Everyone remembers the first time they tried to catch snowflakes falling gently from the sky, watching them melt in the palm of their hand in childlike wonder. Or waking up to a world carpeted in a fresh layer of soft snow, inviting you to be the first one to leave your footprints.
If you’ve yet to experience the magic of winter, there’s no better time than the present! Plan a trip to any of these snowy destinations to get into the spirit of the season:
Play among dazzling ice sculptures | China
Harbin, known as China’s “Ice City”, transforms into a literal winter wonderland for the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. Towering sculptures are painstakingly put together from ice and snow to create one of the world’s largest winter festivals, taking place across four different venues.
During the day, visitors can check out the Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Expo, which has wondrous snow sculptures on display that can be only visited during daytime. At night, the sculptures in Harbin Ice and Snow World, Harbin Wanda Ice Lantern World and Zhaolin Park Ice Lantern Fair are illuminated by colorful lights, vibrant lanterns and cool structures such as ice slides.
Chill out in the world’s first Icehotel | Sweden
Did you know that the world’s first hotel made from ice was built in Sweden all the way back in 1989? Part hotel, part art exhibition, Icehotel can be found some 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle in the small village of Jukkasjärvi. Built from blocks of ice sourced from the nearby Torne River, the hotel is reborn every year with new designs made by selected artists from all over the world.
Guests arrive at the hotel via dog sled or snowmobile and are whisked off to their room. Cold rooms are individually themed and hand-carved from ice, while warm rooms are styled like conventional hotel rooms. In the restaurant, you can dine off ice places and drink from ice glasses at the bar. During the day, non-guests can go on guided tours of the hotel.
Get cozy in a traditional Japanese farmhouse | Japan
Listed as UNESCO heritage sites, the mountainous villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are home to traditional farmhouses built in the local gassho-style, which are made of wood and have distinctively tall, steep thatched roofs.
Here, you can experience the simple, rustic practicality of living in the Japanese countryside by staying at family-run inns, known as minshuku. Guest rooms come with tatami mat floors and a low table. During the night, futons are spread out to sleep on. Baths and toilets are typically modern, but shared. The farmhouses will often have an open fireplace in the dining area, known as an irori, which is used for heating and sometimes cooking.
Marvel over the Northern Lights from inside an igloo | Finland
You’ve got to make a trip up north at least once in your life to catch the glowing beauty of the Aurora Borealis, better known as the Northern Lights. The best way to view the lights without freezing is by staying in a warm, comfy room with glass ceilings – you’ll find plenty of these in Finland.
Located in the peaceful and pristine Finnish Lapland, Pyhä Igloos offers guests the opportunity to fully appreciate the wonders of Finland’s wilderness. Get comfortable under the covers and gaze up at the Northern Lights through the glass-covered ceiling above your bed. You can even enjoy the hotel’s sauna and outdoor hot tub for the full Finnish winter experience!
Skate around an outdoor ice-skating rink | USA
If you’re a fan of Christmas movies, you’ve undoubtedly seen New York City in all its wintry glory, complete with scenes depicting people effortlessly skating on an ice rink. For an unforgettable winter experience, lace up your ice skates and head to Central Park’s iconic Wollman Rink.
Open throughout winter through early spring, the twinkling lights strung up over the rink at night make for a magical memory. Skaters and spectators can also warm up at the snack bar serving assorted food and hot cocoa.
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