (January 16 to 18) , ice carvers work a grueling 34 hours sculpting 300 blocks of ice at the International Ice Carving Competition, which is the highlight of the Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival. At the Little Chippers Weekend (January 24 to 25) families learn the science of ice carving and even have an opportunity to tackle small blocks with tools.

First Night Boston in Boston, Massachusetts


The largest and longest running New Year’s Eve arts festival in the country is First Night Boston. The festivities begin at 1 p.m. until midnight on December 31, 2014, when nearly one million people descend on downtown Boston. The event showcases over 1,000 artists in 200 performances with events at more than two dozen indoor and outdoor locations. Families can enjoy an afternoon festival, a grand parade down Boylston Street, fireworks at midnight, and giant ice sculptures dotting the landscape.

For more information on winter events and activities, check out:

By Jim and Barbara Twardowski for Jim and Barbara Twardowski cover the travel industry writing about boomer and accessible travel, accommodations, culinary/cultural offerings, and destinations.