Recently had a reader email about our trip to Harbin last year. I thought I’d share our correspondence in case it may help someone else as well.
Hi Guys – Question for you….we’re expats here in Nanjing (from Michigan). We’ve been here for about 6 months and follow your blog quite often. We really enjoy it. Thanks for taking the time to keep it updated!
We were wondering if you guys could shed any more light on the Harbin Ice Festival. We know you’ve blogged on the festival. It sounds like a blast. We’re always looking for an adventure and were wondering if you guys had any good thoughts/recommendations for the event. From what we understand the festival goes on from Jan 5 – Feb 5, but that is just from a quick google search. In your mind is there a best time to visit?
We’re thinking about a weekend trip with an extra couple of days off on either side. If you have any insight you can pass along, we’d greatly appreciate it. Hotels, bars, places to not miss, etc…. We have a 1.5 year old son, but we’ll be leaving him at home for this trip!
Again – great blog — we’ll keep coming back to visit. Thanks in advance for any insight you may be able to provide.
Hi! It’s great to hear from you!
The biggest advice I have for Harbin is rather obvious… take LOTS of clothes! Really. If you aren’t bundled up well enough, you’ll be miserable. It wasn’t too bad for us since Shenyang can get pretty cold too, but you really need to be prepared. I’m sure you know the drill since you are from Michigan, but being from SC I am not used to this frigid weather. I would suggest ski pants and the warmest jacket you can find. I personally had on 4 pair of pants (silk leggings under wool leggings under knit leggings under ski pants) and 4 shirts (I obviously like lots of thin layers vs. fewer thick layers but that’s also an option) in addition to my arctic rated jacket. You’ll want wool mittens, it’s amazing how much warmer those are than gloves with fingers. We were happy to have brought along our “hot hands” and hot water bottles because your hands and feet are what suffer the most.
The tiger park was pretty cool and so was both of the ice and snow parks. They are each in different parts of the city though so you’ll need to hire a driver. We just booked one with the hotel. Make sure you bargain the price though. We ended up with a van and guide. It wasn’t the original plan but it worked out pretty well. Except we had to wait on them and got started late. The snow sculptures are worth seeing during the day, but the ice city is fine to go after dark. In fact, you’ll definitely want to be there after dark. The light shows are awesome.
For our trip we took the train up on Friday afternoon (it’s only 4 hours from here) and came back Sunday evening. It was really plenty of time because as long as you get an early start on Saturday, you can pretty much see everything in that one day. Probably a good idea not to bring your little one… frozen tears are not very fun! I don’t really think there is a “best” time to visit although I would definitely avoid Chinese New Year if possible. Traveling then is a nightmare.
It has been one of our favorite things we’ve done so far. It is absolutely an incredible site and no photo can do justice to just how awesome it is. I think it is definitely a trip you’ll enjoy!