On the grounds of the Chena Hot Springs Resort is also the Aurora Ice Museum. Because the resort is only 60 miles outside of Fairbanks, the resort is a frequent destination for day trippers. One of the big activities is a guided tour of the Ice Museum.
The museum originally started as an ice hotel. However, as our tour guide told us, all hotels require sprinklers, even ice ones, and a sprinkler system was not part of the original design. So the resort turned it into an ice museum, though the venue can be rented out overnight and people can stay in it, sort of like an ice hotel, but not exactly.
The only way the museum can be visited is by guided tour offered multiple times a day. The tour itself lasts around 45 minutes, and pretty much consists of the guide giving a quick overview of the museum, answering your questions, and then allowing you to wander freely.
The museum is basically one big, open air exhibition with a variety of ice sculptures. The ice sculptures are regularly updated and refreshed to ensure they retain their shape and consistency. It also has some flowers frozen in ice.
The sculptures are rather beautiful, and again, evoke the image of the White Witch’s frozen castle in Narnia (yes, this idea frequently popped into my head over this trip). The only thing missing was a scenery chewing Tilda Swinton (and I mean that in a good way since I thought she was one of the big highlights from the movie).
An optional add on to the museum visit is an appletini in a hand carved ice glass, and of course Mom and I couldn’t pass that up. The appletini costs $15 per person (make sure all adults who drink one bring their ID to verify their age). Even though our trip was at 11 am, it is never too early to enjoy an appletini in a carved ice bar. It’s a great aperitif before lunch. If you have been to ice bars in other parts of the world (I have), it is a very similar set up, though it is much bigger than a typical ice bar.