Robert Schrader in Harbin, China

You’ve Never Seen Winter Like This Before

I’ve always had a difficult time with winter, or at least the idea of it. This technically started in 1987, when I was uprooted from my balmy birthplace of Houston, TX to chilly St. Louis, MO, although I was so young at the time I don’t think I realized it consciously.

That wouldn’t happen until five years later, when my family moved again, this time even further north to suburban Toledo, OH. Ohio was not only substantially colder than Missouri – I remember crying one May because my mother’s crocuses, which had finally emerged from beneath the frozen ground, died due to a late snowstorm – but saw me as the proverbial “new kid” for the first time.

Ever since then, I’ve associated winter with trauma and misery, irrespective of how I physically react to the cold, and have gone to great lengths to deny its very existence. I’ve chosen to live in southern cities – Tampa, FL for college and Austin, TX ever since then – for my entire adult life, and have also given almost exclusive preference to warmer travel destinations, which is to say I’ve chosen to miss out on a huge percentage of the most amazing places on Earth.

Sometimes I’ve had no choice but to face winter, such as during trips to St. Louis for the holidays or when polar vortices reached as far south as Texas. In these instances I would purposely avoid buying coats, hats, gloves and other winter paraphernalia in hopes I could somehow avoid dealing with winter if I…well, avoided dealing with it. Instead, I felt even more uncomfortable than I otherwise would’ve, which exacerbated my fear and hatred.

Last week, I traveled to one of the coldest places on the planet, completely on my own free will. It was a surreal, magical experience – and not just because it broke one of my life’s most debilitating existential barriers.

Exploring China’s Harbin Ice and Snow Festival brought me indescribable joy – three days here made up for all the “winter wonderland” magic I’ve missed most of the rest of my life and, believe it or not, it’s even made me eager to explore more wintry destinations. After you’ve finished enjoying my photos, continue reading to get the 411 on how you can visit the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival.

Need help planning your trip to China? Hire me as your travel coach!


How to Visit the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival takes place every year, starting on January 5 and lasting until sometime in February.

The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival consists of two main exhibitions: Harbin Ice and Snow World, which takes place in a park of the same name on the north bank of the Songhua River (and carved from ice blocks hauled out from it!) and the Harbin International Snow Sculpture Competition, which takes place on nearby Sun Island.

Many snow and ice sculptures can also be found within Harbin itself, particularly along the city’s central Zhaoyang Road and in Zhaolin Park, which is the site of the smaller Harbin Ice Lantern Fair.

Most of the online resources devoted to the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival will try to sell you tours, but don’t waste your time or money: It is completely possible to visit the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival on your own. After flying from to Harbin from Beijing, Shanghai or any of several other Chinese cities, navigating the festival is a matter of hailing a few taxi cabs and paying entry fees, which range from 150 yuan to enter Zhaolin Park to 300 yuan at Harbin Ice and Snow World.

(Hint: If you don’t speak Chinese, print out the paragraph below and show it to your taxi driver to reach your intended destination.)

Sun Island – 太阳岛 (Tai yang dao)
Harbin Ice and Snow World – 哈尔滨冰雪大世界 (Ha’er bin bing xue da shi jie)
Zhaolin Park – 兆麟公园 (Zhao lin gong yuan)

How Cold Does It Get in Harbin?

My existential fear of the cold notwithstanding, I really psyched myself out before arriving in Harbin. It was very cold, of course, but it was surprisingly easy to deal with. Depending on the day, you can expect temperatures in Harbin to range from 0º to -20ºF (-15º to -30ºC).

Most of the reason I was fine was because I packed well. In addition to a warm coat, I recommend getting yourself some high quality long underwear (Smartwool is great!), as well as at least two pairs of gloves (I ended up having to use three!), a warm hat and scarf and some fleece-lined snow boots.


If you don’t have any of these items, of still find yourself feeling cold when you arrive in Harbin, you can of course buy additional cold weather gear at the festival itself, likely for much cheaper than in your home country.

Another reason not to worry about the cold weather at Harbin Ice and Snow Festival is that a heated, indoor place is never far off. All of the festival venues boast dozens of food and drink stalls, which allow you to escape the cold as frequently and for as long as you like. The merchants realize how desperate you’ll be, and prices are higher than you might pay in the city, but trust me, it’s worth every penny.

Let Me Plan Your Trip to Harbin

Still need more help planning your trip to the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival? Consider booking a Travel Coaching session.

Leave Your Daily Hell   Filed under: China

About The Author

is the author of 845 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!


informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!


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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Miles of Happiness January 16, 2015 at 7:03 am

It’s truly amazing… I really hope I’ll managed to plan this trip for the next year. Even from Hong Kong, it’s very far, it’s not something I can improvise unfortunately. Your pictures are amazing! You must feel you’re so small in front of these giant sculptures…

Robert Schrader January 17, 2015 at 6:48 am

Small, and cold!

Sunny Nguyễn January 27, 2015 at 2:10 am

so wonderful. I was born in Viet Nam. its winter doesn’t have ice or snow. so your photoes, for me, so beautiful. I dream to come somewhere having snow in winter. Do you dream you can wear T-shirt in the winter. if you did, go to Ha Noi,Viet Nam

Robert Schrader January 27, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Thanks for your comment! I love Hanoi!

The Kentucky Gent February 9, 2015 at 4:56 pm

St. Louis for the Holidays you say? That’s only a few miles from Louisville 😉

Josh – The Kentucky Gent

Robert Schrader February 9, 2015 at 6:01 pm

True! 😉

Robbert jack February 11, 2015 at 1:27 am

I never got a chance to explore the Harbin ice and snow festival till yet but after reading this informative an inspiring blog I would like to go there next week after finishing the sightseeing in amsterdam tour. I hope I will enjoy there a lot because I love snow…

denisemahicks February 16, 2015 at 6:50 am

I’m visiting Shanghai in a few days and just found your blog for the first time while browsing around. Great work! I was reading a few entries and I wanted to guess you were from Texas, so I was kind of half right. I’m from Houston and I moved to Ulsan, Korea about a year ago. Ulsan is a tiny little thing on the eastern coast of the country- it’s been quite a change for me. Your blog is inspiring and a refreshing change from most of the expat blogs out there. Excited to follow more of your travels!

Robert Schrader February 16, 2015 at 7:02 am

That’s kind of funny that you guessed I was Texan. Thanks for the compliments on my blog!

pankaj April 1, 2015 at 7:45 am


Robert Schrader April 1, 2015 at 8:19 am


Baris Mancos April 2, 2015 at 1:02 am

great post with awesome pics with great color of art.
I like the pics of ice art work.
Thank for sharing this post.

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Robert Schrader April 6, 2015 at 11:03 am

Thanks for reading!

emma bail April 22, 2015 at 12:38 am

Hey… Lovely Post. I would love to experience such a wonderful winter….

Robert Schrader April 26, 2015 at 1:38 pm

It was amazing!

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