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Winter reimagined in Lake George

An unseasonably warm winter made last year a challenge for the Ice Castles attraction in Lake George. Now, the village will be home to two new displays.

Winter’s Dream and Winter Realm’s, each a minute’s stroll from the historic Million Dollar Beach, are meant to bring visitors back to what’s typically a summer destination.

Minutes before opening to the public for the first time since being reimagined, Winter Realms is putting the finishing touches on displays of nearly 100,000 lights.

It’s operated by Ice Castles — the same company that faced weather-related delays and a shortened season last winter.

Organizers hope the large, string-light trees and illuminated tunnel displays will make an ideal spot for visitors to find a picture-perfect place for posing.

Ice Castles is a popular attraction of sculptures, slides, towers, and tunnels all constructed with ice. AJ Mellor, a director at Ice Castles, says the team realized it’s untenable for Upstate New York as temperatures continue to increase each season. They were open just 22 days last winter.

“What we hope to really fix with this season and this new model that we're using going forward is to make it just a more sustainable model that people can still come out and enjoy winter stuff even in a place like this, where it feels cold to the skin, we're freezing, but it's just not quite cold enough for ice castles,” Mellor said. “So, we combined a lot of experience that we have and came up with this new model and I guess our hope is that people will find is just as entertaining as ice castles or anything like that. But it's more sustainable and they'll be able to have a longer window to enjoy it.”

Preparing the rink for skaters is Jared Henningsen, vice president of event operations. He says while the attraction has several locations across the country, they’re unique.

“They are based on the experience that we've had as a company with ice and snow for the past 10 years,” Henningsen said. “And so, while every[thing] is different, there's lots of pieces that are the same.”

Among several themed attractions within Winter Realms, there is a Chinese Zodiac ice sculpture maze. 2024 is the year of the dragon. Company spokesperson Maren Timmerman says every year when discussing themes, the team tries to bring in culturally relevant displays. The attraction also features igloos, ice skating, Santa Claus, and refreshments.

After it was operating for several weeks, WAMC caught up with Winter Realms to see how things have been going. Roger Allan, the local event manager, says as a way to keep the experience fresh, motifs change as the season unfolds.

“As we go every three or four weeks, if somebody comes back the experience will be a bit different,” Allan said. “Because we're always adding things. We're always we're always innovating, you know, coming up with new ideas and throwing it up.”

Winter’s Dream is located within Fort William Henry.

While its neighboring attraction is based on holidays, Winter’s Dream is an interactive experience where you can walk through displays, also taking advantage of lights, meant to bring visitors through stories of full moons, a frozen lake, winter woods, and the first snow while aided by a soundtrack that brings you into the story.

Bronwyn Averett, the lead creative and concept writer, says Lake George has been a “warm and inviting place.” Averett says Moment Factory, the company responsible for the display, got a call from the village looking for something to help bring visitors in during the shoulder season.

“This is the first time we've done Winter’s Dream,” Averett said. “The concept really came a lot from just exploring our memories of winter our favorite parts of the winter thinking a lot about the natural beauty of the season as well as the warmth and the way that we gather during this time of year.”

Eight-year-old Ethan Hicks was helping to “knit up the dreams of winter” as he tossed balls at the interactive display on the Cabin of Dreams.

“You throw snowballs at the side of a cabin. Sometimes you need to throw it at the windows to unlock more things and you gotta throw it to unlock other things of the puzzle.”

Visitors to Winter’s Dream can also take part in dreamscapes. The hand shadow puppet display lets everyone be a kid again. Archie Quarrier says the immersive experience is one of a kind.

“Favorite part so far I think was holding the world in my hands,” Quarrier said. “It was wonderful but a truly beautiful exhibit.”

Winter Realms is open until March 4th and Winter’s Dream runs through March 31st.

Samantha joined the WAMC staff after interning during her final semester at the University at Albany. A Troy native, she looks forward to covering what matters most to those in her community. Aside from working, Samantha enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and cat. She can be reached by phone at (518)-465-5233 Ext. 211 or by email at ssimmons@wamc.org.
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