Winter is one of my favorite times to explore outside. Sometimes it’s because of the great light shows thanks to all the Christmas Lights displays. But when Christmas is over, we have a whole new light show to look forward to. This winter, we decided to check out the new Ice Castles in Excelsior. They just moved to Excelsior MN!
This activity was hosted by Ice Castles. My opinions are all my own.
*Hang tight to the end of the article to find out how you can win a set of 4 tickets!
The Ice Castles in Minnesota
Minnesotan’s are no stranger to Ice Castles. We’ve been building them since 1888. The original one was a labyrinth inside. When I was little, I remember getting to see the 1986 Ice Palace built for the Winter Carnival all lit up. That’s why when the Ice Castles started coming back in 2011, I was thrilled to see one that we could enter. They’ve been built at the Mall of America, in Eden Prairie, Stillwater and now this year it’s moved to Excelsior.
What to do at the Ice Castle in Excelsior MN
The Ice Castle was constructed by growing 5,000–12,000 individual icicles. Once the ice is ready, it is harvested and individually sculpted into the ice formations you see today. Once it placed, they drench it with water, creating an ever-changing ice formation. Inside the castles ice, they illuminated it with led lights. It took them over 2 months to build and with the December/January warmup, it’s taken a little longer to open, but it doesn’t disappoint.
The Ice Castle Lit Up
The main draw to the Ice Castle in Excelsior is the light show at night. This is where you can see the castles formations. With rotating lights everywhere, it’s hard not to love. All around the castle you’ll find different places to explore, with tunnels and chambers. The main entrance consists of a small tunnel, with high ceilings. But they have built more of them inside the ice castle too.
Throughout the castle, we found different places to explore. Including a wishing pond, trellis and romantic little cave. They had fire pits located throughout the park to warm up at.
Sliding and Tunnels
The biggest excitement for the Kids was the slides. They have a tandem giant slide where you must be 42 inches tall to ride. It’s made entirely of ice. It’s a work of art. Since they provided slides for us, I decided to give it a try too. Thrill level wise, it’s up there with some of the crazy sledding I’ve done. But on a whole other level because you are enclosed. It had me screaming. My kids wanted to go again and again. If you arrive during daylight hours, there is no wait. At night, expect to wait about 5 minutes or more in line.
The other two slides are on the other side of the castle. They are smaller with no height restrictions. They only ask you to go down feet first. A rule in which my 4-year-old didn’t think applied to him and started a trend of Superman-style shenanigans. Sorry about that. There is also a crawl through the tunnel right behind the slides that most overlooked. Who could blame them with all the excitement?
Throughout the run of the Ice Castles in Excelsior, there are schedule special events like Fire Performance’s, Enchanted Frozen Sisters, and Star Watching Parties. The events run all season long. Check their website to see when it’s available. Most happen on the weekends, but it’s also the busiest time to visit.
Other Things to Know
Tickets are $10.95 for adults during the week and $7.95 for kids age 4-11. On the weekends they jump up to $15.95 for adults and $9.95 for kids. They also offer a few standby tickets for each day. With the exception of the Standby tickets, you are purchasing tickets for the exact day and time you plan on going, within a 30-minute window. This guarantees the best possible experience for all guests and limits your wait times to get in.
The only downside to this method, is you have to know exactly when you plan on being there. For some, it may not be a big deal. For my family, we ended up making our ticket purchase in the car, on the way there. If we misjudged our time, we may have been waiting for our timeslot to start, or if we arrived late, having to being downgraded to standby tickets. On a weekday, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a big deal to get in.
There is no re-entry into the ice castles. You will have access to bathrooms and snacks inside, but you’ll want to plan accordingly.
Stay tuned to the end of the article for your chance to win a 4 pack of tickets.
The Ice Castles in Excelsior were really easy to find. Follow along the shoreline, on the west side of downtown Excelsior, it’s hard to miss.
The biggest challenge you’ll run into is finding parking. You can park on side streets for free, or on Lake Street did a small fee. They offer metered parking for under $1.50 an hour. Their system for metering works a little different. After parking, remember your license plate and then find a central meter. Put in your plate number and add your coins or card.
If you are like me and want a little more convenience, you can pay with the Whoosh! App. Not only can you pay with your credit card, you can also pre-enter in all your car information. Once there, enter in the nearest meter and select the amount of time you want to pay for. Then enjoy the ice castle. If you are low on time, the app will notify you so you can add in more time without leaving.
Tips for your visit and how not to freeze your butt off
- If you have ice cleats, bring them. The Ice Castles in Excelsior do a great job trying to keep crushed ice on the ground to make it easier to walk on. At the beginning of the season, when I visited, it was a snow-like consistency. I’m not sure how long it will stay like that, so bring some cleats just in case. If you need any advice on what to buy, check out: The 10 Best Ice Cleats for Hiking You Need This Winter
- Go on a colder day. Temperatures above freezing may sound like a good thing, but actually, it causes for slippery conditions. Try to plan for a day that has temperatures of 32 degrees or lower.
- Visit early in the day. If you are looking for nighttime lights, arrive around 4:30. You won’t have any lines for the slides and then can enjoy the lit up park afterward.
- Dress Warm. Should be a no brainer, but hats, mittens, snow pants, boots, scarves and anything else you can think of. Even if you aren’t planning on sliding or interacting with the snow. We couldn’t find my daughters mittens, so I let her use mine. I only lasted 45 minutes before retreating to the car to thaw out. For more on what to wear, check out my Winter Hiking Tips. I got a lot of good info in there about how to layer properly for a Minnesota Winter.
- Leave the strollers at home. As an alternative bring a sled to get your kids around.
- Visit on a weekday. Trust me on this. Otherwise, you may be waiting a while to get in.
Other Things to Do Around Ice Castles in Excelsior
Other Attractions to Visit
Excelsior is a great town to spend a weekend. During the summer, the biggest draw is Lake Minnetonka and the charter boats that leave every day. During the winter, the Trolley Rides are still going on in conjunction with the Minnesota Streetcar Museum. For more great ideas for things to do in the area, check out 28 Things To Do in the Twin Cities During Winter
Where to Eat Nearby
They do offer snacks inside the Ice Castles. They are just snacks and warm beverages. If you want a full meal, you’ll need to go outside. Not to worry, Excelsior has an abundance of great dining opportunities. One of my favorite Irish Pubs, Jake O’Connor’s can be found off Water Street. For quicker food, check out Lago Tacos, offering simple street grub. You can also dine at Maynards for fine dining.
Are you ready for magic?
You can all head over to the Ice Castles website and get your own tickets, but thanks to the nice people at Ice Castles in Excelsior, I’m giving away a 4 pack of tickets for you to see it yourself. Just complete for the raffle entry below.