Have an unforgettable winter adventure in a frozen hotel
As the snowflakes start falling and winter boredom sets in, consider ditching the typical ski resort and book a stay at an ice hotel for the most epic winter vacation yet. Each year, architects and artists sculpt thousands of tons of snow and ice to build these hotels. You might have to pay a little extra and travel far to find one, as there are only about 20 worldwide. But they are worth the expense and the trip! Ice hotels can be a bit chilly at night, but whatever they lack in warmth, they make up for with kid-friendly activities and heart-warming memories, such as thrilling reindeer rides and a visit to Santa’s house. If you decide to make the trek to an ice hotel, it’s sure to be an unforgettable adventure that your family will talk about for years to come.
Hotel De Glace: Quebec, Canada
Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the Hotel De Glace has 44 colorful, themed rooms and suites that offer a Nordic adventure and dreamlike environment. There’s an ice slide and an ice bar, which features hot chocolate for kids and cocktails in glasses made of ice for the grownups. The hotel is open from Jan. 5 to March 22 and conveniently located just 10 minutes from downtown Quebec City. The Quebec area, which will be featured in season two of “Family Travel with Colleen Kelly,” is known for its majestic scenery and endless opportunities for exploring the great outdoors. Staying in an ice hotel could be just the beginning of your unique adventures on this winter retreat. If you choose not to stay in the ice hotel, you can still visit for the day for an additional charge. Snow shoes also are available for rental. Many people plan their trip around the family-friendly, three-week Quebec Winter Carnival, which takes place from Jan. 30 to Feb. 15, 2015. Hotel De Glace is a true wonder of the Canadian winter that you have to see to believe!
Snow Village Finland: Kittilä, Finland
With tunnels decorated with intricate ice carvings and colorful lights, Snow Village Finland provides Arctic beauty and adventure for the whole family. Each year during late November, a thousand truck-loads of snow and massive blocks of ice carved out of a nearby river are used to create the winter wonderland. The Snow Hotel has a vast network of corridors with spectacular snow and ice to explore. There are a variety of rooms and igloos that feature warm, cozy sleeping bags on ice beds and nearby shower and toilet facilities. If you prefer a frost-free night’s sleep, the village also has well equipped log cabins, including a three-floor “castle” less than two miles away from the village. The village provides exciting activities like steering a pack of huskies through the wilderness, exploring a reindeer farm and partaking in a traditional Lappish ceremony. At night, guests can visit the IceBar and go on a snowmobiling safari under the night sky. For the ultimate winter relaxation, rent the Gondola Sauna where up to four guests can enjoy two hours in the warm sauna lift as it glides over the surrounding mountains. The Village is open from Dec. 10 to April 6.
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort: Saariselka, Finland
Open year round, Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort features glass igloos that give visitors a unique experience during the Northern Lights season, which runs from late August through April each year. Visitors also can visit during winter and stay in a snow igloo, to enjoy the snowy wilderness and peacefulness. The resort offers four-person igloos with private bathrooms and a hot shower included in each unit. Activities range from snowmobiling to ice fishing to sled dog training and even reindeer sleigh rides. The resort also offers the world’s largest snow restaurant along with a Santa Resort for kids. At the Santa Resort, kids can sip hot drinks, munch on ginger biscuits served by the elves, make friends with the local reindeer and, for the true holiday experience, meet Santa himself. Visitors can even take a hike to see Santa’s home, an idyllic red cabin nestled in the woods.
Igloo Village: Engelberg, Switzerland
Located at an altitude of 1,800 meters, Igloo Village gives visitors a breathtaking view of the Swiss Alps by day and glittering stars at night. From the outside, the village looks like a huge pile of snow with a few entrances, but all of the structures in the village are actually connected by corridors and tunnels. The village was built by Iglu-Dorf, a company that owns smaller igloo hotels throughout Switzerland. This one is located in Engelberg, a popular mountain resort town in the central part of the country. Guests can use electric snowbikes and go paragliding (which will be featured on the Switzerland episode of “Family Travel with Colleen Kelly” in season two!). Guests also can use the public whirlpool, go nighttime snowshoeing and have breakfast in a mountain restaurant. Most visitors stay for only one night, as there is no running water. Iglu-Dorf offers a family package, as well as a romantic package. Igloo Village will open its snow doors on Christmas Day and stay open until the middle of April.
Aurora Ice Museum: Fairbanks, Alaska
If you’d rather not sleep in the cold, but you’d like to spend some daylight hours exploring an ice structure, the Aurora Ice Museum located on the grounds of the Chena Hot Springs Resort might be for you. The museum offers daily tours, lessons on ice sculpting, the opportunity to grab a drink at the IceBar and amazing art, including a chandelier made of illuminated ice crystals. The museum even provides parkas for your tour! The museum stays open and frozen all summer, thanks to the patented absorption chiller, the first of its kind used for this purpose. At the Chena Hot Spring Resort, families can partake in activities such as dog sled rides, snow coach tours, skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating. The wide variety of events and activities in the beautiful Alaskan wilderness will keep the kids busy for days.
Icehotel: Jukkasjarvi, Sweden
First built 25 years ago and listed as one of the Seven Wonders of Sweden, the Icehotel was the first of its kind in the world, and it is still considered one of best. With 30,000 tons of snow and 10,000 tons of ice, Icehotel is larger and more impressive than any of its rivals. It’s located in a small village just above the Arctic Circle, but it’s not too difficult to reach – travel by plane, train or car. Guests can stay in a suite surrounded by artwork made of snow and ice, or they can choose warm accommodations. The hotel offers winter activities such as viewing of the northern lights, nighttime dogsledding tours, ice sculpting, snowmobiling, horse tours through moose country and more. You can even check out the nearby Esrange Space Center in Kiruna. The Icehotel only exists between December and April. If you can only visit one ice hotel, this one is worth the expense.