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Idaho family puts together an ice palace with nearly a million gallons of water and a dream

Looking for something fun to do with your family this winter? Look no further, because the LaBelle Lake Ice Palace is sure to be a big hit with the kids!

Visitors will be greeted by the flashing of colorful icicles, the jingling of bells worn by draft horses pulling sleighs, the permeating smell of hot cocoa and an overwhelming sensation of pure glee.

As an adult, I felt like a kid again. I can’t imagine how the kids actually felt, but the raging tantrum one threw when her parents said it was time to go home gave me a bit of an idea.This place is truly a winter wonderland, I don’t blame that little girl for never wanting to leave.

Photo credit: LaBelle Lake Ice Palace

I felt like I had entered the movie ‘Frozen’ as I walked through my first ice tunnel. The aesthetic, combined with the fact that “Let it Go” was playing and Elsa was literally walking the grounds taking photos with people, made me feel like I was in Idaho’s own little Disneyland. The difference? Everything here is real.

This more than 40,000 square-foot structure is created by one family each year. The Youngstroms have a background in building log cabins, so they implemented a similar method replacing wood with ice. They have a lot of talent, a lot of determination and a lot of water. Last year’s palace required nearly a million gallons.

The LaBelle Lake Ice Palace is weather dependent and made from nothing but pure ice.

Maintained by the frigid temperatures of eastern Idaho, the LaBelle Lake Ice Palace is completely outdoors and only operates as long as it stays cold enough to.

Once it gets warm, the palace melts and then it’s back to the drawing board for the Youngstroms. This December marks the beginning of the family’s fifth consecutive winter hosting the icy utopia for fellow Idahoans.

The Youngstroms have a patented system that allows them to efficiently construct this frosty masterpiece each year. While the foundation is laid out by the family, a large portion of the palace’s exterior walls are left up to chance. A nightly sprinkler system leaves behind new ice formations for the family to marvel at each morning.

“We have no idea what it’s actually going to look like at the end,” said Ice Palace Director Kira Martin.

The water runs for the duration of the season, so the palace undergoes a dramatic transformation with each overnight freeze. If you visit opening and closing day of the same year, the palace could easily have doubled in size during those few months.

Like the icicles, the Youngstroms dreams have grown each year. They started the LaBelle Lake Ice Palace as a way to bring the community together, not knowing if it would be a one time event or not. Half a decade later, they know they’ve found their calling.

Photo credit: LaBelle Lake Ice Palace

The Youngstroms offer sleigh rides around the ice palace as well as to their property where visitors can go sledding.

“Our number one goal is for kids to be able to leave here having amazing memories and something they can dream about at night,” said owner and creator of LaBelle Lake Ice Palace, Jim Youngstrom.

Every year Youngstrom tries to outdo the previous one. Naturally, there are some new additions coming to the 2021 ice palace, which is set to open around Christmas.

Like last year, visitors can expect to meet Olaf, Elsa, Santa Claus and the ice palace Yeti. Unlike last year, there is an extra treat for mom and dad! The Youngstroms will be installing an ice bar with mixed soda drinks, coffee and cookies. There will be several dinner options available on site as well.

The Youngstroms said they’ll be attempting to build the ice palace in the shape of Idaho this year and even have two baby reindeer on the property. The new additions, appropriately named Donner and Blitzen, will be available for petting and for photos.

On top of more ice tunnels and slides, there will be a wide range of live entertainment. When I went, I got to watch a fire show. It was pretty incredible.

Fire show at LaBelle Lake Ice Palace (Photo credit: Joel Wallen)

The LaBelle Lake Ice Palace is ideal for families looking to make lifelong memories or for couples looking for the perfect picture! There is a lodge on property that is available for photoshoots, retreats and even weddings. You can check out LaBelle Lake Lodge rentals here. The lodge is available year round, but if you happen to book it while the ice palace is open, admission is free.

Although you can’t book a ticket for the ice palace yet, be sure to keep up online to see when they announce an opening date. To be redirected to the LaBelle Lake Ice Palace website, click here.

Photo credit: Carla Johnson

As amazing of a place as this is, it’s not exactly close. The LaBelle Lake Ice Palace is in Rigby, which is just over four hours away from Boise. Luckily, you can make a fun weekend out of it! Just 45 minutes from the ice palace, you can enjoy dog sledding at Silver Sage Mushing.

The palace is also only a 20 minute detour on the road to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. If you’d like to stay in Idaho, Lower Mesa Falls is 45 minutes away as well and is a great place to go snowmobiling.

Want to know more? Attached below is a video of my experience at the LaBelle Lake Ice Palace. You’ll get to meet the Youngstroms and see first hand how they put this frozen gem together.

If you decide to go, my biggest piece of advice is to dress warm! I think my time at the ice palace was the coldest I’ve ever been in my life. That being said, I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world. Happy planning!

Inside Idaho