­ Beautiful, but only for a short time, the amazing sculptures created at the World Ice Art Championships will last until the first thaw.

Family Vacations in Alaska: World Ice Art Championships and Kid's Park

The world's best ice sculptors convene in Fairbanks in late February or early March to create dozens of frozen sculptures near the center of town. The ice in Fairbanks is considered some of the best in the business, and is so crystal clear that you can read a newspaper through a block that is four feet thick. For children, the best part of the festival is a captivating four-acre ice playground with an imaginatively carved entrance that may take the form of a fairyland castle or an icy fortress with ice-cream-cone turrets. Inside, kids will find an amazing world of slides, rides, mazes, and houses -- all made of ice. A favorite of many younger children is a ride known as "the twirly," made of giant ice-carved Easter baskets that hold the child as you spin them across the ice.

The imaginative ice slides take all forms, from giant roller skates to the slippery tentacles of a two-story octopus. The Brontosaurus slide is a favorite, as children glide down its frozen curving tail. Mazes carved into the ice are perfect for crawling kiddies, and cabins and carved ice trains complete the frozen playground. At night, the sculptures are illuminated with colored lights, giving the appearance of a stained glass landscape.

After the children enjoy the icy playground, take in the amazing sights of the ice art championship, which features three ice-sculpting events. The Single Block Classic consists of two-person teams that carve their magic from a 7,200-pound block of ice. In the Multi-Block Classic, four-person teams use 12 huge blocks of ice. The teams use everything from chainsaws to dental drills to shape their icy monoliths into works of art.

Their efforts often require them to climb atop high scaffolding. The final event, the Fairbanks Open, is reserved for people age 16 and older interested in trying their hand at ice carving. Visit the park while the sculptors are at work to fully appreciate the labor and imagination that goes into each creation.

World Ice Art Championships and Kid's Park Information

Address: Ice Park at 1925 Chena Landing Loop Rd., Fairbanks, AK

Telephone: 907/451-8250

Hours of Operation: Last week in Feb. - Last week in March, 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Continue to the next page for details on the longest dogsled race in the world -- Idatrod Sled Dog Race.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Alaska State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Alaska, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.