The Ice Castles in Dillon is one of the coolest places to to visit in Colorado in winter. It’s a popular destination, so if you want to do wedding, elopement, or engagement photos at the Ice Castles, read this guide for tips on how to get the best experience and photos, without a bunch of tourists in the background.
2022 update: the Ice Castles will not be open in Colorado in winter of 2022/2023. Fingers crossed they return next winter!
About the Dillon Ice Castles
The Colorado Ice Castles are located in Dillon, right off I-70 after getting through the tunnel into Summit County. The address is 120 Buffalo St, Dillon, CO 80435, and you’ll find it on Google Maps by searching for Ice Castles.
There are two big parking lots right by Dillon Town Park, where the Ice Castles are located in winter, so it’s usually not a problem to get a parking spot nearby, but it’s easier when you have a reservation for the first time slot of the day.
Ice Castles in other states
You can also visit the Ice Castles in Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Utah, and Wisconsin. Ticket prices vary from location to location, so use the links for each location to read more about visiting them. I’ve only been to the Ice Castles in Dillon, Colorado, so this guide will focus on that location—but many of the tips for photography will apply to all of them.
Tickets to the Ice Castles
You need tickets to visit the Ice Castles. Ticket prices were around $20 per person in the past, but the price might change by the time they are open in Dillon again next winter. As they sell a limited number of tickets for each entry time slot, you should plan to purchase tickets online before your trip. They may have tickets available at the gate, but they’re often sold out, and advance ticket holders also get priority entry.
Sign up for the Ice Castles newsletter via their website, and you’ll be the first to know when they announce a new location, opening dates, and when tickets go on sale.
Photography at the Ice Castles
Professional photography at the Ice Castles is allowed during regular operating hours, as long as you adhere to these rules:
- You must talk to the Event Manager when you check-in at the box office, to let them know you’re doing a photo shoot. They’ll give you a brief spiel on the rules.
- You must purchase tickets for everyone involved, including the photographer and clients.
- You can only bring cameras—items like tripods, flashes, artificial lighting, etc. are not allowed at the Ice Castles. That includes bringing an assistant to handhold a flash. Make use of the natural light!
- You cannot block off any areas of the Ice Castles for photography.
- You cannot ask other Ice Castles guests to leave an area or move for your photography purposes.
- There are no guarantees that you’ll be able to get photos without other guests in the background. (Although I have some tips on this, if you keep reading!)
- For full photography rules, visit the Ice Castles’ FAQ page here.
The Ice Castles can’t accommodate special requests like allowing a photographer in before they open to the public.
Elope at the Ice Castles
The Ice Castles do not allow wedding or elopement ceremonies. If you want elopement photos at the Ice Castles, you’ll need to do your ceremony elsewhere, then you’re welcome to go there for photos afterwards. Luckily there are lots of incredible places to elope near the Colorado Ice Castles, like Sapphire Point Overlook, and elsewhere in Breckenridge.
Contact an elopement photographer who’s familiar with the area (oh hey, that’s me!), and we can help you figure out an alternative place to elope in winter in Colorado.
Best time to visit the Ice Castles
The Ice Castles always try to open before Christmas, since the holidays are a popular time to visit, but the exact opening dates are dependent on the weather for obvious reasons. January through March is the safest time to plan a visit, as the castles are guaranteed to be open.
The best time of day to visit the Ice Castles is around sunset, so that you can see the ice sculptures in daylight first, then watch the transition to artificial light after the sun goes down. It’s the best of both worlds, and will give you the most unique photos.
If you’re able to go on a weekday, you’ll have a more quiet experience than on the weekends. Monday through Wednesday is especially nice, and the only time I would recommend going for elopement photos.
No matter what day of the week or time of day you visit the Ice Castles, you should be prepared to share the experience with anywhere from 20-100 other people. It’s incredibly unlikely that you will ever be the only people there.
Insider Tips for visiting the Ice Castles
Get tickets for the earliest entry time slot of the day, and arrive at least 15-20 minutes before they open. If you are first in line, you’ll have the best chance of getting wide angle photos without other visitors in the background.
For photographers, start with the epic wide angle photos, then move into closer up photos as the Ice Castles start filling up with other visitors.
Wear good shoes! High snow boots like Sorel or Kodiak are perfect for visiting the Ice Castles, because the surface you’re walking on is made up of crushed ice and snow. It kinda feels like you’re on a sandy beach, except a lot colder—and you will get snow in your shoes unless they go above your ankles.
Bring a warm coat to wear in between photos, or even better, warm clothes that you’re okay with being photographed in so you don’t have to keep taking off layers. If you’re wearing a dress, wear leggings or tights under your dress to keep warm.
The ice cream shop across the street from the Ice Castles entrance sells hot chocolate in winter. You’re definitely going to want some afterwards!
Photos from the Ice Castles
Are the Ice Castles worth the hype?
I personally think so! The whole ice structure is unlike anything you can find in nature, and you can get some incredible photos there. It is a bit touristy, and there will always be other people around, but everyone’s friendly and excited to be there. And if you’re visiting the Ice Castles in wedding attire for photos, be prepared to hear congratulations from everyone.
About Nina Larsen Reed
Nina Larsen Reed is an elopement photographer based in Boulder, Colorado. She plans and captures adventure elopements and intimate weddings, and has photographed over 200 couples across the Rocky Mountains since 2017.