A twinkling, enchanting two-acre ice castle opens Jan. 13 in Wisconsin Dells. It’s big, blue and absolutely breathtaking. You can go inside and explore its caves and mazes, swish down several slippery slides or make a wish in a trickling waterfall. If ever you were looking to add some wow to your winter getaway wish list, this is it. And you can make it happen pretty easily, with a quick, budget-friendly getaway to the Waterpark Capital of the World, just three hours from Chicago.
The castle is naturally blue from the clean Wisconsin water.
Credit: Doug Simms
The Ice Castle is built on Mt. Olympus property. The Utah company that developed this exquisite creation has also built similar castles in Minnesota, New Hampshire and Canada (as well as the original in Utah, which one of the owners created for his children).
You’ll see the beautiful blue structure by the Top Secret upside down building and immediately want to go in. Twilight is a popular time to visit; you’ll get to enjoy the ice crystal details in the daylight, as well as see the glowing lights sparkle inside the ice at night. Mystical music plays, making you feel like you’re in a fairytale. If your daughter wants to visit in her Elsa dress, she won’t be alone. Just make sure to bundle her up and wear boots.
The castle is naturally blue from the clean Wisconsin water. (Just like the ocean, the thicker the water, the bluer it appears to the eyes). The structure is up to 30 feet tall in some areas, consisting of over 10,000 icicles and weighing close to 25 million pounds. The crew has been working on it since December, and expects it to be open until March, weather permitting. It’s best to book tickets in advance online.
While some people may worry about icicles falling on them, they are frozen solid to ice (unlike the icicles on your roof) and should stay put. The walkways have been crushed to make a non-slippery walking surface, which will feel like tromping in sand at the beach. Instead of strollers, it’s best to pull little ones along in small sleds.
Where to stay
When you’re ready to warm up, retreat to one of the more than 1,600 clean, comfortable rooms at Mt. Olympus Resort. They have an indoor water park and indoor theme park, and are providing free passes for skiing or snow tubing with your winter stay.
My family chose to tube at Christmas Mountain, about a 15-minute drive from Mt. Olympus Resort. What a thrilling experience! People 42 inches and above can swoosh down runs over 900 ft long. Our 5- and 7-year-olds happily trekked up and glided down repeatedly, with big, beaming smiles. They’d do it again and again, and I bet your kids would, too.
What to eat
While in Wisconsin, you simply must dive into some cheese curds, brats, burgers and pizza. There are craft sodas for the kids, and craft suds for the parents. Monk’s Bar& Grill is highly rated for their burgers, and kids’ meals come complete with chocolate chip cookies and are served on Frisbees. Or check out B-Lux, a new burger joint in the Dells.
Put a moose hat on and practice your best grunting at Moosejaw Pizza and Dells Brewing Co. Or head to Wisconsin Brew Pub, inside Kalahari Resort, which serves desserts that the whole family can dig into (S’mores or a Paw Paw Plate, with chocolate chip cookie, ice cream and four fixings to sprinkle on top). For breakfast, visit BJ’s Restaurant for super-friendly, fast service. You’ll head back to Chicago with full bellies and warm memories of your invigorating winter weekend.