Enter Elsa’s Frozen Wonderland (A.K.A That One Time Leadville Built an Ice Palace)

Ice Palaces of Colorado

Once upon a time, there was a thriving mining town nestled in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado called Leadville. For nearly two decades the town thrived with the promise of silver and gold fortunes. That is until the most abundant mines began to dry up and the Sherman Silver Purchase Act put an end to the gold and silver rush era.

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Illustration of the Leadville Ice Palace      Source: Denver Public Library

“Ruin and bankruptcy stared every mining man, every smelting man, and every businessman in the face,” reported the Herald Democrat.

Businesses went bust and residents left looking for new opportunities elsewhere. The former mining town had to learn to adapt to a new era or perish like many others.  An idea was hatched to capitalize on the town’s wintertime landscape by constructing a wondrous ice palace that would attract visitors from all over. The citizens of Leadville wouldn’t settle for a simple temporary structure. Their ice palace would host carnivals in the winter and would serve as a public meeting hall in the summer.

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Source: Denver Public Library

Construction began on Nov. 1st and in just 36 days, the largest ice structure ever built was ready for the public. As predicted, visitors came far and wide to view the majestic palace. Attendees were greeted at the entrance by a 19-foot frozen sculpture called the “Lady Leadville”. T hat was just the start, once you entered the palace you would find a ballroom, a skating rink, a carousel, a taxidermy exhibit, a theatre, and a restaurant.  Electric lights were all the rage and in the evening visitors would marvel at the sparkling colorful lights through translucent walls. The palace also held a museum of curious objects encased in ice. Visitors had the chance to gawk at and 18-inch frozen trout, posters, roses, bottles of Coor’s beer, and even instruments.

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Ice Palace archways   Source: Engel and Volkers Denver
Leadville Ice Skating
Leadville Ice Palace skating rink    Source: Denver Public Library
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Taxidermy Exhibit   Source: Denver Public Library 
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Taxidermy Exhibit    Source: Denver Public Library
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Frozen Curiosities   Source: Denver Public Library

For three whole months, the Leadville Ice Palace captivated thousands of visitors. Unfortunately, as many know, Colorado weather is unpredictable and by mid-March, the palace began to melt. Even though the palace brought tourists to the town of Leadville it was unfortunately considered a bust and no plans were made to rebuild the palace on a yearly basis. The palace was considered an unsafe structure by late March, but that didn’t stop the town from using the ice rink for a skating party celebration on May Day.


The dream of the Leadville Ice Palace lives on today in six locations (Alberta, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hamshire, and Utah) with Ice Castles.  Each location hosts breathtaking LED-lit sculptures, frozen thrones, ice-carved tunnels, slides, fountains.

After moving from sunny California to snowy Utah, Brent Christensen did what any father of six stir-crazy kids with cabin fever would do. He built an ice cave in his yard to get his kids out of the house…..Ice Castles has grown significantly since then, our mission remains the same – to create happiness, laughter, and unforgettable winter memories.

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Dillon Ice Castle in Colorado   Source: Denverite Express

Ice Castle Visit Tips  

-Be sure to purchase your tickets in advance. (There is no guarantee that tickets will be available at the door)

-Dress warmly and wear waterproof shoes that have some type of tread. (This will ensure that you can enjoy the full ice castle experience.)

-Check the schedule for programming. Families will want to visit during the day, so the kiddos can meet with Santa or characters from Frozen. A more mature audience will want to come during the evening to view the technicolor lights under the ice and to watch fire dancers.

-Don’t forget to take lots of photos and to grab your special souvenir pin on the way out. 🙂

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