Each year in early February, over two million visitors from around the globe descend on Sapporo, Japan’s 4th largest city, for seven days of what is possibly the world’s most spectacular display of ice and snow. These are our ten don’t-miss takeaways from last year’s festivities:
1. Visit all three of the sites
Odori Park, which has most of the large-scale snow sculptures and street food vendors; Tsuodome, which is geared more towards kids and families, and Susukino, which has ice sculptures that are illuminated at night.
2. Eat a chocolate covered banana
and other amazing food and drink from the festival street stalls. Some of Sapporo’s best eateries set up shop to form a food court in the middle of Odori Park and serve up their specialties. Candy covered almonds, grilled corn on the cob, hot mulled wine, and wagyu beef were some favorites.
3. Go down an ice slide
They come in various sizes, scattered throughout the festival. If your child is too young to go it alone, they can ride down with you on your lap! Over at the Tsudome site, don’t miss the impressive six lane snow-tube course built entirely of firmly packed powder white snow. A free shuttle runs between sites all week to ensure that the 2 million visitors who attend the festival each year get to see it all. Attractions change from year to year but historically these two favorites are mainstays.
4.Watch the ski jumpers do tricks.
At the Park Air jumping platform, top level free style skiers and snowboarders do 360 degree flips and splits in the air for a crowd of cheering fans down below. The giant ski jump in Odori Park is almost 80 feet high and 200 feet long, with a 39 degree slope. Backed by a thumping soundtrack, this event is one to check out.
5. Let a snowmobile pull your family around on a raft.
A snowy thrill ride for the whole family! Hold onto your little one tight as the raft slides from left to right, up and down the hills of fresh snow. This was one of our favorite attractions of the entire festival. Our toddler loved it so much too that he requested another go-round. Don’t forget to buy the laminated picture that is ready for you as soon as you take your helmet off — the perfect souvenir to bring home from the festival.
6. Warm up with pork ramen inside the dome at the Tsudome site.
When the cold finally starts to get to you, (and it undoubtedly will,) head indoors for lunch. Travel 101 — choose the ramen stall with the longest line and you won’t be disappointed. Before you go back out into the snow, ride the mini shinkansen (bullet train) with your kids and watch them take a turn or two in one of the bouncy castles.
7. Build a snowman.
Snowman staff hand out snowman supplies including shovels, buckets, and all sorts of beads and necklaces to decorate your snowman with. Once your creation is complete, it joins a wall of other jolly happy souls that families have been working on with their kids each day of the festival.
8. Check out the amazing snow sculptures built by the Japanese Self Defense Force.
When they are not protecting their country, they are busy crafting these gorgeous works of art. About a dozen large snow sculptures, some of them measuring more than 80 feet wide and 50 feet high, glow at night in Odori Park. In addition, more than a hundred smaller delicately carved snow statues are exhibited.
9. Enjoy a yakitori dinner
in Sapporo. Shiro is one of the very best restaurants to sample this cuisine. The space is minimal, with market flowers a giant ham on display. Speared crispy chicken skins and juicy pork are out of this world.
10. Head to the Nijo Market
where crab is King, for a sushi breakfast (look for the secret 3 seat sushi bar) before beginning another marathon day at the Sapporo Snow Festival.