Now an International event, the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival was first organized in 1963.The Festival became an annual event, in 1985. It starts in January and lasts through February, but if weather permits, the exhibitions often open earlier and run until on until March.
There is a different ‘theme’ each year. Past themes including the Beijing Olympics, landmarks and famous Chinese tourist sites, ‘Prosperous China and High-Flying Longjiang’, and ‘Friendship between China and Russia.’ And there has even been a sculpture of The Great Wall as an ice slide!
The festival is also a competitive event, with teams coming from all over the world; including the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, South Africa, France and the United Kingdom. During the nights of the month-long festival, the sculptures become even more amazing with lights from inside and outside of the sculptures brilliantly illuminating the great variety of architectural styles, and creations including faery castles, mythological and historical figures, ice lanterns and slides.
Great firework displays light up the sky on various evenings while the dazzling multi-coloured ice sculptures light up the entire festival area. The ice is gathered and procured from the surface of the frozen Songhua River, then painstakingly and intricately carved, with many of the sculptures receiving a dousing of deionized water to produce an entirely transparent look. Winter swimming in the Songua River, Yabuli resort alpine skiing, an ice-lantern exhibition, ice golf, and ice archery are just a few of the featured activities popular during the Festival.
So many different creative ice and snow sculpture ideas are all around the festival; such as the world famous Terracotta Warriors, Pyramids and the Sphinx, a Disney castle, towering pagodas, enormous Buddhas, and gardens are only a handful of the imaginative creative sculptures and carvings to have been a part of the Harbin Festival.
The festival takes over the whole of Harbin city and there are various other sites and venues with many fascinating and entertaining things to see and do throughout the city.
During the daytimes there will be the large cultural performances in the main city areas. In the Songhua River there is a Winter Swimming Field held for the international invitational tournament of winter swimming events. Tourists can play on bumper cars, ice hovercraft, snowmobiles, Dutch bicycles and other crazy and funny activities on the Harbin Ice and Snow Happy Valley area.
Also tourists can go to appreciate the art of ice and snow in the Sun Island, or go skiing in the famous ski resorts.
At dusk, the colorful lanterns light up the streets, turning the city into a colourful, almost magical place. At this time, people walk around the streets to watch the streetunique ice lanterns in the darkness, and people can also attend the various groups of people singing and dancing and even join in. At night, there is usually an official opening of the Harbin Ice and Snow World, and residents and guests will enjoy the beautiful show of outdoor ice performance, colourful and vibrant ice shows of indoor theatrical performance and later to close the opening ceremonies there are fireworks, and the citizens and visitors all around the Songhua River can appreciate this spectacular display.
You can take many opportunities for a wonderful breakfast of traditional and hearty Harbin winter foods and after breakfast, you can visit the Sun Island Scenic Area (Tai Yang Dao) for the world-famous snow sculpture show: The International Snow Sculpture Art Expo. Every year there are all kinds, shapes and sizes of ice and snow sculptures of all descriptions, some are absolutely huge, and all are fascinating and thrilling to see – the craftsmanship is a wonder to behold!
The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival actually holds the 2007 Guinness Record for the largest snow sculpture: which was a two-part ice sculpture of the famous Niagara Falls and also the Crossing of the Bering Strait that measured 250 meters long, 8.5 meters high, and was created from over 13,000 cubic meters of snow.
When visiting the Ice Lantern Garden Party in Zhaolin Park visitors can go to view the special Ice Lantern Show. The Ice Lantern Fair, also named the Ice Lantern Show, it is held every year from 5th January to the end of February in Zhaolin Park. The park located in the downtown area, and it is a peaceful place for a gentle walk.Towering pagodas, enormous Buddhas, and amazing ice gardens are only a handful of the creative sculptures and carvings to have been a part of the Harbin Festival.
Harbin has Siberian Tigers!Visitors can even take a safari-style adventure in the world’s largest Siberian Tiger Park! This is located on the north bank of the Songhua River. Here you can see the beautiful and fearsome Siberian wild tigers closely and is a great photo opportunity.
The Great Cathedral Church in Harbin called St Sophia Cathedral church, with Byzantine style, its’ name means 'God's wisdom'. This beautiful church is a marvel of classical architecture and is truly worth visiting and again, a great photo opportunity. The church's original shape and Latin cross foundations were preserved during reconstruction. Built in 1907 and rebuilt into brick and wood structure in 1912, it is the largest Orthodox Church in the Far East.
Harbin has some Amazing Architecture– not seen anywhere else in China and you can see and experience these wonderful buildings if you go along the Central Street, also known the Zhongyang Street. It was originally built in 1898 when there was an abundance of Russian businessmen in Harbin, China. The Central Street is thought of as something of an architectural art gallery: The Baroque and Byzantine buildings lining both sides, including Russian bakeries, French fashion houses and Japanese restaurants and many more besides. It's a good place to see architectural styles as well as for shopping for gifts and local crafts and the tasty international cooking as well as the hearty winter Harbin cuisine.
Along the Songhua River in the evening you can see many attractions and sights and of course also you can visit the Ice and Snow World. Located on the north bank of the Songhua River. The Ice and Snow Amusement World is a major attraction of Harbin Interactional Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival during the winter.
You can go further and try your hand (and feet!) at skiing with a visit to Yabuli International Ski Resort which caters for experienced skiers and beginners alike. Besides skiing at Yabuli International Ski Resort you can also go skiing at Jihua Ski Resort.