PHOTOS: Ice castles turn farmland into winter wonderland

Icicles are harvested for use in growing the walls at Ice Castles in North Woodstock, N.H. The winter wonderland is one of six in North America. (Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

On a clear, frigid night in a courtyard made of walls of ice, Bruce McCafferty and his young son stand mesmerized, bathed in the pulsating rainbow light emanating from a series of stout ice formations.

McCafferty and his son Dougie have come out to Ice Castles in North Woodstock, New Hampshire, a collection of ice tunnels, caverns and a 97-foot (30-meter) ice slide that cover an acre (half a hectare) of farmland that some have said are like something out of the movie "Frozen."

The winter wonderland, one of six in North America, is built from scratch when the cold conditions allow the ice to sprout from the barren ground.

Other parks are located in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin; Excelsior, Minnesota; Dillon, Colorado; Midway, Utah; and Edmonton, Alberta. This year, the attractions will stand until early March in most locations.

At the center of the New Hampshire attraction stand six ice structures that are nearly four feet tall (more than a meter tall) and are lit from within by colored lights.

"It's quite magical isn't it?" McCafferty said. "It's an amazing creation. I'd really like to know how they actually built it."

The attraction starts small in December, when the site's lead builder Matt Pasciuto and his team set up icicle farms: metal racks that are sprayed with water to allow icicles to grow on them overnight. The icicles are then harvested by "ice artists," who place them around more than 70 sprinklers.

A couple heads towards an entrance to a cavern at Ice Castles in North Woodstock, N.H. A team starts building massive walls in December to create a spectacular winter experience. (Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

"Once we turn the sprinklers on, the water starts freezing to those icicles, making them grow together, bigger and bigger and thicker and thicker," Pasciuto said. "We grow the castle about two to three feet (a half-meter to one meter) at a time."

Within a few weeks, the icicles have managed to cover the entire park, and some reach heights of 20 feet (six meters).

On a recent sunny day, the massive ice walls shined with a glacial blue hue. After the sun went down, the castles seemed to burst with colors thanks to LED lights embedded in the ice. The astonishing visuals are complemented by a synchronized fantasy soundtrack playing throughout the venue.

The attraction, which moved to this year from neighboring Lincoln, draws tens of thousands of visitors each season.

"When the movie 'Frozen' came out, that was a huge boost because now everyone says, 'Oh, we get to see an actual ice castle,'" Pasciuto said.

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A sprinkler sprays a fine mist over a metal rack to grow icicles at Ice Castles in North Woodstock, N.H. Ice artists will harvest the icicles and use them to grow the castles' walls. (Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP)
Visitors race down the side-by-side tunnels of a 97-foot ice slide at Ice Castles in North Woodstock, N.H. The winter wonderland is one of six in North America. (Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP)
Visitors pose for a photo in a tunnel at Ice Castles in North Woodstock, N.H. With a seemingly endless variety of photo-ops, most visitors have a hard time putting their cameras down. (Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP)
A man zooms down a 97-foot ice slide at Ice Castles in North Woodstock, N.H. (Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP)
Matt Pasciuto places an icicle at the top of a wall at Ice Castles in North Woodstock, N.H. Slushy snow is used as quick-freezing mortar to hold icicles in place. The spray from sprinklers will help grow the icicles into walls and caverns. (Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP)
Fire dancers perform at Ice Castles in North Woodstock, N.H. The winter wonderland is one of six in North America. (Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP)
A couple enjoy the Ice Castles in North Woodstock, N.H. "It's a really popular date night spot," said castle builder Matt Pasciuto. "I can't tell you how many marriage proposals I've seen so far in the castle." (Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP)
Bruce McCafferty and his son, Dougie, pause while exploring the ice formations growing at Ice Castles in North Woodstock, N.H. (Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

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