101 in 1001 #100: Go to the St. Paul Winter Carnival.

It seems incongruous to be posting this 101 in 1001 as the temperature outside nears sixty this week, but I can't help it. It has been, for the most part, a gorgeously mild winter in the Twin Cities and that made it so much easier and more comfortable to check this one off the list! 

The Winter Carnival is the stuff of Minnesota legend. Call us crazy, but something about subzero temps makes everyone want to get outside and throw a party. This year, I wrangled a few good friends and took full advantage of our temperate weather to join in!

Although not officially part of the Winter Carnival, this year's Ice Castle out in Eden Prairie soared to the top of my list as soon as I saw gorgeous photos of the icicle walls collecting in my Instagram feed. Kels and I hit it up at the end of January and it definitely didn't disappoint! 

I was so blown away by the crazy, dripping towers of icicles that made up the walls. Eventually we figured out that the entire thing was built around hoses that trickled water down the walls, eventually freezing into the craziness that became the "castle."

Below, a Kelsie for scale. 

Also, the snow was like shin-deep in a lot of places and where it wasn't, it was packed down into ice. Knowing my trademark grace and ability to stay on my feet in any given situation, I was apprehensive. (Please note: I made it through fall-free. WIN.)

Selfie game on point. 

Once we navigated through the mazelike entrance, the whole thing opened up into a series of courtyard-ish rooms with fountains, smaller tunnels for kids, and even slides. It was really cool to walk around and just explore it, and to people-watch. 

Being the twenty-seven-going-on-seven-year-old that I am when it comes to anything "Frozen," I immediately freaked the everloving eff out when we came upon an Olaf in the maze of the inner castle. 

I freaked out even more when I realized that there was a REAL OLAF doing appearances...

AND EVEN MORE when I saw that Elsa and Anna were also there. Fortunately, I retained enough of my (almost non-existent) dignity and refrained from joining the absurdly long line of children waiting to hug the princesses. I'm pretty sure Kelsie was grateful for that fact. 

After about twenty minutes of exploring the castle, it started to rain (because rain in early February in Minnesota is totally not a sign of global warming or anything, duh) and so we went and had a margarita. It was okay...because my margarita was frozen, so we were on-theme. Right? Right. 

Sufficiently tequila'd up, we headed to actual St. Paul to take in the actual carnival...and thank goodness we parked at my office for free, because St. Paul was a madhouse. 

We took a photo with yet another ice castle (that was a bit more conventionally castle-like than the Eden Prairie one!)...

...I noted that my employer sponsored the carnival, woo-hoo!...

...we wandered around, admired a few booths, looked for and failed to find the Summit Ice Bar, discovered that the ice sculpting didn't start til late that night, took one more selfie, and left. I'd say more points to us, because St. Paul was crazytown and there was honestly not a ton going on at that point. 

I also took advantage of unseasonably warm temps to spend an evening after work rambling through Rice Park admiring the finished ice sculptures! None of my iPhone photos turned out (shocker/story of my life), so I'm sharing these beauties by Kelly K Photography of my favorites. 

Although it's not technically part of the Winter Carnival, Red Bull Crashed Ice has become such an iconic part of winter in St. Paul that I had to finally make it over when Laura came to visit! For those unfamiliar, you'll understand it best if you go here, but in a nutshell, it's basically a luge course with obstacles on hockey skates at around 40 mph. And it's COMPLETELY insane. We scored with temps in the 50s for the Saturday night finals, and the scene was an utter madhouse, with over 150,000 people packed on Cathedral Hill. 

We moved around a lot and checked out several different vantage points...there's legitimately nowhere where you can see the whole course, so we wanted to see as many different spots as we could! Watching the racers launch essentially out the Cathedral door under that gorgeous stained glass window was such a cool juxtaposition. 

We also got right up against the glass just after the first bend. Seeing how fast these guys went blew my mind. I couldn't imagine trying to navigate downhill and stay on my feet on ice skates...then again, staying on my feet when it's icy isn't exactly my strong suit even on flat ground. The video below shows one heat of the quarterfinals...ignore my dumb "whoop" every time a skater passes us, I was so into it I almost knocked the teenage boy next to me over. Oops. 

We worked our way down to the bottom of the course right in time for a complete clusterfuck of a run where a guy actually hiked up the "Mount Everest" hill thing after a crazy disqualification and massive pileup wipeout. We also caught Minnesota local Cameron Naasz's quarterfinal run. He ended up winning the whole thing in absolutely spectacular fashion...watch the final here and die over his absurd athleticism and total cool-guy flair. 

I had the best time watching with Laura! Such a fun, "only in Minnesota" way to spend an evening. 

And now I can officially (at least in my mind) put winter to bed...here's to sixty-degree temps and pushing the North Faces to the back of the closet for now! 

For more 101 in 1001, go here, duh!