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Undeterred by below freezing temperatures? On Saturday, Jan. 5, the world’s largest ice and snow festival officially returns to the Heilongjiang Province of northern China. Basically a winter-themed Disney World, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival — now in its 35th year — features illuminated ice castles, fireworks displays, exhibitions, sleigh rides and more.

The Harbin Ice Lantern Show. (Photo via Shutterstock)
An image from the 17th annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival.  (Photo via Shutterstock)

The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival began in 1985, but was inspired by the area’s traditional ice lantern show, which started decades earlier. The festival is set near the banks of the Songhua River, equipping sculptors with plenty of ice for construction.

Now, the almost winterlong festival is a massive international affair that boasts three distinct venues, including the popular Harbin Ice and Snow World. Here, visitors can see more than 100 attractions constructed from blocks of ice that are lit by colorful LEDs. Best visited at night, festival-goers this year can’t miss the towering Buddha statue constructed with some 4,500 cubic meters of ice, or the ice slides inspired by the Northern Lights that can run more than 1,000 feet in length.

There are two other main venues to explore during the festival: the Sun Island Scenic Area, which is filled with massive snow sculptures and is only open during the day, and Zhaolin Park, which is home to 1,000 smaller LED-lit ice sculptures that are certain to delight young children, and should also be visited after dark.

On most days, evening entrance to the Harbin Ice and Snow World costs RMB 300, or $48, while Sun Island costs RMB 240 ($35) and Zhaolin Park costs RMB 150 ($22), though small children can enjoy the latter for free.

Although the festival runs until the end of February, exhibits often linger longer, weather permitting. Stragglers can also admire the approximately 2,000 snowmen stationed along the Songhua River.

Featured image via Shutterstock.

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