In The News: Ice Castles
Ice Castles In Lake Geneva
Endless Winter Fun for Locals and Visitors
By Holly Murphy, Age 17
Lake Geneva is taking winter to a whole new level with the addition of their hand made, magical ice castles that will stretch along the shore of Geneva Lake. Construction is already underway for this fairy tale experience at the Riviera beach in downtown Lake Geneva.
The acre-sized castle is opening on Wednesday, January 23, 2019. There are five other Ice Castles locations in Midway, Utah; Dillon, Colorado; Stillwater, Minnesota; Lincoln, New Hampshire; and Edmonton, Canada. According to Melissa Smuzynski of Ice Castles, “The experience will provide different areas to explore. Some of the locations in previous years featured a chandelier room, with beautiful icicles dangling overhead; a maze that has a series of tunnels and slot canyons; and even a fountain room with a water feature synchronized to music.” We’re excited to see what’s in store for us in Lake Geneva.
While you might think of an ice castle being made out of blocks of ice, these castles are much more intricate. Each ice castle is built by hand and takes thousands of man-hours to create. The daily process consists of growing 5,000 to 12,000 icicles that are harvested by hand and individually sculpted into existing ice formations. The newly placed icicles are then drenched with water creating an astonishing and ever-changing variety of ice formations. LED lights are frozen inside the ice and twinkle to music adding a magical ambiance to the breathtaking interactive sculptures.
The Best of Lake Geneva had a chance to talk with Melissa Smuzynski of Ice Castles about this icy wonderland experience that’s coming to our town.
Q: What type of background does a person need to build ice castles?
A: An ideal candidate to build ice castles would have some type of construction experience and experience using power tools. However, the ability to work outside in the cold is probably the single most important requirement for the job. Aside from ice artisans and builders, Ice Castles also hires seasonal event staff. Requirements: must enjoy working outside in the cold and love making people smile.
Q: How big is the Lake Geneva castle?
A: The Lake Geneva location is just under an acre in size and weighs more than 25 million pounds.
Q: How long does it take to complete an ice castle?
A: It takes approximately two months to create the experience by a team of 20-40 artisans. The interesting thing is there is no metal or wooden framework underneath the structures. It’s made entirely of ice.
Q: Are there interactive elements inside the castle or is it more of a scenic experience?
A: Ice Castles are both a scenic experience and an interactive one. With slides, frozen thrones, crawl spaces, slot canyons to squeeze through, as well as firepits, the Ice Castles are not only beautiful, but it is fun for the whole family.
Q: How does the Lake Geneva’s castle differ from the other locations?
A: Our Ice Artisans create new designs and innovative features each season, and with the assistance of Mother Nature each location has its own uniqueness and they are different every year.
Q: How did you decide to build one in Lake Geneva?
A: Ice Castles is excited to bring our signature winter experience to Lake Geneva. We believe the weather in Lake Geneva is ideal for building and sustaining the Ice Castles experience. Additionally, Lake Geneva’s proximity to Chicago, Illinois; and Milwaukee and Madison, makes it the perfect weekend getaway for those looking to escape the city. Riviera Beach, where Ice Castles will be built, offers a stunning backdrop that will complement the beauty of the attraction. All of our Ice Castles are located next to a natural water source, so all of our water returns directly into the environment to be used again by wildlife, people and plants.
Q: What will be the hours operation and the cost?
A: Opening date is Wednesday, January 23, 2019. Operating Hours are: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 4 p.m. - 9 p.m., Friday 4pm - 10:30pm, Saturday noon - 10:30pm, Sunday noon-8pm, and Closed on Tuesday.
Prices: Monday-Thursday: Online- General Admission (12+): $15.95 Child (4-11): $10.95. Mon-Thurs: Walkup (Standby)- General Admission (12+): $20 Child (4-11): $15. Friday-Sunday: Online- General Admission (12+): $18.95 Child (4-11): $14.95. Fri-Sat. Walkup (Standby)- General Admission (12+): $25 Child (4-11): $20. Holiday pricing is the same as weekend pricing (Feb. 18). 0-3 Years old are free – not required to have a ticket
Q: Does your ticket enable you to reserve a time to avoid waiting in lines?
A: Yes. Tickets purchased online in advance are for a specific time slot. However, all guests must go through a short line where their e-ticket is scanned. For tickets, visit: www.icecastles.com/lake-geneva
Q: How long does it take to go through the castle?
A: The length of time spent in the Ice Castle will vary from guest to guest. An average time to plan on is anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
Q: Can you only go through once with your ticket?
A: Yes, each ticket is good for 1 (ONE) visit, however guests can spend as long as they would like at Ice Castles.
Q: Is it a different experience during the day vs at night?
A: If visiting Ice Castles during the day, you will get to see the deep glacial blues that only the natural light will bring out in the ice, as well as the details in the castle. At night you get to see the LED lights that illuminate the castle. Although equally beautiful and fun, the two experiences are uniquely different.
Q: How did this whole idea come to life?
A: Brent Christensen of Alpine, Utah built an ice cave in his front yard for his six children in 2009. It attracted so many people he quickly realized that it should be an experience enjoyed by more. His breathtaking works of art have become a must-see winter attraction and social media sensation drawing millions of people from all over the world since its inception in 2011.
Q: What do the kids think of their dad’s business and do they help come up with ideas for the castles?
A: Many of Brent’s children are now grown with kids of their own. His youngest daughter is now a teenager. Although just a young child when Brent first came up with the concept for Ice Castles, his youngest daughter was actually the inspiration behind the company name. When Brent created the first ice structure in the front yard of the family’s Utah home, his daughter, who was 5-years-old at the time exclaimed “It looks like an ice castle!” Now a grandfather, Brent is probably the coolest grandpa on the planet. His grandchildren think he has superhero powers because he builds ice castles.
Tips for Visiting the Ice Castles:
- Dress warm and wear boots that cover your ankles (or higher.) It will help you better navigate through the snow, that can be as deep as 6-8 inches in parts of the castle.
- For little ones, you can bring a sled to pull them along.
- There are a couple slides inside the castle and I especially liked the one on the lake side. The line looked long and extended off the ice ramp that begins the line, but it only took 25 minutes. Along the way you get to walk up an ice bridge that goes over the slide and provides you with incredible views of the ice castle and the lake along the way. The slide, itself, was fun, too. I highly recommend it for both adults and kids (over 42".)
- There's several firepits inside the ice castle for warming up.
- While advanced-sale tickets may be sold out, you can still visit the castle in the stand-by line. While we were at the castle on a busy weekend, the line moved quickly and didn't seem to last longer than 20-30 minutes. Some said it was even shorter. It's worth the wait! Have fun!
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