If you ever do a Google search on Harbin, China the very first thing you’ll see are photos of the International Ice and Snow Festival which is probably why the city goes by the nickname of The Ice City. The International Ice and Snow Festival is the biggest tourist attraction for the city and many people ditch their regular plans in favour to see these larger than life ice and snow sculptures.
This year I was lucky enough to attend the 32nd annual Snow and Ice Festival twice. The first time around was with my friends Howard and Faythe during the opening night and the second time with my Russian friend Julia.
If you’ve read any of my previous posts such as Skiing in Harbin, China you know that exploring an Ice and Snow Festival where the temperatures can reach as low as -36 degrees celsius isn’t my cup of tea. Let me tell you, I went twice in less than two weeks and that alone that should tell you that it was absolutely worth the frozen boogers and numb fingers and toes to be in a man-made fairy tale world.
My highlights include being able to go down an ice slide, hold an arctic fox, watch the beautiful firework display the opening night and even ride a bike on the frozen lake.
The entrance fee is a hefty 300 RMB for regular folk but 330 RMB on special days such as New Years, Spring Festival and the fifteenth day. Students who can provide ID, elderly, children and citizens of Harbin get discounted tickets for 160 RMB.
There is also a Pizza Hut and KFC inside the venue along with many other Chinese dining options. If you decide to grab a bite to eat I would recommend grabbing some deep fried Chinese dumplings and even grab a “mickey” of Chinese vodka to help you warm your insides and maybe to also help you forget you’re outside in sub zero temperatures.
You can visit their official website where you can also purchase tickets at http://www.hrbicesnow.com/
Before you head to the festival here are a few tips and some warnings
• Wear as many layers as possible, try to find the warmest clothes you own and pack them on. If you need to, head to one of Harbin’s clothing markets and you’ll find plenty of options when it comes to warm clothing.
• Buy heat pads for your hands, feet and body prior to entering the festival. Many street vendors sell them for 10 RMB. Like most events the vendors will increase the price dramatically.
• Buy mittens, not gloves. Mittens allow you to place the hand warmers inside to keep your entire hand warm, not just your palms.
• There are places to sit inside but they’re usually packed so sometimes it may be hard to find a seat.
• If you head into Pizza Hut they will escort you directly to the counter in order to avoid you sitting in their restaurant without buying a meal.
• The restaurants are pricey compared to regular Harbin prices. A hot beverage will cost at least 20 RMB.
Stay Restless my friends!