27 Feb A Weekend of Ice: Minneapolis, MN
We recently spent an ice filled weekend in Minneapolis with our good friends Rob and Steph. I’m not sure where my obsession came from, but I had a strong urge to seek out ice related activities. Perhaps it was because I haven’t had a snowy winter in quite some time, but whatever the case, I was on a mission. A mission to find ice. And, we found it, in the form of castles, skating rinks and frozen waterfalls.
Ice Castles: Mall of America
I was searching to find the dates of the St. Paul Ice Carnival, and found that we would be in the area just over a week too late, which was a bummer; although, my sadness quickly left when I stumbled upon the ice castle outside of the Mall of America. The castle, built by Brent Christensen, is made from icicles that are “grown” from millions of gallons of water and are then fused to each other to create a growing, living castle. Brett discovered this method of building ice structures when he was trying to create outdoor activities for his children–one year he built an ice fort in his front yard. His ice structure created quite the buzz, and since then, he has created castles in multiple states.
Located in a parking lot across from the Mall of America, the entire castle is made of nothing but ice–there is no wood, metal or any other material supporting the structure. Since the weather is constantly changing, the castle is always evolving; the icicles grow and shrink depending on the weather. The icicles create tunnels and arches that connect to the icy towers throughout the castle. You can sit on a throne made from ice, crawl through tiny tunnels (I clearly had way too much fun doing this), and wander around the caverns and coves inside the castle. In the evening, the castle is lit up with multi-colored LED lights, which creates a glistening, icy glow from the inside out. It really doesn’t take too long to get through the entire castle, maybe 20-30 minutes at a leisurely pace, but if you start to get cold, there are fire-pits and concessions with warm drinks to ease the chill. If you want to see more than the castle itself, there are two entertainment performances: Ice Princesses and Fire Dancers. We didn’t make it to the castle during a show time, but we enjoyed our visit nonetheless!
Ice skating: Centennial Lakes Park
Every winter, the 10 acre lake at Centennial Lakes Park freezes over, and creates a long chain of ice that meanders under bridges and canals, connecting the three larger ponds. Upon arrival, you are greeted with a warming house complete with fireplaces, concessions and skate rentals. Once outside, you don’t have a far walk to start skating, as the warming house is right on the edge of the beautiful rink.
I love ice skating, but it has been quite some time since I have been able to put on a pair of skates. I was a little apprehensive getting on the ice right away because there are no sides to hold onto just in case, but soon enough I got the hang of skating once again. The distance from one end of the lake to the other is approximately a half mile. Because of the large size of the lake, at times, it felt like we had the place to ourselves, especially when you are at one of the far ends away from the warming house. I really enjoyed being able to skate down canals and under bridges–it makes skating around in circles at a rink seem almost uneventful. We all really enjoyed ourselves and are looking forward to going again–hopefully next winter!
Minnehaha Falls: Minnehaha Park
Located in Minneapolis’ Minnehaha Park, Minnehaha Falls stands around 53 feet tall amongst limestone bluffs. There are viewing platforms above the falls as well as a couple down below in the gorge. You can even climb back behind the falls; although, there are warning signs to deter you away from the area close to the falls because it can be dangerous. The Mississippi River is about a half mile away from the falls, but in the winter, the real attraction here is the frozen monstrosity. Because of the cold Minnesota winters, Minnehaha Falls freezes leaving a cascading trail of icicles in its place. Even though the stairs are usually covered in ice and the paths are often blocked with “do not enter” signs, many people venture down into the gorge to get a closer look anyways. Make sure you wear good sturdy shoes if you want to take a closer look because it is ICY! I had horrible shoes on, and was slipping on the sidewalk next to the falls. Not feeling like killing myself by slipping on the ice, I stayed on the upper path with Steph while Micah and Rob ventured down toward the falls. Micah climbed all the way behind the falls which enabled him to see the ice from quite an interesting vantage point–we were there near sunset, but the ice is supposed to be even prettier and more blue during the day.