Viking ship, sculpted in ice at the Magic Ice Gallery, St. Thomas — Photo courtesy of Karen ElowittThe Caribbean usually conjures up images of hot sun, white sand and azure surf in most people's minds – not images of snow, ice, and cold. But the two are not completely incompatible, which is why a Norwegian entrepreneur recently opened an ice bar and gallery in St. Thomas – that has turned out to be a big hit with tourists and locals alike.
Proprietor Kirsten-Marie Holmen started her first ice bar and gallery in the Lofoten islands (off the coast of Norway) a few years back. It quickly became hugely popular, and so she began casting about for a location to open a second one. Though most ice bars are located in cold northerly places like Quebec, Reykjavik and Tokyo, Holmen reasoned that there was no reason not to situate one in a warm tropical spot. She figured that people would flock to an ice bar no matter where in the world it was, because it's a fun and unique experience. And she was right. Since Magic Ice opened on St. Thomas in January 2012, thousands of visitors have been mesmerized by the sights, sounds, and tastes of the 10,000 square foot gallery.
Reindeer sculpted in ice at the Magic Ice Gallery, St. Thomas — Photo courtesy of Karen ElowittWhen you first enter, you are given a warm parka, gloves and leg sleeves to insulate you from the tooth-chattering 33-degree air. As you wander through, you are surrounded by dozens of intricately-carved ice sculptures with both Caribbean and Scandinavian themes. At any given time you'll see lighthouses, reindeer, pirate ships, local West Indian ladies, turtles, and iguanas lit in dazzling shades of blue, green, purple, and red. About three times a year new sculptures are added and old ones retired, so there is a constantly-changing array of displays. Ice artists from all over the world labor for months to create each of the jaw-dropping designs, which are made from ice imported from the Arctic.
Patrons gather around the bar at Magic Ice Gallery, St. Thomas — Photo courtesy of Karen ElowittThe centerpiece of the gallery is a 40-foot bar made entirely of ice. Here you can sip rum drinks and other cool concoctions (a shot glass and drink are included in the price of admission). Another focal point of the gallery is the ice slide, which is tailor-made for the under-12 visitors to shimmy down. When you've had enough, leave the sub-zero chamber and browse the gift shop, where you can opt to buy Magic Ice t-shirts, shot glasses and other souvenirs.
The "hidden" appeal of Magic Ice becomes apparent only after you emerge from the chill. Once you begin to wilt in the oppressive Caribbean heat, you'll wish you could go back in for another hour or two!
If you're coming to St. Thomas on a cruise ship, ask the excursion coordinator about trips to Magic Ice. Most major cruise lines have the gallery on their roster of pre-arranged excursions. You can also go there on your own. It's not hard to find: just take a taxi (or walk) to the Charlotte Amalie waterfront, and you'll see it facing the harbor, between Pizza Hut and International Plaza.
Magic Ice is open daily from 9am-5pm, except Fridays, when it stays open til 8pm. The price is $32 per person, with kids under 4 admitted free.