I don’t think I can sing Geico’s praises highly enough, which might be a weird way to start a story about an ice palace, but if it wasn’t for their helpful rule-bending then we wouldn’t have been able to go. After our car was smashed into by an uninsured
villain motorist on Thursday, we were left holding the bag. Thankfully, after many annoying phone calls and much pestering, Geico has waived our deductible and given us a rental vehicle. The last rental vehicle on the lot. Not the rental vehicle that either Geico or I chose. A large white minivan from Florida with crappy tires. This was what we decided to drive up a mountain in a snowstorm.
We had already planned this trip earlier, to meet some of my wife’s college friends and their kiddos whom we never get to see because they live in Massachusetts, so now that we had wheels we were not going to miss out. So, I don’t know if you have ever tried to drive up a steep and slippery mountain road in a large, heavy, poorly-tired vehicle while it is snowing, but if you have then you already understand that this was a disaster. We almost turned around. Well, we almost didn’t have a choice, as we spent about as much time sliding backwards as we did inching forwards, as the other traffic just drove around us. “Lean forward!” I shouted to my family, as we all tried to jerk the beast forward with our bodies. We finally were at the point of just going home when we saw the parking lot. The whole trip took us 90 minutes longer than we had planned, and almost all of that lost time was in those last 11 miles up the steep slopes of Stratton Mountain.
Luckily for us, we had not bothered to check what time the ice castle opened, assuming that it was a family friendly, Frozen-themed thing that would be open all day. We planned our visit for 11 am. When we arrived after 12, we discovered that it didn’t even open until 2 pm. WHAT?! Why would it not open until 2?! Are you serious? Every other attraction is open at way too early o’clock, but the one thing that would appeal to 7-year-old girls is closed until the very time that we would have to leave if we were going to get her into bed at a reasonable hour. Okay, fine. So we had lunch.
We had a lot of fun, actually. After our stressful Thursday night and Friday, it was good to let it go a little with some old friends and their children, who happened to be the exact ages as our children. They played in the snow while we caught up a little, and we managed to wait around outside just long enough to be completely frozen through when the ice castle opened up.
The Stratton Ice Castle was made by hand with hoses and water and icicles and magic. Unlike some places that cut out blocks of ice to build an ice castle, Minecraft-style, this castle was grown. And it was pretty cool.
We walked through the ice arch and around various ice pillars, and were very excited to find an ice cave. This was the favorite part for the children. Ruby ran through it over and over again, and Edward sat in the middle of the ice cave for quite some time, “guarding it.” From what? I wasn’t sure. But he definitely growled at some people.
One large ice tower had a fountain of water shooting out of the top of it, which was kind of cool to see as well, although mildly pointless when I think about it. It just kind of looked like it was peeing.
I think the reason that the ice castle opened so late was that it was meant to be viewed in the dark. “The darker the better,” the attendant told me. You see, embedded in the ice were various lights and speakers, so while we could clearly hear the orchestral version of “Let it Go” being played as we wandered, we did not get the full effect of the lights. Yes, we could sort of see them, but I understand that it was not the same.
As much fun as this was for the kids, the builders clearly really wanted the adults to enjoy it as well. I can only imagine (due to bedtimes and long drives home) how cool it looked at night. They also had a firepit with a heart sculpted out of red ice, which I’m sure was very romantic later in the evening. I’m not sure if that was only there because it happened to be Valentine’s Day, or if that is a regular feature, but it was a good idea either way.
Though the drive was long and harrowing, (if you thought getting up the mountain was hard, you should have seen how many times we almost died trying to come down!), and the air bitterly cold, it was well worth the effort. We came home exhausted but happy, with good memories of a fun adventure. And isn’t that the best way to end any day?