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The magical Ice Castles are back and open for business for another Colorado winter. If you’re anywhere in ski country, they’re the perfect addition to any winter trip to Colorado. With only 5 Ice Castle locations in the US, it’s pretty awesome to have one in such a great location in Colorado.
As far as winter attractions go, the Ice Castles are one of the most unique that we’ve ever seen (and we LOVE winter, so that’s saying A LOT).
It’s essentially a frozen wonderland that’s part art and part playground.
Once inside, you’ll find room after room of frozen wonder. Icicles reflecting the ever changing light, and every turn seems to draw you in and make you want to explore more.
The Ice Castles make me feel as if I’ve been suddenly transported back in time to my childhood where the magic of winter always felt like it would make my tiny body burst with excitement. At the Ice Castles, this is the place to really embrace the magic of winter and act like a kid again.
Crawl through ice tunnels, race up a frozen staircase, and let yourself shriek with delight as you zoom down a slide completely made of ice. Take a seat on a frozen throne, or stare in wonder at the beautiful ice sculptures.
At night, the ice is lit up by colored LED lights that make the whole Castle take on an entirely new effect. Changing colors glow through the ice, and the lights take the magic to an entirely new level.
Near the center, you’ll find a giant fountain spouting streams of water, with all sorts of icicles clinging to its sides. At night, the colored lights add and extra layer of effect to make the water appear to be constantly changing colors as the fountain shoots up.
The dates of the Ice Castles are incredibly dependant on the weather. This year the Dillon Colorado Ice Castles are opening on December 28, 2019 and will be open as long as the weather permits. Sometimes they stay open well into March and other years they close in February if it’s too warm. Read here for up to date information with Ice Castle openings. Since it’s hard to predict exactly when they’ll close, take my advice and go as early in the season as possible.
Every year that we visit the Ice Castles with our family, we learn a little bit more to make our experience even better, so here I’m sharing all the tips and tricks you need to know for an amazing visit to the Ice Castles.
What to expect when you visit the Ice Castles
First of all, the Ice Castles aren’t quite what you would envision Elsa from Frozen building. What you will actually find is more like a roof-less fortress made out of ice. It’s made of thousands and thousands of icicles and takes months to create. Think of it more like a giant, wide, ice waterfall!
It will take you a minimum of an hour to really explore everything there, and it would be easy to spend 2 hours if you’ve got kids with you or want to do the slides. We typically stay until the kids are cold and leave a giant thermos full of hot cocoa in the car to share as soon as we’re done.
Embedded in the ice are bright colored lights which make the entire structure feel like it’s glowing in the evening. It takes on a unique and whimsical appeal all of its own once the sun goes down.
When is the best time to visit the Ice Castles?
The best time of day to visit the Ice Castles is about an hour before sunset. This allows you some time to see them in the daylight (which is fantastic for pictures), but also be there when it’s starting to get dark so that you can experience them in both light and dark.
Weekends at the Ice Castles can get VERY BUSY so if possible, try and go during the week.
What to wear to the Ice Castles?
When you’re heading to the Ice Castles remember to dress WARM! Remember that this is a whole castle made of ICE and SNOW and if you are going in the evening, it will be extra cold. Wear good base layers, an insulating layer like fleece and then snow pants and a coat on top. Of course, a warm hat and waterproof mittens are a must, especially with kids who will likely be touching the ice for the few hours you are are there! (Read our review of the best waterproof mittens and gloves for kids)
While many people think that snow pants are options when visiting the Ice Castles, think again. I’ve seen many people there in jeans or other regular pants, and after crawling through a few tunnels or going down the slide, they’re wet and cold.
Also, make sure that you wear snow boots to the ice castles. The floor of the ice castles is basically crushed ice and snow and it can get kind of messy. Your feet will get wet and cold so waterproof snow boots are your best footwear option. Not sure what boots are best for your kids? Read our review of the top kids snow boots.
Under your boots, wool socks are a
What do do first at the Ice Castles
As soon as you get to the Ice Castles, head for the ice slides. The lines on these get long FAST, so the sooner you can get in line the better. During the week, you may only have to wait for 5-10 minutes but the wait can be well over 30 minutes at peak times. Generally the later in the day it is, the longer the line gets, so go early.
What to bring for a visit to the Ice Castles
While your iPhone does a pretty good job on most photos, capturing the unique lighting of the ice castles will work much better if you take a good camera with you. Make sure to take a case to put it in as well, since you’ll want to race down the ice slides too and you want to make sure your nice camera is protected. I personally use the Nikon D3500 which is a great quality,
If you’ve got young kids, a sled is the best option for getting them around. I’ve seen a few parents there trying to push a stroller through the ice and snow and it looked absolutely miserable. Having a sled will be tricky on really crowded days or weekends, so this will work best on a mid-week visit. I recommend taking a sled with a back so that the kids can sit upright better and look around like these sleds.
We always take a big insulated jug full of hot chocolate and keep it in the car for as soon as we’re done. It’s a great way to warm up AND a fun way to wrap up a family outing. We absolutely love our giant jug since it keeps our cocoa warm ALL DAY and it holds enough so everyone can have seconds! Also, if you haven’t tried this Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, you’re seriously missing out!
How to Get Tickets to the Ice Castles
If you want the best deal on tickets to the Ice Castles, make sure to buy them online, as tickets are more expensive if you buy them at the gate.
Tickets can be purchased from the Ice Castles website.
Regular ticket prices on weekdays are $11.99 for kids and $16.99 for adults and weekend ticket prices are $15.99 for kids and $20.99 for adults.
If you purchase tickets at the gate, they are $20 on weekdays and $25 on weekends.
2020 Dillion Colorado Ice Castles Discount Tickets
For an extra 15% off your tickets, use the online code:
At all Ice Castle locations, kids 0-3 are free and discounted kids rates are available for kids from 4-11.
Do I need to buy tickets in advance for the Ice Castles?
During main times, tickets do sell out, so it’s smart to purchase them in advance. When you purchase your tickets, you purchase them for a specific entry time, not just the date so keep that in mind as well. Like I mentioned above, I think that the best time to visit the Ice Castles is about an hour before sunset so that you can see them both during the day and at night.
How to Get to the Dillon Colorado Ice Castles
Located in Dillon Colorado, they are easily accessed from Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek, and Copper Mountain.
The Ice Castles are just off of I-70 and only about an hour from the Denver area as well.
There are several parking spots at Dillon Town Park, close to the Ice Castles, which are available on a first come first served basis. There is a large parking lot right along Buffalo street in front of the Ice Castles which is also an excellent place to park. If these options are full, you can find additional parking at the Town Hall parking lot, or occasionally spots on Lake Dillon Drive.
Tip: If you’re going on the weekend, make sure to time your visit to avoid the ski traffic. Traffic from Denver heading west on I-70 is typically very bad from 7am-10am and traffic heading east back into Denver from ski country is usually very bad from 2:30-5:30pm.
Also, if you’re in the area during the end of January, make sure to check out the International Snow Sculpting Championships in Breckenridge. It’s just down the road from Dillon, is absolutely FREE, and the snow art that’s constructed there is simply stunning!