Ice Castles attraction brings new tourism opportunity to Lake George
By Holly Riddle
Photos by Carl Heilman II
Wintertime in the Adirondacks is magical already, but Lake George has found a way to make the season even more fun. The community welcomed Ice Castles for the first time Sunday, Jan. 23. The attraction includes ice sculptures, slides, an ice maze and more, crafted from more than 5,000 icicles, accompanied by music and lights.
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Bringing Ice Castles — which has four other locations around the country — to Lake George has been a long process, with regional business owners and Lake George Mayor Blais reaching out to the brand as early as 2016.
The pandemic halted the company’s expansion plans and Lake George’s Festival Commons site was announced in mid-2021, at which point, it was time for the real work to start.
The building process
According to Brent Christensen, founder of Ice Castles, construction for each site usually begins in the late fall. “The lights have to go in before we start, because the castles grow around the lighting. All the electrical and the sound system and all that stuff have to be laid down before we start. Then, we wait for the weather to turn cold,” he explains. “Once the weather turns cold, then we start spraying water, we grow icicles and we start the building process. If the weather is cold and stays cold, it’s usually just a few weeks between the time we start to the time that we open to the public.”
It takes around 10,000 hours of labor and up to 100 people to bring each Ice Castles site to life. Weather dictates how long the attraction can stay open, but most sites accept visitors until the end of February, when Christensen and his team deconstruct the castles, allowing the ice to melt.
“Ice Castles is a game-changer for the winter season in Warren County and the Lake George area,” says Joanne Conley, tourism director at the Warren County Tourism Department. While skiing, snowmobiling, winter carnivals and ice bars have been a strong draw, she cites the six-day-a-week Ice Castles operating schedule that brings people in from hours away.
“An event like this goes a long way to creating a year-round tourism economy.”
Ice Castles estimates visitor spending of approximately $4 million as a result of the attraction, with an estimated attendance of 90,000 over about a month.
With a three year-agreement for Ice Castles to use the Festival Commons event space, Conley has high hopes for the attraction. “Barring warm weather, I believe Ice Castles will be back for years to come.”
For now, this year’s tickets are nearly sold out online at https://icecastles.com/new-york.
Christensen advises attendees give themselves at least 30 minutes at the attraction and recommends wearing warm clothing, including boots with traction.
“When we build these and design them, it’s for people to feel kind of transported to a different environment. Especially if you’ve never been to one, it’s a very different feel once you’re inside, because you’re surrounded, everywhere, by these amazing flowing ice structures and tunnels. So, dress warm, bring your imagination and your camera phone, and have a good time.”
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