It was an abnormally warm Saturday (which we weren’t complaining about!) last February when we made the long trek up I-93 to visit the Ice Castles in Lincoln, New Hampshire. The first attempt we had to go to the ice castles was a few weeks before. But were unable to as the tickets had been sold out. When you purchase a ticket, you purchase it for a particular time-slot. We tried to buy the tickets around the mid-week for that weekend but they were sold out. Not just sold out for the time slot we had wanted, but sold out for that entire Saturday. And even that Sunday! We eventually were able to coordinate the tickets and our schedules a few weeks later. We learned that they only go on sale for 1 week in advance, so you can’t plan the tickets like a full month away. It happened one morning around 3:00 am. I hopped online and saw they had happened to open the ticket sales for the weekend we wanted and bammo! We were finally in!
The online purchase of the tickets had a small surcharge. It also required us to provide the names of everyone coming and to sign the waivers (the whole “it’s icy and dangerous and you assume all risks”).
We had noticed that this year the ice castles opened around the first week of January. You could sign up for their email list to be notified when tickets were on sale. I actually noticed that the tickets had been available and for sale for about a week before I had got the email notification that they were available. But you know for sure they are available if you do get the email notification. They go on sale for about a week out. They also say you can circumstances change you can change the date and time if made at least 24 hours in advance. Children’s tickets are slightly cheaper than adults should you be planning for the family.
We made sure to give ourselves enough time prior to the journey up north to stop over in Concord, NH so that we could do some antiquing on the trip up. It had been warm enough on our short walk from the car to the shop that we were practically able to drop down to our t-shirts. We only had enough time to stop at one store (which took us a few hours anyway). Inside we found exactly what we were looking for: well curated booths with high quality items.
When we resumed our journey north, we stopped for a bite to eat at the Tilt’n Diner which is sort of a landmark in Tilton. The food was typical diner fare at a high quality. The obligatory deserts could hardly be finished as we were so stuffed from our entrees.
When we finally turned off I-93 at exit 32, we were directed by a policeman toward the entrance of the Ice Castles. As it was already dark at 6:00 pm, we could see the glowing ice structures high above the parking lot.
Just being prepared – we all bundled up at the car with all of the layers we brought. I had hopes that since the day was so warm that we’d be over-dressed. But I soon found that even though it was extremely warm all day, I had ended up being very cold in the castles as the time went on… So be sure to bundle when you go!
We had to carefully shuffle to the gate as the ground was quite slippery. We had our reservations (required at this time of the season) and checked in in no time. After we were handed a tablet and electronically re-signed the waiver saying essentially that we enter at our own risk, we were in.
We’d arrived at night, but did happen to come right when the sun was cresting the horizon.
We heard the ice castle experience is different during the day than at night, so I’d suggest the way to get the most for your money: plan your visit for hours to overlap the day/evening. Do make note though, that once you enter the castle you can’t leave (so make sure to use the restrooms ahead of time as re-entry is not allowed).
After squeezing through the initial passageway,
and being greeted by alternating colors glowing in the ice, we entered a great courtyard with a working fountain at the center. It is worth mentioning that, from somewhere, music was playing, and it was the sort of triumphant music you hear in Disney movies and other inspirationally themed entertainment.
Although it seemed that there were more adults than children at night, there were still plenty of small children slipping around and the name “Elsa” could be frequently heard amidst squeals of excitement.
I was staring up at giant dangling icicles,
when I realized the true nature of the waivers we had signed. As I passed under them I could feel the tap tap of water droplets landing on my tweed hound’s-tooth fedora. Even though it had been such a warm day, we had brought our woolens for the evening. With my gentleman friend, Thomas Morgan, in his tweed newsboy cap and vintage Swedish Military bridge coat, and me in my large-sized vintage Pendleton overcoat; And our wives and girlfriends equally dressed as warm – we were ready for a typically cold New England night.
Ice Slides & Fire Throwers
The first thing we did after assessing the situation was visit the ice slide. A 30-minute+ wait turned into a 5-second swoosh through a slick tunnel while sitting on a sled of a thin sheet of plastic.
Stopping us from gaining any real speed and plowing into the waiting line at the bottom was a strip of that green plastic grass you see at miniature golf courses.
While we had been waiting in line for the slide, we had caught a few glimpses of some fire breathers. We visited them next and saw an array of immolated fans, hula hoops, and axes being expertly swing through the air, at what seemed like dangerously close proximity to the performers. My personal favorite was this tall blonde woman whose mannerisms led me to believe that she was probably the troop leader of this act. While holding a flaming wand in one hand and discretely sipping from a container in the other, she belched flames into the night sky. She began with one burst at a time, and built up to a finally of rapid succession. We made sure to tip them a few bucks for their bravery.
Towers, Thrones, Cave Mazes, & Sculptures
In every direction was some form of towering ice formation within which primary colors were always alternating. Everything from full multi-storied towers and an epic Game of Thrones-like throne made of all ice.
We passed through terrific ice mazes and stared up at vast and vaulted ceilings of brilliantly colored ice. Some of the ceilings were so high that it gave off the feeling of cathedral like dimensions.
You are completely walled in the ice castle in a semi-oval structure. There is the main entrance gate and signs for the exit inside of the structure.
There are sculptures intermixed through-out the complex. All adorned with LED lights that change at various frequency.
There is a maze, with mini-slides (no line – but more like a hole in a wall), and caves all of which are a bunch of fun!
At the edge of the parking lot there were a few dozen porta-pottie chemical toilets. However, if you could hold it, there was an indoor bathroom available as we exited through the gift-shop.
It is an enjoyable experience for adults and children alike. All assuming you don’t mind the long ride up to New Hampshire.
Ice castles were $15.95 (per adult) * 4 + $5 (transaction fee) = ~$68.80
* we are not affiliated or sponsored by the ice castles
– prices may be subject to change. We are just providing information based on our experience for a reference.
– Buy tickets online (stand-by really doesn’t happen)
– Buy tickets early (they sell out)
– Make sure to go sometime in January/early Feb as they close pretty early in the season
– Dress warm (while this seemed like a no brainer – it was 64 the day we went and it was cold)
– Boots are a must
– Bring communication devices – such as walkies, cell phones, etc in case you lose all or part of your party
– Bring glow light sticks to attach to and find your kids (it is dark). Like these on Amazon
– Have a plan to meet after a period of time at a particular pre-determined landmark in the structure if you are separated.
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