Haven’t we all been there? Brent Christensen was simply trying to keep his six antsy kids entertained during a long Utah winter. The ice cave he built in his yard quickly became a neighborhood sensation.
Fast-forward 11 years, and Christensen’s creation has expanded into a super-sized, four-location production throughout North America. His magical Ice Castles (icecastles.com) are no small-potatoes snow forts. Each one is like a real-life Frozen set, a full-fledged winter kingdom complete with slides, LED-illuminated sculptures, fountains, tunnels, mazes, and a selfie throne.
Luckily, one Ice Castles setting this season is within driving distance—Geneva National Resort & Club, northwest of Chicago, just over the Wisconsin state line in the quaint waterside village of Lake Geneva. Dedicated ice artisans spend up to six weeks growing and harvesting 12,000 icicles each day to construct the 30-foot castle by hand across a one-acre site. The annual opening date is fluid depending on the weather, usually falling between mid and late January; the castle remains open until late February or early March, when rising temperatures ultimately take their toll.
If you go, staying at Geneva National Resort & Club (starting at $199 per night, genevanationalresort.com) on the banks of Lake Como is the logical choice. The hotel has private cottages, standard accommodations, and updated suites that look out over golf-course landscapes dressed in new-fallen snow. You won’t be doing any putting this time of year, but with an indoor pool, spa services, and nearby wine bars and boutiques, there’s more than enough activity to fill out a winter visit.
Admission to Ice Castles is under $25, and guests are welcome to hang around as long as they can stand the cold. With thermoses of hot cocoa, fire pits, and warming stations, who cares if a storm rages on?