Visit Hôtel de Glace, North America’s only ice hotel

Get frosty this winter with a visit to the Hôtel de Glace in Québec. North America’s first ice hotel opened their 2011 season January 7 with a new theme, larger living space, and new location just ten minutes from downtown Québec City.

The 32,000 square foot hotel is made of 15,000 tons of snow, 500 tons of ice and features 19 foot ceilings. The hotel has 32 rooms. Amenities include a spa and sauna, ice cafe, an exhibition room, an ice chapel for weddings, fireplaces (we’re not sure how they function, but they do), an ice slide, and a restaurant.

The Hôtel de Glace is the creation of CEO and founder Jacques Desbois, who began building igloo-like structures for curious guests in 2001 as part of a lifelong fascination with cold weather and the outdoors. The structures drew a crowd, and each year the project grew.

Eventually, Desbois traveled to Sweden to see the original ICEHOTEL, and, until 2005, the Hôtel de Glace partnered with the ICEHOTEL to gain insight into building structures and best practices. The two parted way, Desbois said, because the needs of a North American and Swedish audience, both from a physical (weather) standpoint and a cultrural/aesthetic one, were inherently different. The Hôtel de Glace does not aim to copy the Swedish original, Desbois says, and even if they wanted to … they couldn’t – the climates are simply too different.

What To Expect
As with Sweden’s ICEHOTEL, the Hôtel de Glace is built around a yearly theme, this year honoring biodiversity.

“Guided by the echo of the new site, this artistic performance will offer the visitors various universe[s] and habitats inspired by the cohabitation of all forms of life, stimulating at the same time a new vision of the notion of biodiversity” said Serge Péloquin, the hotel’s artistic director.

Desbios says that this year’s iteration is one of his favorites, particularly the big bar, a statement room that can hold up to 300 at a time. Decorated with magical sculptures of sea life, including whales and fish, he says that being in the bar is like “stepping into another world.”

To help celebrate the theme, the hotel will offer various artistic performances about the beauty of nature.

Built on the site of the city’s former zoo, this year’s iteration is closer to the city than ever before and is also accessible via public transportation. Whether you’re coming for an afternoon tour or an overnight stay, visitors will enjoy upgraded amenities from years past including a ticket booth and an expanded boutique as well a cafe and light snack area.

*Clarification, January 16: Commenters have correctly pointed out that there is another Ice structure in Alaska, Chena Hot Springs. While the attraction does have many similar features, it is technically an Ice Museum, not an Ice Hotel.

An Overnight Stay

Guests are greeted in a private area for overnight visitors and are invited to use facilities like a spa, sauna and bathroom just for hotel guests. Private room access doesn’t begin until 9 PM, as the rooms are open for public tours during the day.

Many overnight packages (which begin around $230, Canadian) also offer a room at the nearby Sheraton for those who simply find sleeping on ice to be too cold. But you won’t really freeze – arctic-style sleeping bags are available for all guests and temperatures never dip below 5 degrees Celsius.

Beth Blair, a travel writer who stayed at the hotel in 2008, says that her visit was one of her more memorable travel experiences. She had a few tips for first-time travelers: “Wear 100% silk long underwear” and “put hand warmers in your boots so you don’t freeze in the morning.” The silk prevents one from getting cold if they sweat during the night, and your shoes, which rest on ice overnight, will be freezing if you don’t add a warming device.

Her favorite part of the trip? “Waking up in complete silence … it’s like nothing I’d ever experienced before.”

The hotel offers overnight accommodations for up to 88 guests per evening. For a true luxury experience, book one of the four specialty suites, each offering a fire place and access to private saunas and hot tubs. Each room is decorated differently and offers unique and custom artwork and carvings made from ice.

Click here to check out other ice hotels from our friends at ShelterPop

Want to brave the cold overnight? The ambient bedroom temperature will remain between -3°C and -5°C, no matter the outside temperature. While the beds have a solid ice base, each is topped with a wooden boxspring and mattress that prevents one from getting wet. Need to use the facilities? There’s a (heated) bathroom nearby. Many guests also opt to simply tour the hotel and visit the bar … or book special overnight packages, many of which come with additonal lodging at the nearby Sheraton Four Points.

Overnight stays begin at $235 (Canadian Dollars) per person and include a welcome cocktail, tour of the hotel, equipment for the night, access to the hot tubs and sauna, a hot morning beverage and breakfast.

Want to check it out for yourself? We’d suggest visiting on January 20, when the hotel will host a grand opening celebration featuring fireworks, music and more.

If you’re in search of a truly innovative experience, book your reservations between the 7th and 20th, as select guests will get to experience the creation process, the moulds, the sculptors, the manufacturing of the hotel’s famous ice glasses and more of our secrets.

The hotel will only be open until March 27, so secure your reservations soon.

Sweden’s Ice Hotel to offer trips to space

The famous Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, will soon begin offering trips to space.

Yes, space.

Hotel officials have announced a partnership with Virgin Galactic in which it will begin selling tickets for the company’s space trips, which will blast off from nearby Kiruna, Sweden, as early as 2012.

Guests will have to pony up at least $200,000 for a flight to space. But they’ll have choice: They can fly either through the Northern Lights of winter or the midnight sun of the arctic summer.

It’s hard to say just why the hotel wants to include space travel in its list of excursions available to guests. But the clientele here is clearly well-heeled — prices for a three-night stay in wintertime hover around $1,000 — so perhaps a space flight is not of the galaxy of affordability.

Virgin Galactic is also planning on launching space flights from New Mexico.

Off-beat travel experiences people actually pay for: 6 worst vacation ideas

When it comes to yard sales, there’s an adage “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure.” When it comes to vacation experiences, you might say the same thing.

Some folks can’t seem to get enough of a Disney theme park, while others wouldn’t step a foot in one. Being willing to fork out cash for Disney–or not—is a run of the mill vacation choice. Here are other options that fit the unusual to the downright weird.

Tom Barlow, my pal over at Blogging Stocks and Wallet Pop sent me this link to the “6 Worst Vacations People Actually Pay for” at Jason Moore’s round-up includes one experience we’ve written about here at Gadling.

Jason lists a stay at the Ice Hotel in Sweden as his number two worst vacation idea option. Frankly, I’m with Jason on this one. I’m sure it’s fascinating and beautiful, but too cold for a relaxing night of slumber. Ruben Laguna, who snapped this pic has several others which gives me the impression I could be wrong. Still, it does look too cold for my taste.

Jason’s number one choice of bad ideas is the one where people shoot farm animals with rocket launchers. WHAT!!! Isn’t there a grim film called, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? In this case, horses aren’t on the menu, but you can shoot chickens and cows. The place is near Siem Reap, Cambodia. Here’s a link to that weirdness.

Moore’s other bad idea choices are:

  • Tour the sewers of Paris
  • Illegal Border Crossing Experience
  • Ghetto Tours
  • Crossword Puzzle Cruise

The Paris sewer tour does sound interesting to me. The crossword puzzle cruise? Not so much. Check out Jason’s post for more details on each option. You can find decide for yourself what’s trash and what’s treasure.

Click the images to learn about the most unusual museums in the world — from funeral customs, to penises, to velvet paintings, to stripping.

Hôtel de Glace version 9 is coming soon

When the nights are long and the weather is icky, you can make like a bear and tuck in until spring, or you can make the most of it and have fun with the cold weather. Maybe you’ve outgrown your sledding and snowman days, but you can still live it up in a real winter wonderland at Québec’s Hôtel de Glace.

Open every year from January through March, this ice hotel is newly rebuilt every year with a new design, featuring sculpted archways and enchanting ice sculptures. There are 36 rooms and theme suites for overnight visitors, all featuring ice beds with heavy duty sleeping bags. Temperatures inside the hotel are steady between -3°C and -5°C, no matter what the weather is like outdoors. The hotel’s information guide tells you everything you need to know about dressing for a trip like this.

You can tour the hotel without spending the night, or you can take advantage of the special packages the Hôtel de Glace offers — they have special couples packages, a dogsledding adventure, and even several wedding packages.

Visit the Hôtel de Glace website between now and November 26th, and you can enter to win a free stay at the ice hotel.


All photos courtesy Hôtel de Glace and used by permission.

Valentine’s Idea: Keep Each Other Warm in Quebec’s Ice Hotel

For people whose idea of The Perfect Valentine’s Day involves lots and lots of cuddling, you might want to check into Quebec’s Ice Hotel. Fashioned from 4-foot-thick blocks of ice, the hotel’s walls insulate against the frigid outdoor temperatures and keep guests inside enjoying comparatively balmy 23°-28°F rooms. Think of it as sleeping inside a giant Thermos.

Open from January to April, the Ice Hotel is made from 500 tons of ice and 15,000 tons of snow. In addition to heated bathrooms, the hotel features a wedding chapel, igloo-building classes, and the Ice Lounge — for when you want to chill. Many of the rooms feature themes; some have fire places; and one even has private hot tub with waterfront views.

The hotel is currently running a cool Romantic Shivers promotion: $159 gets you a drink in an ice tumbler (that you can keep as a souvenir!); one night in the hotel; access to the public hot tubs and sauna (that’s where I’ll be); and more. If you need a little nudge before you’re willing to plop down some of your cold, hard cash on a night in a glorified igloo, check out the trip reports by Lisa Shea or Andrea Granahan. Also, be sure to swing by Etolane’s Ice Hotel images on Flickr, in which she lovingly, dotingly, joyously photo-documents the hotel. What amazing colors! It’s like sleeping inside a prism.