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The world’s biggest winter festival builds a city out of ice!


Wikimedia/Dayou_X/CC BY-SA 2.0

There’s a city way up in the north-easternmost province of China that has become quite famous for it’s annual ice and snow festival. Harbin, the 8th most populous Chinese city, has the most bitterly cold winters among the major cities in China and so has been nicknamed the Ice City.

Entrance to Harbin Snow and Ice Festival
Wikimedia/Dayou_X/CC BY-SA 2.0

It seems quite appropriate, then, that it’s home to the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival - the biggest snow festival in the world. The festival has been held every year, from December to late February, since 1963. The grand festival has four main theme parks, each with their own fun activities.

Cathedral carved out of snow
Photo by Rincewind 42 licensed CC BY 2.0 

The Sun Island Park is where you’ll find the International Snow Sculpture Art Expo, which is the world’s largest ice and snow carnival. The whole island gets decorated by snow and the sculptures aren’t the kind you might be used to - these are the size of buildings! 

Ice staircase leading up to a lit up ice castle.
Wikimedia/Dayou_X/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Harbin Ice and Snow Amusement World is a land of enchantment where the buildings are made out of ice. There are three areas: the East Scenic Area is a playland for children with ice slides, an ice labyrinth, and other snow activities; the Central Scenic Area is a land of ice mountains and ice fountains with sleigh rides and skating to be enjoyed; and the last area, the West Scenic Area, has Russian and Chinese folk custom gardens and ethnic foods as well as ice karts and snowmobiles for fun.

You can go skating, ice sailing, or even ride in an ice junk or horse-drawn sleigh on the frozen Songhua River. Or if you’re really adventurous, take an icy polar swim! Brrrr!

Temple made out of ice.
Photo by triplefiveandrew licensed CC BY-NC 2.0 

Zhaolin Park, the last of the theme parks, is where you can find the ice and light show during the festival. When the lights go down at night, the beautiful ice lanterns in the park combine light, sound, and action together for an amazing show.