The Harbin festival is one of the world’s four largest ice and snow festivals, along with Japan’s Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada’s Quebec City Winter Carnival, and Norway’s Ski Festival.
Officially, the festival starts January 5th and lasts one month. However the exhibits often open earlier and stay longer, weather permitting. Ice sculpture decoration technology ranges from the modern (using lasers) to traditional (with ice lanterns). While there are ice sculptures throughout the city, there are two main exhibition areas: Enormous snow sculptures at Sun Island (a recreational area on the opposite side of the Songhua River from the city) and the separate “Ice and Snow World” that operates each night.
Ice and Snow World features illuminated full size buildings made from blocks of 2–3 feet thick crystal clear ice directly taken from the Songhua River. There are ice lantern park touring activities held in many parks in the city. Winter activities in the festival include Yabuli alpine skiing, winter-swimming in the Songhua River, and the ice-lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden.