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Father and Teen’s Viewpoint: Staying at the Ice Hotel

- Tyler

Father’s impression;

Having traveled around the world together for over a year, the Jenss family is certainly accustomed to sleeping in some pretty tight and interesting quarters. During our time away from home, we’ve managed to stay in a yurt in Inner Mongolia, tents in the Tanzanian bush (complete with a parade of elephants stomping through the campsite), a campervan in New Zealand, a hut with no electricity or bathroom facilities on a remote island off the coast of Panama, a tree house in Costa Rica, and a couple of log cabins in U.S. National Parks. So when we decided to spend some time in Quebec City during the school’s winter recess, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try something else a little out of the ordinary.

Actually, let me rephrase that, deciding to overnight at the Hotel de Glace, or Ice Hotel, is very out of the ordinary. As such, our stay here might have been the single most memorable hotel experience we’ve ever shared as a family – and I can’t imagine one topping it. But let me be clear, if getting a good night’s sleep is important to you, this may not be for you. With a full day of activities planned the next day, I was definitely concerned Tyler and his younger brother Stefan would be completely exhausted when they got up.

But even if you don’t overnight in the hotel itself, it is still well worth paying a visit. As you might guess, this cathedral-like hotel is not a permanent structure. It takes about 5-6 weeks to assemble and it’s made entirely of snow (15,000 tons) and ice (500 tons) and it’s the only one of its kind in North America. You can walk around the grounds and check out the immense lobby, complete with exquisite ice sculptures, a slide, and chandelier lit by fiber-optics; hot tubs and sauna; functional fireplaces; an ice café which serves hot beverages; the famous ice bar, where a variety of drinks are served in blocks of ice; and a majestic wedding chapel, which simply has to be seen to be believed. Yes, people really do get married here.

Ultimately, it’s the 17 specially designed rooms that are the hotel’s main attraction. Each suite has its own unique theme, all based on a broader message, which this year happened to be biodiversity. As we walked from room to room, each one seemed more amazing than the last. My favorite was the “Desert Suite”, which featured an exquisite scene of a camel surrounded by sand dunes carved into a block of ice above the bed.

So after jumping in the hot tub of their outdoor Arctic Spa, I raised my body temperature enough to get me comfortably into my nordic thermal sleeping bag and ready for bed. Even though my body was warm enough, my exposed face wasn’t, which made it hard to fall asleep. I did manage to make it through the night on sheer will power until Stefan got us all up at 6AM. None of us really minded getting out of bed early that morning. After all, we had to get ready to go dog sledding just two hours later, and the temperature outside was 1°F!


I also thought that the Ice Hotel was very cool (literally). The fact that it was constructed completely out of ice and snow amazed me. I was also interested to find out that the snow is very compact and as hard as the ice (not like the snow most people are used to). For me our visit to the ice hotel was the highlight of our trip to Quebec. I was very impressed with all of the incredible ice sculptures around the hotel. I personally loved that the sculptures were made to resemble animals, and was particularly impressed with the huge “ice tiger” they had in the lobby. In addtion, I really liked the bar area because it had an “under the sea” theme and had really cool tables completely made of ice. I would also like to clarify on what my dad said about the ice cups – they were shaped like big ice cubes, but hollowed.

I was particularly impressed with all the suites; my favorite was the one themed on the aurora borealis (or “northern lights”). It had walls covered with lighted waves made to look like the “northern lights”. It’s hard to describe, so I’ve included a picture. I’m surprised that my dad could actually decide on a favorite considering every time we we went into a new room he would say “THIS one is my favorite”. Outside of the hotel, as my dad mentioned, there was a spa with about four hot tubs for guests to warm up in. Unlike my dad I did not go into a hot tubs because I was both tired and didn’t think it was right to be in a hot tub at an ice hotel.

Before going to sleep, we all had to get ourselves into a big thermal sleeping bag, which did keep us warm (but apparently not warm enough for the rest of my family). I, unlike the rest of the family, slept like a baby. One nice thing about staying in a room made completely of thick sheets of snow is that there is no noise. You cannot hear a thing outside of the room (not even out in the hallway). It was total silent. I was almost disappointed when my parents woke me up and I had to get out of my warm sleeping bag. Then, going outside in 1°F weather in nothing but a pair of sweatpants and a coat was not a problem for me (but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy to get back inside our warm, traditional hotel).

The bottom line?  I would highly recommend checking out the Hotel de Glace to anyone (who doesn’t get cold), even if you don’t want to sleep there.

Read other blogs like this, where teens and parents share their trips!

Erik and his mom in Vermont

Caroline and her dad in Chicago

Callie and her Mom in France




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