An ice sculpture in progress

Frigid air art

To mitigate the long winter’s slog, consider a jaunt to Holland, Michigan. The town is perhaps best known for its springtime tulip festival, but this month it celebrates frostier beauty by hosting the National Ice Carving Association’s Invitational Ice Sculpting Competition. Here, a quartet of cold weather comforts—from arctic art to cool brews:

  1. The annual ice-off will feature sculptors wielding chainsaws, blowtorches, and assorted other power tools as they shape 300-pound blocks of ice into intricate original works from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, January 7th, (compulsory competition) and from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 8th, (freestyle) at carving stations on downtown’s 8th Street. From 10 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, the NICA-certified master carver Greg Butauski will offer an al fresco seminar on carving faces in ice at GDK Park (next to Cold Stone Creamery). Awards will be bestowed Saturday evening and the sculptures will be displayed on 8th Street through Sunday, January 9th. For more information, click here, call 616-988-6187, or e-mail
  2. If you’re of a mind to stay outside, the toboggan slide at Van Raalte Farm beckons. The 160-acre parcel that was home to Benjamin Van Raalte, the son of Holland’s founding father, also has groomed cross-country ski trails. Enter on 16th Street for both the sledding hill and the trails. For more information, click here or call 616-355-1057.
  3. To warm up, tour the New Holland Brewing Company (690 Commerce Ct.; 616-510-6422, Five dollars gets you a tour, a post-tour beer tasting, a keepsake New Holland pint glass, and a coupon for 15 percent off any merchandise at the brewery’s pub in downtown Holland (66 E. 8th St., 616-355-6422).
  4. Obviously, it’ll be a while before the five million bulbs in Veldheer’s Tulip Gardens (12755 Quincy St.; 616-399-1900, begin blooming. Until the Tulip Time fest in May, Veldheer’s may be the only place in the country where one can pick up a pair of hand painted wooden shoes (not as uncomfortable as you’d think) and a slab of bison steaks (grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic- free) in addition to retail gardening supplies. Veldheer’s complex includes the DeKlomp Wooden Shoe and Delftware Factory and the Veldheer Bison Ranch, with its mini-herd of about a dozen adults and one baby bison ranging the (non-garden) grounds year-round.

Where to stay: If you want to chill with the ice artists, check into competition’s official hotels: the Haworth Inn & Conference Center (on the Hope College campus, 225 College Ave., Holland, 800-903-9142,; rates start at $110) and the CityFlats Hotel (61 E. 7th St.; 616-796-2100,; rates start at $119). Otherwise, try the Centennial Inn (8 E. 12th St., 616-355-0998,; rates range from $110 to $150. The sprawling history-laden manse housed a hospital (the second floor was once a surgery) and the Netherlands Museum before becoming a bed and breakfast in 1995.

Where to eat: The 8th Street Grille (20 W. 8th St.; 616-392-5888, is convenient to sculpture/sculptor viewing and offers hearty no-frills homemade soups and sandwiches. For more upscale fare, try the rooftop CityVu Bistro (in the CityFlats Hotel, 616-796-2114), where the emphasis is on locally sourced, heart-healthy entrees.