Learn how artists “grow” enough ice to build Lake Geneva’s larger-than-life annual attraction!
Best Life magazine recently named “The 10 Most Charming Small Towns For a Winter Getaway,” and our very own Lake Geneva was #5. The distinction itself shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to the thousands of annual in- and out-of-state visitors who make the small resort town (population: 8,000) the sixth most-visited place in Wisconsin. But if you haven’t experienced Lake Geneva in the winter, you’re missing out.
Lake Geneva’s Ice Castles, which usually open mid-January, are an attraction found in only five places in North America. Built by professional artists who hand-place thousands of icicles into a cleverly-constructed castle village, the annual art project looks like Disney’s Frozen come to life!
Here are 4 things you might not know about Lake Geneva’s Ice Castles:
Artists start “growing” the castles as soon as the temperature drops to 10 degrees. Then, they spray water all over the ground to create an “icicle farm”, where they can “grow” between five- and ten-thousand icicles a night. One of the ways they grow icicles is on crisscrossing wire racks hoisted atop tall wooden legs, which look like horizontal chainlink fences. By spraying water over the top, icicles form below like stalactites, which are harvested and fused into formations.
The building process takes about a month. On average, artists can grow up to 10-feet tall icicles each week, which they later fuse together. Portions of the castles often reach 30 feet in height! To clear walkways, builders use tillers (small versions of what construction workers use to break up asphalt) to crush the top layer of ice. When complete, the crushed ice feels just like gravel or sand.
The best time to visit the castles is right before sunset. Most people plan a visit for either day or night, but why choose? Not only does a sunset visit help you avoid the nighttime crowds (that’s when it’s the busiest), but it makes for many beautiful pictures. One of the best parts of the ice castle village are the fun slides! Visiting early helps you circumvent long lines, as well as making the sliding experience itself less painfully cold.
Mother Nature decides when the castles will close. Typically, they last until March, or when daytime temps exceed 40 degrees several days in a row. Crews use an excavator to remove the waterproof LED lights used to illuminate the castles at night, since it’s no longer safe to climb on the castles as they melt.
Planning a trip? From what to wear to where to stay, click here for a visitor’s guide from local bloggers, The Travel Sisters.
And even if you’ve visited before, there are several new additions in 2023, including a horse-drawn sleigh ride trail! Click here to learn more.