Northern China’s Heilongjiang Province is home to “Ice City” or Harbin, which is bitterly cold city in winter. January daytime temperatures range from negative 13-23 degrees Celsius—that is an astounding below zero 55-74 in Fahrenheit, if you can believe it! Even if your geography is a little rusty, given the harsh winter climate it shouldn’t be surprising that Harbin’s neighbor is Russia, with which it shares many cultural influences from architecture to food.
The Ice City has been home to the International Snow and Ice Festival since 1985. Since ’85 the city has grown into a top snow festival destination ranking among other world renowned contenders such as the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan, Canada’s Quebec Winter Carnival, and Norway’s Holmenkollen Ski Festival.
Depending on weather conditions, the festival usually lasts until late February.
The now legendary festival is famous for its spectacular sculptures and giant ice and snow replicas and is now underway in Harbin. The annual event, now in its 32nd year, is made up of several themed zones including a sculpture art expo and a lantern fair.
The main attraction is the Harbin Ice and Snow World, which covers more than 750,000 square meters. Its magnificent structures required more than 330,000 cubic meters of ice and snow to create. This year’s theme is “Pearl on the Crown of Ice & Snow.”
Stunning as the works are in all their white glory, the best time to go is at night, when the sculptures are lit from the inside.
Perhaps only a destination for the most adventurous, but worth bundling up for!
If there is any place in the world that knows how to make winter about fun, excitement and warmth it is Boulder, Colorado. And there is no better place to make you comfortable on a Boulder vacation than the Boulderado.
The Hotel Boulderado’s unusual name came from combining Boulder and Colorado, which captures the inviting and invigorating spirit of the hotel’s host city and state. The mountain hotel is located in the hip historic district downtown, which is often referred to as feeling “small-town chic”.
The Boulderado first opened on New Year’s Day 1909 and was an instant hit. When you step under the green awning and enter the five-story Italianate brick building and stand under the lobby’s glittering stained-glass ceiling you’ll understand why. Follow the cantilevered cherry staircase from the lobby to any historic room and discover elegant antique and reproduction-style furnishings throughout—but don’t let the facade fool you into thinking the amenities are equally antiquated; every room has flat-screen televisions and high-speed wireless Internet access, and two expansions in the ‘80s brought the number of guest rooms to 160, along with over 10,000 square feet of meeting rooms and historic wedding venue space.
Spruce Farm & Fish offers impeccable contemporary American cuisine, and The Corner Bar’s inviting outside patio and legendary martinis draw locals and travelers alike. License No.1 was styled after a 1920’s speakeasy and offers classic cocktails with live entertainment and light fare. The downtown Pearl Street Pedestrian Mall is one block away, multiplying your dining and shopping choices. But no one will fault you if you stick to your room, intoxicated by the views of the Rocky Mountains from your window.
The Rideau Canal connects the Canadian cities of Ottawa and Kingston, Ontario. Rideau is French for “curtain” and the canal was named for its curtain like appearance where the Rideau River’s twin waterfalls join the Ottawa River.
The Canal passes through the Ottawa city center and every winter it is turned into a giant public ice skating rink – many of the skaters are daily commuters who use the canal was a way to travel to work. Preparations include partially draining the canal and facilities such as shelters chalets and access ramps for maintenance vehicles are created.
Twice-daily updates are provided by Ottawa so skaters can safely make their commute or merely enjoy the popular winter time activity: http://www.ncc-ccn.gc.ca/rideau-canal-skateway/#home
The canal was originally built in case of war in 1832, but has become a symbol of peace and prosperity over the years as its use is primarily used for pleasure boating and of course skating. The Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America and has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park, established in 1872. It is spread out over three states; Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, and is home to a large variety of wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. Preserved within Yellowstone National Park are Old Faithful and a collection of the world’s most extraordinary geysers and hot springs, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Of course no trip to Yellowstone would be complete without visiting the most popular geyser in the world, Old Faithful. There are also hundreds of other geysers and hot spring in the park. Hiking, camping, fishing, enjoying exhibits and films, and attending Ranger-led programs are among the many ways to experience Yellowstone.
Be prepared for the weather – the climate is one of cold winters and moderate summers. Accommodations range from rustic cabins to luxury suites. All of the developed areas in Yellowstone offer services such as gas stations, stores, medical facilities and campgrounds. There are an array of restaurants there too. Anything from the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room to the Old Faithful Geyser Grill; full service to light meals and fast food.
Services in the park include: boat rentals and charters, camping inside and outside the park, horseback riding, stores and gift shops, bookstores, daycare and kennels. Fun things to do include: photo tours, bicycling, hiking and backpacking, nature hikes, boating, fishing, and much more.
If you are looking for a great family trip you can’t beat Yellowstone – the kids will love it and so will you!
If you are ever on the coast of Florida in winter,and have the chance, go to a State Park or wildlife preserve that has mantees. These huge water mammals are interesting, gentle, and protected. Here’s some more info on them.
West Indian manatees are large, gray aquatic mammals with bodies that taper to a flat, paddle-shaped tail. The have two forelimbs, called flippers, with three to four nails on each flipper. Their head and face are wrinkled with whiskers on the snout. The manatee’s closest relatives are the elephant and the hyrax (a small, gopher-sized mammal). Manatees are believed to have evolved fro a wading, plant-eating animal. The west Indian manatee is related to the West African manatee, the Amazonian manatee, the dugong, and Steller’s sea cow, which was hunted to extinction in 1768. The average adult manatee is about 10 feet long and weighs between 800 and 1,200 pounds.
Manatees can be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal areas – particularly where seagrass beds or freshwater vegetation flourish. Manatees are a migratory species. Within ghe United States, they are concentrated in Florida in the winter. In summer months, they can be found as far west as Texas and as far north as Massachusetts, but summer sightings in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina are more common.
Manatees are gentle and slow-moving animals. They can swim upt to 20 miles per hour in short bursts but they usually only swim about three to five miles per hour. Most of their time is spent eating, resting, and traveling. Manatees are completely herbivorous. They eat a large variety of submerged, emergent, and floating plants and can consume 10-15% of their body weight in vegetation daily. Because they are mammals, they must surface to breate air about every three to five minutes. When resting, they can stay under water as long as 20 minutes.
West Indian manatees have no natural enemies, and it is believed they can live 60 years or more. Some die of natural causes but a high number of additional fatalities are from human-related causes. These occur mainly from watercraft collisions, ingestion of fishing equipment, and loss of habitat.
Manatees are an endangered species and are protected by federal and state laws. If you ever get to see them, you will understand why they are so interesting and worth saving for future generations.