All photos by Rhiannon Florence
In A Nutshell
: So there's this Nutcracker-themed "Ice Kingdom" family fun zone set up in the middle of the square by the Benz Arena
. We went there expecting some shanzhai
-fabulous action, a la the Hello Kitty Theme Park
or that one beer festival
, but actually found a decent place to take your kids for colorful winter vibes and ample photo opportunities. Where else can you kind of throw snow around in Shanghai?
In fact, even if you don't have kids it's an alright spot. The ticket is only like 80-120rmb, and the best ride inside is free. The whole Kingdom will take you about 45 minutes to walk through, depending on how often you stop to play or pose for pictures, but you've also got the Expo Park
right next door, which is beautiful and free. This Ice Kingdom is a five minute walk from metro Line 8, China Art Museum, Exit 4. Actually, there was an "Ice Town" just down the road from here last year, which Sam Gaskin wrote about
: Jarvis "The Rat King" Jenkins is the lord of the Ice Kingdom. You may have seen him on TV.
From the outside, his Kingdom doesn't look so promising.
Naturally, they had heavy security.
They were even checking passports and visas. (Actually, you can buy a little Ice Kingdom visa for 5rmb, and they'll give you stamps in different areas.)
It felt like we were about to enter the Nuke factory in Robocop 2. They say it's -7C inside, which is a mild winter day in Michigan.
You can rent a really fashion "Ice Kingdom" coat for 20rmb, but we made due without.
The Rat King spent a lot of time on his palace. There's so many sculptures in here, including some random bears, lions, and giraffes. Diversity. Harmony. Everything is ice -- magical colored ice molded into hulking statues. They warn not to touch the ice and there's probably a reason.
Here we have the ice slide. Not the longest slide, but it goes fast and feels safe. And it's free. On a recent Thursday, the place was nearly empty, and two grown-ups slid down and ran back to the top at least ten times in a row.
It snows in some parts of the Ice Kingdom. Again, we would not encourage anyone to eat the snow here. Unfortunately, the snow doesn't clump -- snowball fights are out of the question.
So the whole time we're walking around, The Rat King's best friend Wolfgang "Flurry" Simpson was just wandering around all smiley and awkward like "put your hands up."
Rats lurked around every corner. The tragedy of the Ice Kingdom began to unfold...
From Left: Lil' Freeze-e, The Rat King, Kurtis "Yung Snowman" Lowery, and JR "Mounds" Lewis.
The Ice Princes$, Vivian Swarovski.
Some of the rodent bros looked super sinister and sketch, especially Lil' Freeze-e.
[SPOILER ALERT] The story takes a bit of a dark turn and The Rat King dies. Let us remember his final words:
"If I shall perish, let my funeral be not a day of mourning, but one of celebration. And may the diverse and harmonious Ice Kingdom live on -- ETERNALLY!"
Was Lil' Freeze-e behind the King's death?
...Was Lil' Freeze-e actually The Rat King's son???
When the clock struck 12.30am, The Rat King fell to the snow cold and dead.
Most of the rats and soldiers in the Kingdom gathered to mourn the King.
But all the snow in the world couldn't bring back their fallen leader.
Of course, some heeded The Rat King's words, and celebrated the Kingdom, and the memory of The Rat King. The games in the Kingdom were few but fun. This curling x bowling game cost 20rmb for three shots, and if you get a strike on all three racks, you win some kind of mystery prize. These are so heavy your toddler probably won't even get one a meter down the ice. Throwing the iron is prohibited in the Kingdom.
Kurtis "Yung Snowman" Lowery drowned his sorrows in snow and got the worst case of septum perforation ever.
Other rats, women, and men took to the bumper cars -- some of which moved nimbly on the ice, but some had steering trouble. This one costs 25rmb per car for three minutes, which is decent if you want to let your three year-old drive without danger.
And that's basically it. Nothing else to see here, except a concessions stand serving some decent but overpriced tanghulu
and some mystery sausage.
Now, Ayi had two cans of Suntory gold in one of her display cases, but when we warmly asked "how much is a beer?" she replied "We don't have any beer. Oh those? Those aren't for sale...[mumble, laugh]." Blasphemy.
There is also a small, warm-climate kids playzone, some 3D-printed chocolates (meh), and a gift shop, but half of the products have nothing to do with the Ice Kingdom. You could skip that. They do have some puzzles with about ten pieces though.
: So easy. Take Line 8 to the China Art Museum station, go out Exit 4 (great pictures from the Expo in here), and walk towards the Benz Arena. Just look for the characters that look like rejects from the video game Tekken
You'll see a sign, and some aunties outside selling cheap tickets (theirs are around 70rmb).
: Tickets at the door are 100rmb per person on weekdays, and 120rmb on the weekend. Dianping
has a 20rmb discount, and you can buy on Gewara, too. Some Ayis selling tickets outside the gates had them for 70rmb. Ice Kingdom wasn't crowded on Thursday, but they claim it's packed on the weekend, so maybe buy a ticket in advance if you're up for waiting in line in -7C temperatures.
If you wanna partake in the bumper cars or the curling game, you'll need to charge some cash on a wristband-token on the way in. Coats are 20rmb but it's not that
: Yes. If you walk slow, it will take about 45 minutes to get through The Ice Kingdom. So many photo opportunities. Rat King definitely put some effort into this, though he should have swapped a few sculptures for more slides or activities. The Kingdom feels safe, but don't eat the snow. Decent fun for adults, probably magic for kids. Again, the ice slide is free and unlimited.
Also In The Area
: If you're already out here, you may as well stroll around the Expo Park, which is just next door. Great park. There is also something called the "Moonboat" nearby, and if you keep walking east past the old Expo site, you'll get some fine views of Puxi and eventually, a really nice promenade that's like a low-key Bund. Food options around here do not seem stellar, though there is one of those Cat Pee Coffee places and some BBQ next door.